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An Ambassador's Journey to the Rebbe
~ Former Prime Minister of Israel Yitzchak Rabin travels to the Rebbe in 1972 ~
Four years earlier,
in 1968, a new ambassador from Israel arrived in Washington. Then new
to politics, a young man of 40 years, Yitzchak Rabin. Brought up in a
house where Jewish subjects were foreign. When receiving the request from
President Shazar to bring greetings from the Israeli government and from
himself to the Rebbe in honor of the Rebbe's 70th birthday, he accepted
the request reluctantly.
Rabin did not pay much attention to the men who had come to encourage them. Who you could only smile when seeing them with their long white beards as they trenched through the muddy terrain, to go from soldier to soldier - to encourage them and bring them hope that G-d is watching over his nation. But to him this was all foreign.
Rabin who was bashful with those who he was not yet acquainted with, he most definitely did not feel comfortable with the idea of meeting with a Rabbi he did not know. This would be Rabin's first time meeting with any Rabbi or visiting a synagogue since he arrived in America, four years earlier.
He did not talk much, beside a 'Shalom', to his escort - the Israeli consulate to NY Michael Sheshar. Sheshar, who was acquainted with the Rebbe and Lubavitch, knew what awaited Rabin, as he was guest many times to the headquarters, and knew that they received all guests who arrived with open hands and usually with hugs.
Mr. Rabin made sure to come exactly on time for his appointment with the Rebbe. However, when he arrived, the Rebbe was with the representative of President Nixon, Herman Wouk - a famed author and writer. Rabin waited to be received by the Rebbe in the secretariat's office. He did not speak much to those around him as he waited.
The ice was broken from one of the many guests that arrived from abroad to celebrate the Rebbe's birthday in NY, which included a large group from Israel as well. As he entered the room Rabin hugged him and spoke to him fondly as best of friends, asking him what he was doing in NY. He answered that he came to celebrate the Rebbe's birthday. It became known afterwards that the tall bearded Israeli was honored by the Israeli army, preceding the Six Day War, with the badge of the "brave of Israel" and was an acquaintance at that time with general Rabin.
During the forty-five
minutes of the audience many subjects were raised. Rabin who felt comfortable
after a few minutes in the Rebbe's office, began telling the Rebbe his
life story; how his father arrived in America in 1905 and afterwards traveled
to Israel, where Rabin was born in Jerusalem.
Then the Rebbe and Rabin discussed the current events in the relationship between Israel and the United States.
The conversation was
in Hebrew. "It was a perfect Hebrew, but it was in an 'Ashkenazic'
pronunciation, which took me time to get used to. Since I did not want
to make any mistake in the understanding of what the Rebbe said, there
were times that I requested he repeat what he said," recalls Rabin.
In 1976 the Rebbe surprised his many Chassidim during a Chassidic gathering when he told them, that he would be sending a group of Chassidim to Israel to "build the land" - 10 were to go to Jerusalem and ten to Sefad.
The Chassidim were hand chosen by the Rebbe and were blessed on their journey. The Rebbe made his personal emissary to accompany the Chassidim to Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Mentlik. Rabbi Mentlik met with the Rebbe many times before he accompanied them on their journey, receiving the Rebbe's instructions on their mission.
The Chassidim were received with great enthusiasm by all of Israel and were received the next day by the President Efrayim Katzir and by the Prime Minister Rabin. The Prime Minister was surprised when Rabbi Mentlik stretched his hand out to him with a check of Ten Thousand Dollars, "the Rebbe sent this to you to use it as you will for the building of the Land of Israel". Rabin bewildered by what the Rebbe desired he shrugged his shoulders. "Do not forget what the Rebbe told you regarding a nation that will live in isolation". And with that the meeting ended.
"His eyes were the first impression that I remember. His eyes were a calm deep blue, they penetrated deep within the person. His eyes expressed , what is going on in his heart and mind. From the whole conversation this is what stayed with me from his appearance.
"For me this was a great experience, to hear how he perceived it, not necessarily in the
"Halachic" notion, however, it was based on that belief. What was the translation what does it mean "A nation that will live in isolation," what does it obligate us in the way we have to act as a Jew. It does not occur often that I could speak on these topics with someone, and surely not with a person on a level like the Rebbe.
"I think that from a certain stand point we came from totally different backgrounds. He with all his scholarly understanding in the Torah and in the values of Judaism. I as the offspring of the land of Israel, born to a non-religious home.
"It was a kind of discussion that you don't have with political leaders that normally, you would deal with them on more practical issues and you would not discuss with any leader such subjects as I discussed with the Rebbe.
"You cannot draw any parallels between meeting with other leaders, politicians or Presidents, I did not discuss these subjects with President Bush or with Chancellor Kohl, or with anybody else that I had ever met. It is a different area of interest I would say, it is more philosophical, spiritual, related mainly to the core of the existence of the Jewish people.
"This was for me, a start to get to know a new approach that I did not know before. And for sure, this is when an impressive personality presented it[self] to me and was presented in an impressive and convincing manner.
"Here it was a spiritual leader, who had a practical approach, especially when we discussed the importance of Jewish education. A person that on the one hand lives in the world of the Torah, but has got practical sense to the realities of the life everywhere in the world, and great sensitivity for the preserving of the Jewish people, the way that he believed, it has to be preserved.
"I remember the meeting very, very vividly, because it was a special meeting, a special meeting in terms of the personality of the Rabbi, the issues the way they were discussed and explained.
"Well, I felt
that I met a unique personality, no doubt that serves as a leader for
tremendous number of Jewish people that admire him and obey every bit
of word that he would say.
Rabin and the Chabad movement
The Rebbe was to the opinion that the reason why you would punish someone is that he should regret his wrong doings. The Rebbe felt that by confining them in jail does not help in this process. For this reason the Rebbe encouraged his Chassidim to visit the Jails and encourage them to return from their bad ways and add in good - the fulfilling of Torah and Mitzvot.
Special thanks to Rabbi Menachem Wolf, Rabbi Yitzchok Y. Holtzman for opening their archives for my reseach, Kol Yisroel radio for sharing the interview with Mr. Rabin (in 1981).
Please see soul meetings for the complete private audiance with the Rebbe
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