Weekly Chasidic Story #942 (s5776-14 ) 2 Tevet 5776

From the desk of Yerachmiel Tilles editor@ascentofsafed.com

The USA Presidential Decision in 1948

I [Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz] would now like to record the fascinating remarks made by the American President, Mr. Harry Truman, who was the prime motivator in influencing the world's nations to accord the State of Israel recognition in 5708/1948.

On one of my visits to the United States, I met Mr. Truman in the city where he lived, Kansas City, Missouri, together with Rabbi Solomon, one of the local rabbis.

President Truman said to me, "I am glad of the opportunity to explain to you, Rabbi, why I recognized the State of Israel. My decision in favor of six hundred and fifty thousand Jews wanting a state of their own, while surrounded by tens of millions of Arabs firmly opposed to the State's emergence, ran counter to America's political interests. Opposition in America to this policy was so fierce that one of the newspapers in the city here where I live ran a headline, 'Truman the Traitor.' [There was also the strong opposition of his Secretary of State and a number of other high officials in the State Department. -ed.]

"As a child," he continued, "I grew up as the neighbor of several Jewish families whom I highly esteemed. On their Sabbath I would switch the light on and off in the home of one of the families, in return for which they gave me a slice of Sabbath challah.

"It was my father's custom to read from the Bible every Sunday. When we read about Cyrus, King of Persia, who granted the Jews permission to return to the Land of Judea and rebuild the Temple, I thought to myself. 'The day will come when I'll be President of the United States ("the dream of every American boy," he added) and I, too, shall do what Cyrus did in his day.'

"My dream became reality, and when your president, Chaim Weizmann, visited me bringing a Torah scroll as a gift and asking me to instruct the American ambassador to the United Nations to support the establishment of the State of Israel, I remembered my childhood dreams.

"Obviously, on its own, a sentimental feeling like this would not have outweighed my responsibility to the interests of the United States. Why, then, did I nevertheless decide to recognize your state?"

He then spoke of the frightful dangers facing the world due to the atomic bomb:

"This terrible threat of atomic warfare will continue to threaten the world with destruction and with worse still: leaving all the world's inhabitants in a state worse than simple death…And if, despite this, the will to continue living persists within me, it was only because I believe that just as you Jews saved humanity - a barbarous species - three thousand years ago with your Torah, today too, the Jewish People will manage to enlighten and heal the cruel hearts of our age and rescue the world from total destruction!"

When I returned home, I relayed President Truman's words from the Knesset podium, so that the country's chosen leaders might know what the world leaders expect from the Jewish People. This ought to teach us that the better elements among the gentile savants are well aware that the Jewish People's role is to serve as a "light unto the nations" and that through the Torah we can save the world from destruction and make it a better place. If we don't live up to these expectations, our friends will also turn their backs on us and act in accordance with their own interests, preferring hundreds of millions of Arabs and a billion Muslims over a handful of Jews.

Our duty is to ensure that "the Great name should be magnified and sanctified" (Kaddish).

[Rabbi Lorincz is referring to the obligation of every Jew to sanctify the Divine Name through one's words and deeds. He concluded by mentioning that through our doing so, we will merit the arrival of Elijah the Prophet, the forerunner of the Messiah. -ed.]

Source: Edited by Yerachmiel Tilles (and by submitter Yosef Ben-Shlomo HaKohen o.b.m. in 1910) from the account in volume 2 of the English edition of Rabbi Lorincz's book, In Their Shadow.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz (1918-2009), a leading activist within the Agudath Israel organization in Israel, was a member of the Knesset from 1951 until 1984. During his tenure, he served as chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee for more than a decade. After his retirement from the Knesset, he was appointed as chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Bank of Israel--his signature appeared on all Israeli currency until the early 2000's.

Connection: Weekly Reading-Pharaoh appreciated Yosef so he helped his people.

Editor's note: Click here for a 21st century update, involving a different president.

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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