When speaking of the era of Mashiach, Maimonides writes: “The Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to [the full extent] of human potential, as it is written: “The world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.” Although that future era will be characterized by peace and prosperity, its fundamental dimension will be the outpouring of spiritual knowledge that will then take place. Indeed, the peace and prosperity of that time will come as a result of the heightening of G‑dly awareness that will then take place.

Now this transition in the world’s spiritual makeup will not happen instantaneously. Instead, it will be the result of centuries of efforts on man’s part to heighten the awareness of G‑d within his own personal world of thought and feeling. A turning point in this process was the arrest and liberation of the founder of the Chabad movement known as the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, celebrated on Yud-Tes Kislev.

Like every event in the temporal world, the Alter Rebbe’s arrest was a reflection of events taking place in the spiritual realm. Before his imprisonment, the Alter Rebbe had been teaching Torah’s mystical secrets openly to the masses, and, in the spiritual realms, the objection had been raised that the world was not sufficiently refined to receive these mystic truths. As a consequence, the Alter Rebbe was imprisoned.

His release was thus a sign of Divine acceptance of his mission. As explained by his successors, from this day, began the fundamental service of “spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward,” which serves both as a catalyst and a foretaste for the revelation of the spiritual truths of the era of Mashiach.