Just before attending a news conference with the international press on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first had some important to business to take care of: writing a letter in a new Torah scroll started by Agudat Chasidei Chabad of Israel in the merit of soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.
As he prepared to make his first public appearance since the beginning of the 72-hour cease-fire that ended Friday morning, the prime minister took part in what he called an especially moving ceremony, and said of the upcoming press conference: “There, I will do again what the Rebbe (Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory) told me to do decades ago—to light a small candle in the great darkness of lies that surround us.”
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Aharonov, director of the Chabad Youth Organization in Israel, invited the prime minister to hold the feather and write a letter in the first verse of the Torah. He stated that in Jewish tradition, the letters of the Torah have special protective merit.
Using a quill pen, he inscribed a letter on the parchment scroll. Letters in the Torah scroll with be dedicated to each and every soldier in the IDF—those currently in service and reservists.
“We all value our soldiers, our heroes who are fighting in this just fight to protect our citizens,” said Netanyahu.
Aharonov said “we are assured that every soldier for whom a letter has been written in this special Torah will feel a measure of security. In our tradition, the letters of the Torah are especially potent with regards to safety and security, and we felt it incumbent upon us to deploy this spiritual means of security for our troops.”
Netanyahu also revealed that on Shabbat during the ongoing war with Hamas in Gaza, that “the only time that I have a few minutes with my family, we read the weekly Torah portion at the end of our Shabbat meal together, and this gives us a lot of strength.”
Also accompanying the prime minister were Rabbi Yitzchok Yehuda Yaroslavsky, secretary of the Association of Chabad Rabbis in Israel; Rabbi Yisrael Halperin, shaliach to Herzliya; mayor of Kfar Chabad Rabbi Benyamin Lifshitz; and Rabbi Uriel Lemberg, general-secretary of Agudat Chasidei Chabad.
Halperin told how he served under the prime minister’s older brother, Yonatan Netanyahu, who died leading the Operation Entebbe hostage-rescue mission in 1976. Halperin said how when he served, he had prepared to give Yoni tefillin, but he did not get the chance. “Now, I want to finally close the circle and give [you] the tefillin that I wanted to give Yoni.”
The premier received the tefillin with tears in his eyes.
Aharonov emphasized the importance of encouraging Jewish men everywhere to don tefillin, pointing to the “Tefillin Campaign” launched by the Rebbe before the Six-Day War in 1967, noting that: “The nations of the world will see that the name of G d is called upon you, and they will fear you.” (Deuteronomy 28:10)