The following article was written in Maariv in 1966 by Professor Elie Wiesel. It addresses the controversy surrounding President Shazar’s visit to the Rebbe.
Many believed that the Presidents high position should have made it that the Rebbe visit him, and not the other way around.
“I am not what they call a Lubavitcher Chassid. However, I still support President Shazar’s trip to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn.
Imagine President Linden Johnson showing up in the home of a famous composer or artist. Is there anyone that would lessen their respect for him and his position as president? Absolutely not. On the contrary. People would appreciate that he puts aside all political interests and power to visit a friend. He would be hailed a fabulous, dedicated and real leader.
I really don’t understand what people want from President Shazar. In what way did he sin? And against whom? President Shazar goes to buy books in Oxford University or on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and a whole brigade of press photographers follow him. But all of a sudden, for him to go to the Rebbe is forbidden?!
I have said before, I would have preferred the Rebbe go to the President. However, the President did not invite the Rebbe. The reason for that is because, “a Chassid which tires his Rebbe is not a Chassid.”
Zalman Shazar believes that a person can be both a President and a Chassid, and that the Chassid needs the Rebbe. This is Shazar’s real greatness. Despite his high stature, he demonstrated the Rebbe-Chassid relationship with pride.
In my opinion, the people that are trying to make a fence between the two souls are doing a terrible thing.
In those words, Elie Wiesel gave the critics the background they needed to better understand President Shazar’s trip. And more than that, he showed Shazar’s greatness in that he wasn’t too impressed with his own high position, and still found it important to visit the Rebbe.