While I worked in New York with the Jewish Agency for Israel, serving as director of the department of Torah education and culture in the United States and Canada, I often visited Chabad headquarters to participate in the Rebbe’s farbrengens. Since I and my colleagues were recognized as senior representatives of the State of Israel, we were invited each time to sit near the front where the Rebbe and other distinguished chasidim would sit.
On the eve of Simchat Torah of 1973 – which fell two weeks after the start of the Yom Kippur War – I came with my friend Dr. Shlomo Levin, then consul in charge of religious affairs at the Israeli Consulate General in New York. Since we were from Israel, the holiday had already ended for us, but we still came to join the celebration and see the Rebbe.
In the days that had passed since the outbreak of the war, I had been busy organizing public events – such as pro-Israel rallies of Jewish students outside the UN building – but I had also been quite depressed by the bad news coming from Israel. Still, I knew that if there was any place where I could hear an uplifting message and gain some encouragement it would be at the Rebbe’s farbrengen.
When Shlomo and I entered the synagogue, it was already packed with thousands of chasidim. Despite the crush, as soon as the Rebbe noticed us, he signaled that we should approach him. Although the hakafot – the dances with the Torah – were about to start, the Rebbe began speaking with us about the situation in Israel. (more…)