By COLlive reporter
“As I see it, we (the people of Israel) have a Constitution. It is called the Torah.”
These words were spoken by Israel’s Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett, who was the special guest at the Jewish Young Professionals Shabbat dinner this past Friday night, hosted by American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) in Washington, DC.
Accompanied by a special security detail, the minister and staff trudged over on foot from their hotel to The Shul at the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Kalorama/Embassy Row, near Dupont Circle.
The dinner, which required advance reservation, was packed to capacity with over 120 Jewish young professionals including many young lawyers, lobbyists, doctors, policy analysts and others from a variety of think-tanks, Jewish organizations and diplomatic missions.
They were joined by Jewish staffers from Capitol Hill and The White House, as well as a select group of students from the George Washington, Georgetown and American Universities.
After a spirited Kabbolas Shabbos prayer, the crowd sat for dinner where Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), welcomed everyone and shared some words of the Rebbe.
As he prepared to introduce Aaron Wolff, a leader in the Washington, DC Jewish young professional community, to say a Dvar Torah, Mr. Bennett interjected and said, “I can also say a Dvar Torah.”
So, Rabbi Shemtov introduced him instead – the young professional spoke afterward – and the minister began to deliver a beautiful Dvar Torah about how we are meant to be the nation of Yisroel (victorious, positive) as opposed to Yaakov (struggling, apologetic).
Bennett then spoke of his strong passion for Eretz Yisroel, crystalized after the second Lebanon War, complete with its shortcomings by the military, and decided to devote his life to public service and the political arena. As is well known, he was hugely successful in hi-tech and sold his internet security company for a fortune before entering public life.
The leader of The Jewish Home party related the special treasure of the Jewish people – the ability to relate to our ancestry in their (our) holy language which has survived millenia.
“When I just recently visited Beit El, I spoke at the place where Yaakov had his dreams, which we are now reading about in the Torah, in the same language he spoke. This is a connection we enjoy which is unlike any other nation’s.”
He also expressed optimism at the rising interest in Jewishness in all sectors of Israeli society. “Somehow, they seem more interested than they were in the 80’s, when I was growing up.”
One of his favorite initiatives is the new program to help bring more yiddishkeit to Jews of the Diaspora, and when the minister related how they are now looking for the best way to implement the objective, someone volunteered, “Chabad!”
The minister nodded in strong agreement and then changed the focus, relating how he himself was raised in a very secular household in Israel, but when his father was on a “shlichut” to Montreal he went to a Chabad pre-school, thus beginning his increased interest in yiddishkeit and journey as a Baal Teshuva.
When he and his wife Gilat Bennett were later living in New York for a while, they saw a sign one day advertising a “Beginner’s Service” on the Upper East Side. There was a very small group, “led by a really great guy named George” (turns out it was none other than the renowned philanthropist Mr. George Rohr), and they started to go every week until she also slowly came closer to yiddishkeit as well.
The minister then took some questions and departed back to his hotel, leaving the thrill of wonderful food, spirited (and spiritual) conversation – most of all food for thought brought by the minister’s own words and proud observance of Shabbos – lingering with a huge influential group of tomorrow’s Jewish leaders.
VIDEO: – Minister Bennett debates Martin Indyk at the Saban Forum in Washington, DC