Friday, April 23, 2010

Israel’s Wars – a Moving Yechidus With the Rebbe

The Avner Instute would like to present a fascinating interview with the Rebbe by Shmuel Avidor, a longtime devotee, conducted shortly after the Six Day War. Shmuel Avidor began an early career as a writer, working for his father’s newspaper, Nerot Shabbat, and continuing as a journalist for Yediot Aharonot. Desiring fuller self-expression, he eventually founded his own newspaper together with his brother, Ayin B’ayin, which later became Panim el Panim. He is the author of two books -- biographies on Rabbi A. Y. Kook, leader of the Religious Zionist movement; and Rabbi Herzog, Israel’s second Chief Rabbi.

The Rebbe Archive would like to present part two of Lag B’Omer parades with the Rebbe from over the years. With special thanks to Rabbi Shimmy Weinbaum and Yechi Ezagiu.

Good Shabbos

In his diary, Shmuel Avidor, remembers a profound private audience with the Rebbe that took place Shortly after the Six-Day War:

“What should I write in the newspapers about the spiritual arousals, an outcome of the Six Day War, which many Jews are experiencing?”

The Rebbe answered, “You should stress the importance of laying tefillin every day and keeping Family Purity. The latter is very difficult to maintain; but now that people are searching for ways to fill a spiritual void, the opportunity to emphasize it is feasible. We must work very hard to persuade Jews to go to shul on Shabbos. If they feel that Shabbos is the only impetus to go, and, in keeping with their observance, they must attend, then that will have no subsequent effect on their religious observance outside of shul.

“Everyone feels there is a difference between Shabbos and the rest of the week; even those who, instead of going to shul go to the beach, act differently -- taking along special food simply because they sense a festive atmosphere (a little yom tovdik!). Nevertheless, they will persist in going to the beach, not allowing Shabbos to have its incredible effect on them, despite their awareness of its sanctity. The same holds true regarding those who, while obviously more involved, attend shul on Shabbos. Appearing there, without conviction, merely because that is what tradition expects, will not have much influence.

“However, by beginning to appreciate the value of the service, people who step into shul, even without praying, will experience a practical effect on their Judaism and an enhancement of ties connecting them to the Jewish people. When coming to shul with the proper appreciation, even though initially without active participation, their attitude will change entirely: first they will desire to offer a small prayer or recite a chapter of Psalms and eventually they will take part in the prayers with everyone else. Additionally, while in shul, they will from time to time hear an inspiring talk, motivating them to make essential changes in their lives.

“This desired influence on life away from shul applies to everything. The significance of the morning prayers, for example, lies not only in the fact that through prayer a Jew connects to holiness and to G-d, but also that upon conclusion his prayers maintain a constant and decisive impact on his entire day. Similarly, the increase in observance, inspired by the Six Day War, must be in a profound and lasting manner, lasting for many years.”

The Rebbe added, “I recently had a discussion with a Rosh Yeshiva regarding which aspects of Judaism should be encouraged in the aftermath of the war. He told me that people should set aside additional time during the day to study the Torah. I disagreed with him, because, although his idea is definitely noble and worthy of adoption, it is imperative that new steps be taken directly ensuing from the unprecedented inspiration that arose from the Six Day War. His suggestion, on the other hand, is based on a normal way of raising religious observance, but a way not proportionate to the current circumstances. Again, what must occur is a much deeper and essential change.”

I then asked, “What is the Rebbe’s opinion concerning the recent decision of the Israeli government to compartmentalize Jerusalem’s Old City, allowing the Jews to settle only in the Jewish Quarter?”

“I cannot understand why the government is preventing Jews from settling in the Old City,” the Rebbe answered, with a trace of annoyance. “The government committed a very big blunder, when, having the chance, they failed to send away all Arabs from there, ostensibly to placate the Arabs and minimize criticism. Now, although they have left all of the Arabs in those areas, the Arabs are already speaking badly about the Jews. Some time soon, there will be [further] elections, and, because Israel is a democratic country which gives the Arabs an equal chance to vote, we cannot know what the outcome will be.”

Concluding his answer, the Rebbe turned to me. “Please tell me, is the spiritual arousal experienced by many after the war still as strongly felt?”

“It has subsided considerably,” I answered, “but there are still those who remain inspired, especially found among Sephardic Jews.”

“All Jews are in a state of awakening,” noted the Rebbe, addressing the difference between the types of Jews. “With the Sephardim it is only in a more revealed manner. In general, it's a lot easier to affect them because they divulge their emotions; Ashkenazi Jews, on the other hand, conceal their feelings."

Hesitantly I asked, “Should I write an article in the newspapers about the conflict presently raging in Israel, between the observant Jews and the non- observant Jews?”

“No,” the Rebbe answered. “If your readers themselves ask about it, only then must you answer and explain the issue, in a manner that dispels their question from the outset. As long as people are not asking of their own curiosity, you should not broach this topic.”