Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Part 2. 1967 Six Day War Miracle. My meeting with the Rebbe just before The Six Day War. Yosef Ben Eliezer

 I met the Rebbe a second time in June 1967, just days before the Six-Day War broke out. Like many of my college friends whose poise shattered during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis- when all at once our American tranquility crumpled into sheer terror - I decided to major in political science; and like others with good connections, upon graduation we joined the “best and brightest” from the top schools in the U.S. to work on various government staffs. Many of my friends took key positions in the White House and the corps of congressional advisors and aides. I climbed surprisingly rapidly, as well, and in 1967 - twenty-six years old and unmarried – was appointed a senior staff member of Mr. Arthur Goldberg, the U.S. delegate to the U.N.

One day at the start of June that year, I received a call from my niece; close to tears, she asked me to come urgently. She and her husband were extremely worried. Their son Avraham had become a “baal teshuvah” a year earlier. He was studying at a Chabad yeshivah in Israel and refused to come home in spite of the tense security situation. They had sent him an airline ticket, begged him to come back to New York until things calmed down, but he refused: the Lubavitcher Rebbe had told him not to leave. “We tried going to the Rebbe,” my niece told me, “to explain that Avraham is our only child, our whole life. We wanted him to listen to our hearts, and allow our son to return home. But it was impossible to meet with him. We wrote a note, according to his secretaries’ advice, and he answered with a single sentence, not very convincing: ‘The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.’

“Joe,” my niece said, “this is why we called you. You have connections in high places who know what’s happening. Tell the truth: What’s the situation there - is it dangerous or not?” I had no wish to frighten them, but I had to tell the truth: “We see a great danger for the State of Israel. We don’t know who will win the coming war, but if the Arabs win - and there is a strong possibility - I would rather not say what will happen to the Jews. Like any other Jew, I’m worried over what Israel is going through; as someone deeply involved, I’m worried sevenfold. My boss, Arthur Goldberg, a warm-hearted man, cannot sleep at night. You must get Avraham out of there.

Asking the Lubavitcher Rebbe if their son Avraham should leave Israel in view of the impending Six Day War

“But don’t worry,” I told them. “I’ll use my position to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I’m sure I can persuade him to let Avraham return home.”  I got to work immediately. The secretary I had asked to help gave me the telephone number of someone named Rabbi Hodakov. “He is the one who sets up private meetings with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.” I called several minutes later, introducing myself’ as Arthur Goldberg’s senior aide, and asked for an urgent meeting with the Rebbe. Rabbi Hodakov promised to answer me in a short while, and half an hour later called to tell me that the next day, at 2a.m., I could meet with the Rebbe.  “But this is urgent!” I said. “That is why you are able to meet the Rebbe tomorrow", he replied.

Meeting With The Lubavitcher Rebbe

They were the same refined features, the nobility I had seen thirteen years before. With the exception of his beard’s white tinge the Rebbe’s youthfulness and intensity, and penetrating gaze were undiminished.  "I visited the Rebbe once before", I said after a warm handshake. “My grandfather came with me before my bar mitzvah".

From the Rebbe’s smile it was clear that he remembered me. “I want to apologize to the Rebbe,” I continued, “for perhaps using my official status improperly, because I have come here on a personal matter.” The Rebbe’s smile encouraged me to relate the story of my niece and her husband, and to request that the Rebbe permit their only child Avraham to return home.

The smile disappeared; his expression was utterly serious. “I have thousands of only children in Israel!" He said, “and if I tell them to stay, it is because I am certain that nothing will befall them. You can tell your niece and her husband that they can relax. ‘The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.’ G-d watches over a Jew wherever he may be, but especially in the Holy Land.”

“Rebbe,” I said, “with all due respect she simply cannot relax, nor can I. Perhaps the Rebbe is unaware, but I have authoritative information that the State of Israel is in great danger today.”
“Israel,” the Rebbe said - and I was struck by the sheer force of the Rebbe’s self-confidence - “is not in great danger. It is at the threshold of a great victory. This month, with G-d’s help, will be a month of boundless Heavenly kindness for the Jewish people. 

“Now,” he said, “with your permission, I have a personal request. Tell Avraham’s father that he, too, can do something on behalf of the Jewish people in the Holy Land: he can put on tefillin each weekday. And you, as well, being a good Jew, start putting on tefillin every weekday. I do not know to what extent, in your post with the U.S. Embassy, you are able to assist Israel. Nonetheless, by putting on tefillin every weekday you can definitely help, and there would be no problem of ‘dual loyalty’.

“And something else, “ he said, “When everything concludes in the best possible way, I would like to speak with you. I was speechless. Had the meeting lasted seconds, or minutes? I remember standing and gaping at the man seated before me, at the fantastic energy radiating from him. The awesome responsibility he took upon himself.  That moment, with not a little wonderment, I understood how so many Jews relied on him in matters of the greatest importance.  “Rebbe” - my words flowed spontaneously, tears choked my throat - as a Jew, I feel fortunate we have someone like you in these difficult and frightening moments. Thank you for your time.”  “Let us hear good news,” the Rebbe said. “By the way,” he smiled broadly as I neared the door, “are you still a baseball fan?”

A few days after my meeting with the Rebbe, the world held its breath. Israel - surrounded by enemies, fighting for its existence on three fronts defeated her opponents in a lightning victory unparalleled in military history.  I was sitting with Mr. Goldberg in his U.N. office viewing the newly liberated Western Wall on television; Rabbi Goren was blowing the shofar, the soldiers were crying. Mr. Goldberg couldn’t hold back his tears; neither could I. Arthur’s personal secretary a non-Jew, stared at us, perhaps in wonder, but seemed to know that something extraordinary for Jews was flashing on the screen.  Tears were still welling in our eyes, and I told him, “Arthur, we feared the worst; Jews and their supporters were filled with suspense and dread, but there is one Jew who, with absolute confidence, prophesied this great victory” I told him then for the first time of my meeting with the Rebbe the previous week.

From Book: “Our Man In Dakar” page 111.  By HaRav Aharon Dov Halperin 
Translated By Tuvia Natkin  Published by ‘Sifriyat Kfar Chabad’

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