In its Adar Beis edition, A Chassidisher Derher Magazine features the story of the President who visited the Rebbe, amongst other Purim related articles. 43 years ago, President Zalman Shazar visited the Rebbe on Purim, in a most unique visit. Using a collection of rare photos graciously made available by Jewish Educational Media, the magazine offers a pictorial review of this historic event.
Here is a background of what took place leading up to the visit:
“When I visit the Rebbe, it is as a Chossid going to his Rebbe, not as a head of state. I have never heard of a Rebbe going to the Chossid, only of the Chossid coming to him!”
With these powerful words, President Shazar shrugged off all attempts by Israeli diplomats and security personnel (some in the highest echelons of the government), who wished to convince him out of his decision to go and visit the Rebbe.
President Shazar sent a message to Brooklyn with word of his upcoming visit, which was scheduled for the night of Purim.
The Rebbe saw this as more than just a visit; it was an entire event, one that certainly left its mark on Chabad history.
A full schedule – edited and checked over by the Rebbe – was subsequently drawn up. Every part of his trip was planned for in great detail, from the moment he was to arrive in Crown Heights until his departure. The Rebbe decided that he should come to 770 a short while before Krias HaMegillah, when they were to have a brief conversation together, while the lengthy meeting and discussion would take place afterwards.
In honor of the unique occasion, the Rebbe instructed Rabbi Hodakov to prepare two Tehillas Hashem siddurim to be bound in beautiful leather with the words ‘פורים תשל”א’ inscribed on the cover. Additionally, another 50 siddurim – in regular binding – were to have the same words stamped on the covers. He also directed him to order a Megillah with an accompanying silver case, from Rabbi Sholom Hecht. Yarmulkas personalized with that phrase were ordered as well.
In addition to all the technicalities that had to be arranged, the Rebbe wanted his father’s sefer “Likkutei Levi Yitzchok, Shemos–Devorim” to be printed for the occasion, with a number of them to be done in leather binding. Furthermore, the maamar Ashrei Yoshvei Veisecha of the Alter Rebbe was to be printed and bound with the words ‘פורים תשל”א’stamped on the cover.
A Royal Welcome
A large crowd gathered in front of 770 as Shazar’s motorcade arrived. As per the Rebbe’s instructions, the bochurim stood in the front row of the crowds surrounding the pathway.
Despite all the precautions taken, the pushing was incredible as everyone wanted a glimpse of that special moment when the Rebbe and Shazar would actually meet. A sea of cameras and journalists, amidst a black canopy of hatted Chassidim, captured that special moment. Shazar’s face was filled with emotion when he caught sight of the Rebbe and he bent over and kissed him.
The individuals who merited being there, marvel till today at the special relationship they shared, which was so clearly visible at that moment.