Weekly Chasidic Story #1048 (s5778-17/ 21 Tevet 5778)

Brooklyn to France: Israel's Prime Minister on a Religious Mission

Upon his return, PM Menachem Begin remarked to one of the religious Knesset members, "Listen to what happened to me in America!"

Connection: Weekly Torah Reading of Va'eira, 2nd of three Readings about the exile in Egypt. The sages teach that our merit before G-d to save us was we did not change our Jewish names or clothing styles and we adhered to the Jewish marriage laws.

Brooklyn to France: Israel's Prime Minister on a Religious Mission


The published correspondence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe shows that Menachem Begin had forged an especially strong and warm connection with the Rebbe already during the few decades before he was elected prime minister. Begin's political views were well known throughout that period, and the Rebbe greatly encouraged him. Every time Begin considered retiring from public life, the Rebbe encouraged him to continue, assuring him that he will yet be victorious.

At the end of one of their meetings, which was scheduled for fifteen minutes but lasted an hour and a half, Begin was totally enthralled by the breadth and depth of the Rebbe's knowledge and multifaceted personality. In gratitude. He asked if there was anything he could do on the Rebbe's behalf. The Rebbe responded with a polite request that Begin do a personal favor for him.

He explained to Begin about a letter he had received, in which a French Jew poured out his heart, relating how broken he and his wife are because their daughter was planning on marrying a non-Jew. The parents' arguing, threatening and pleading with her to reconsider fell on deaf ears. In distress, they had turned to the Rebbe and begged for his advice and help.

"I doubt that I and my Chassidim can affect someone who has gone so far; but I am sure that if a famous person like yourself will speak to her - especially considering that you speak French - she will be impressed and respect your words, and this will influence her in the right direction," the Rebbe said.

Begin happily agreed to carry out the mission. The Rebbe gave him the girl's contact details, and insisted that Begin send him a bill for the expenses of an unplanned stopover in France.

As soon as Begin arrived in France, he told his attaché to locate this young woman and have her brought to him. When she came, he told her the following:

"Among the Jewish people there are many levels of commitment to religion, some more and some less. Our Jewishness does not prevent us from playing any role in the world arena. Some, like myself, may become heads of state. Others are professionals, while others are simple laborers. Each one has his own level of religious commitment. But we all agree about one thing - we have a bottom line - a Jew does not leave his people, whatever his aspirations."

Begin's heartfelt words entered the young woman's heart. She decided to break off contact with her non-Jewish friend.

[Indeed, a few years later, she moved to Yisrael, married a Jew and settled in Jerusalem.]

Upon his return to Israel from France, Menachem Begin confided privately to one of the religious Knesset members this story. Upon concluding, he chuckled and remarked, "Now if I had made you such an offer like I made to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, what would you have asked? This extraordinary Jew had only one thing in mind - saving the soul of another Jew!"


Source: Compiled and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from (A) a submission from Toovia Heller as heard from Rabbi Shlomo Ashkenazi, Head of Kollel Boston in Har Nof, Jerusalem, in the name of the Knesset minister mentioned above, and (B) from the forthcoming English translation of Yahalom Shel HaRebbe ("Diamonds of the Lubavitcher Rebbe"), in the name of Rabbi Binyomin Klein, z'l, one of the Rebbe's secretaries.

Connection: Weekly Torah Reading of Vaera, second of three Readings about the exile in Egypt. The sages teach that our merit before G-d to save us was we did not change our Jewish names or clothing styles and we adhered to the Jewish marriage laws.

Biographical notes:
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe: [11 Nissan 5662 - 3 Tammuz 5754 (April 1902 - June 1994 C.E.)], became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law's passing on 10 Shvat 5710 (1950 C.E.). He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.

Menachem Begin (1913-1992) was one of the major Zionist leaders of pre-state Israel. He served as the Prime Minister of Israel from 1977 to 1983.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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