From the Rebbe’s explanation:
– One of the most important phenomena that has happened in recent generations, is the revelation of the inner, mystic dimension of the Torah. This revelation has not happened on its own – it has happened through the leaders of the Chassidic movement. In Hebrew, they are called “nesi’im” (this word is related to the Hebrew root “nun-sin-alef”, which has the meaning of being “uplifted” or “elevated” above all).
Interestingly, in the books of “Neviim” (“Prophets”) this concept was given physical expression in the personality of King Shaul. He was described as being “higher than the people from his shoulder upwards.”
Thanks to the Chassidic leaders, the power of prophecy returned to the people of Israel – just the way the Rambam predicted it in his “Message to Teiman”, where he points to a specific period of time when the prophetic gift, lost during the years of exile, will begin to shine again.
The leaders of the Chassidic movement are the prophets of our generations. They are the ones through whom “prophecy will return to Israel”. In the words of “Zohar”, they represent “the spark of Moshe (and his incredible prophetic power) that exists in every generation.”
However, there is an additional aspect in their leadership. They are also “judges” – “shoftim”. In this capacity, they serve as the teachers of the Torah to the people.
Similarly, they serve as “advisors” – “yoatzim”. This reflects the fact that a true leader should be able to connect to real people, to understand their situation and give them counsel – both in spiritual and “worldly” matters.
This is particularly expressed through the revelation of the teachings of Chassidus through the Chabad approach which allows one to comprehend Torah’s mystic secrets within the framework of human intellect. This serves as a foretaste of the revelation of the inner meanings of Torah in the Era of the Redemption which will in turn prepare our people for that era.
Interestingly, while speaking of the time immediately preceding the era of Redemption, the prophet Yeshayahu gives us a sign which can help us identify its coming. This sign is the return of the “Shoftim” (judges, legislators) and “Yoatzim” (advisers). And these are the words of Yeshayahu:
And I will restore your judges as at first and your counsellors as in the beginning… (Yeshayahu, 1:26)
One of the tasks of our generation is to see that the words of Yeshayahu have already come true. We are on the threshold of a new era – the era of Geula.
This provides us with a heightened understanding of the lesson we must take from the Torah portion of “Shoftim”. Each person has to recognize, and publicize among his widest circle of influence, that we need to accept upon ourselves the rulings and advice of “the judges” and “the advisers” of our generation. In general, this refers to all our Rabbis – our “Nesiim”, for “Our Rabbis are our kings”. And in particular, this refers to the leader (“Nasi”) of our generation — the judge, adviser and prophet of our generation.
See more in the Rebbe’s talk on Parashat “Shoftim”, 5751.