/ 5 Cheshvan 5768)
Said the Lubavitcher Rebbe to the Important Politican: Be like a Professional
Rabbi Tuvia Bolton, the popular
teacher, musician and storyteller, tells what happened this past summer when he
attended the celebration of the circumcision of the eight day old son of his friend:
Tamir Goodman. Close to a hundred friends and family were there. In the
middle of the festive meal, a well dressed, perhaps sixty year old woman suddenly
stood up, asked for silence, and began to speak.
She introduced herself
as the widow of the departed Knesset member Professor Avner Shaki, of blessed
memory (a native of Tsfat --ed.). She then went on to explain the reason
for her being there. About a year ago Tamir called her home, asked for her husband,
and when he heard that he had passed away, asked if he could speak to her. He
introduced himself and began thanking her profusely saying repeatedly, "You
and your husband saved my life!"
At first she thought it was a prank
from some old political enemy or from a madman until she calmed him down and heard
Tamir Goodman, an observant Jew, is well known in Jewish circles
as a star basketball player from Baltimore. In high school in the USA he had averaged
35.4 points per game. In 1999, he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated
and interviewed by ESPN, 60 Minutes, and Fox Sports. A follower of Chabad, he
wore both a kippah headcovering and a tallit katan fringed undergarment
during all his games, and continues to do so until this day. In 11th grade, he
was ranked the 25th-best high school player in the country.
all the games his team played were re-scheduled so as to not fall on the Sabbath;
an unheard of precedent in America.
When he graduated college, the best
team in Israel, Macabbee Tel Aviv, signed him to a long-term contract. It was
in all the papers. He became the darling of the Israeli media and was interviewed
countless times in all the newspapers and on television. He made aliyah,
served in the IDF, married and had a daughter before this son.
suddenly his luck changed. He began having troubles with his left knee. It was
giving him such pain and discomfort that the team doctors were pessimistic. He
had to sit out many games. The team that brought him over traded him away, he
was demoted to a minor league, and the future looked dim. And the Israeli media
that once adored him began attacking him like crows. Every week someone had a
vicious remark to make about him which made his life almost unbearable.
physical therapy helped only temporarily. There was no other recourse than to
operate. But the experts told him that the chances for success were very small
maybe five percent.
So, being a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe,
he decided he needed the Rebbe's advice and blessing. He went to the Ohel
(the place in Montifiore Cemetery in Queens, N.Y. where the Rebbe's grave is)
wrote a letter asking for help and read the letter aloud. He poured his heart
out asking for some sign as to whether he should make the operation or not.
exhausted, he left the Ohel and went to the Chabad House which is located adjacent
to the cemetery. He sat down to rest in the reception room, where a screen shows
around the clock thousands of hours of videos of the Rebbe speaking, often to
Mrs. Shaki continued, "The reason he called to thank me
has to do with one of these videos. But I have to first give you some background.
forty five years ago in 1963 the Israeli government passed a horrendous law that
could have been low point in the history of Judaism and, indeed, threatens to
this day the entire Jewish world. The law of 'Who is a Jew'.
officer in the Israeli Navy married a gentile woman from Ireland who underwent
a illegitimate conversion and bore him several children. He then brought them
all to Israel and wanted the government to register them as Jews to make them
eligible for government benefits. (Israel is, ostensibly, a haven for Jews. The
only question is
who exactly is a Jew. Previous to this awful episode, the
Torah definition i.e. one whose mother was Jewish or who converted to Judaism
according to Jewish law, was law). But the Israeli 'High Court' agreed to change
"They decided five to four that the Torah was no longer a factor!
Rather anyone called Rabbi, whether truly observant of the Torah or not, could
"True their pitiful decision had to be ratified by the Israeli
parliament, but at that time the Knesset was controlled by a 'leftist' coalition
of nearly one hundred out of 120 members that were all for the change.
is where my husband of blessed memory, Professor Avner Shaki, came in. His party,
the National 'Religious' Party, was officially part of this ruling coalition,
and their orders were to abstain, which everyone understood is the same as token
support of the change. So although he, personally, was abhorred by and totally
opposed all this, he was obligated by party loyalty to keep his opposition to
"We discussed it and decided he had no recourse other than
to bite the bullet. In any case his one vote would have no real swing value anyway,
and if he broke coalition discipline we would lose everything.
then, the night before the vote we received a long distance telephone call from
New York. It was the Lubavitcher Rebbe himself!
"The Rebbe asked for
my husband and when he answered the Rebbe introduced himself and actually begged
my husband to stand up and vote 'No'!
"My husband explained that to
do so would mean the end of his political career. The leftist media would make
mincemeat from him, and he would almost certainly get expelled from his party.
And in any case his nay vote wouldn't be significant; one hundred votes were against
him and the law would go through in any case.
"But the Rebbe replied
as only the Rebbe could. He said SOMEONE had to be willing to sacrifice themselves
for the truth, to M'kadish Shaim Sh'maim (publicly sanctify G-d's Name).
it was hard to believe and, look, after all, we are not Chabad Chassidim. But
the next day my husband did it! He actually stood up, raised his hand and voted
against! I don't know if such a thing every happened in Israeli politics.
Israeli newspapers and television ridiculed him; his fellow party members were
blazing mad! They despised him. He made hundreds, if not thousands of political
enemies. We were suddenly alone. But we refused to sell out.
thereafter we went to New York to visit the Rebbe. When my husband entered the
huge auditorium where the Rebbe was speaking to thousands of Chassidim, the Rebbe
actually stood for him. Afterwards we had a private audience with the Rebbe that
"The Rebbe thanked us for our bravery, especially thanking
me for supporting my husband. But then when my husband complained of how he was
fired from his party position and the media was descending on him, the Rebbe replied.
no attention to the media. And regarding your job; you are like a professional
athlete; you are just taking a step back in order to jump ahead with doubled and
redoubled power and success."
" Sure enough it was just like the
Rebbe said. Several years later my husband, Professor Avner Chai Shaki, was asked
by his party to return, but this time as its leader! He truly jumped to redoubled
success. But we never understood why the Rebbe talked about athletes. After all,
my husband was certainly no professional athlete.
"Well, about a half
a year ago; twenty five years after the Rebbe said those words to us we found
"Tamir Goodman was sitting in the Chabad House near the Ohel wondering
about his operation, when suddenly our video appeared on the screen before him
and the Rebbe said the words he was waiting to hear:
"'Pay no attention
to the media. You are like a professional athlete; taking a step back in order
to jump ahead with doubled and redoubled power and success.'
perfectly fit his predicament! The Rebbe was encouraging him. He returned to Israel
and made the operation, despite the reservations of the Professor who was to operate.
It was, thank G-d, a complete and miraculous success! That is why he called to
thank us and that is why I'm here at this meal today!"
and supplemented for the "Big Mo Sports Page" on the Ascent website
by Yrachmiel Tilles from the rendition of his friend and colleague Rabbi Tuvia
Bolton, the popular teacher, musician and storyteller, in his weekly email
for the yeshiva which he heads, Ohr Tmimim (ohrtmimim.org/torah )].
Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed,
and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org
websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.
page soft-covered booklet containing eleven of his most popular stories may be
ordered on our store
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