Weekly Chasidic Story #656 (s5770-41 / 10 Tammuz 5770)

Transcending Conflict

The Rebbe Rayatz replied to Rabbi Menachem Porush, "For 'Porush' there are many peirushim [interpretaions]; which one are you?"

Connection: Seasonal: 83rd anniversary of miraculous liberation.


Transcending Conflict

Yerachmiel Tilles

Rabbi Menachem Porush was an Agudat Yisrael representative in the first Knesset in 1948. He maintained that post for nearly 35 years, through ten different Knessets. Just one month before he passed away in February 2010, at age 93, he related in an interview the following episode, which took place during that first Knesset term.

Almost as soon as the state of Israel launched on 14th of May, 1948, the disputes between the various Jewish camps accelerated. One was particularly virulent: the state had decreed compulsory education until a certain age, and refused to recognize that the Ashkenazi-Haredi Yiddish-speaking elementary schools fulfilled this requirement, complaining that they spent insufficient time in secular subjects such as math and English, history and geography. The religious school administrators insisted that their students learned the required amount of material in these subjects, just they were able to do it in compressed amounts of time.

The face-to-face discussions, phone conversations and written correspondence became increasingly heated on both sides. Neither would budge or even consider budging.

At that point, Rabbi Porush was about to embark on a visit to the USA. Just before he departed, he received a private phone call from another prominent Jerusalemite, Rabbi Yitzchok-Zev ("Velvyl") Soloveitchik, Rosh Yeshiva of Brisk.

"Rabbi Porush, as you know, this dispute about the schools has the potential to tear this young country apart. When you are in New York, you must go to see the Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneersohn, 1880-1950]. "

"The Brisker Rav wants me to go the Lubavitcher Rebbe on his behalf?" I interrupted, astonished. [Brisk is among the leading yeshivas of the Lithuanian Jews, who are considered to be opposed to the ways of Chasidim, especially Lubavitch Chasidim -YT].

"Yes! Go to him and tell him he must instruct Shazar to license our Yiddish-speaking schools."

"At that time," explained Rabbi Porush, Zalman Shazar was the minister of Education. And since he came from a Lubavitcher family in Russia, the Brisker Rav hoped that even though Shazar no longer pursued a Chasidic lifestyle, the Lubavitcher Rebbe could still have influence over him.

So, when Rabi Porush reached New York, he made an appointment to see the Rebbe Rayatz of Lubavitch. The Rebbe's secretary escorted the politically important visitor into the Rebbe's office, and said, "Here is Rabbi Porush, from Israel."

Although it was difficult for the Rebbe Rayatz to talk at that time in his life, an indirect result of the torture he had endured from the Communist prison guards and interrogators, he still came up with a clearly enunciasted, snappy response.

"For Porush there are many peirushim (interpretations). It can mean Porush of Agudat Yisrael, Porush of National Religious Party, or Porush of Naturei Karta. Which sort of Porush are you?"

Sure, Rabbi Porush could have answered simply by revealing his Agudat Yisrael affiliation, but he chose a more intimate response. "I am the son of the Porush who was the very first person to visit the Rebbe in Riga" [capital of Latvia, the Rayatz's first stop upon being deported from Russia in 1927].

"In that case," said the Rebbe with a wide smile, "Shalom Aleichem. Welcome."

Rabbi Porush promptly explained to the Rebbe about his mission from the Brisker Rav. The Rebbe Rayatz was visibly astonished. "The Brisker Rav sent you to me? To me? Really?" Each time Rabbi Porush said yes; or nodded his head.

The Rebbe thought deeply for a few moments. "Well, then, when you return to the Land, please go to Mr. Shazar and tell him that I said he should fulfill the request of the Brisker Rav. Also tell him I said that Mr. Shneur Zalman Shazar-Rubashov should not shame the Lubavitch Shazar-Rubashov family in Russia. And G-d Almighty should bless him."

After returning home to Jerusalem, Rabbi Porush set out the next morning for the Knesset, which at that time was in Tel Aviv, to speak to Shazar. When he found him, David Ben-Gurion, the Prime Minister, was on the other side of the room.

When Rabbi Porush finished telling Shazar what the Rayatz had told him to say, Shazar excitedly called over to Ben-Gurion. "Listen to this! Porush comes with a message to us from the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Brooklyn."

"Really!" exclaimed Ben-Gurion, swiftly joining them. "You saw the Lubavitcher Rebbe? You were in his court? He actually sent a request to Shazar here?"

"And that," concluded Rabbi Porush his recollection from 60+ years before, "was the end of the conflict." Minister of Education Shazar, with the tacit approval of Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, moved quickly to recognize every haredi religious school and yeshiva in the country. No more arguments, no more unshakable opposition! "All because of the tremendous respect they had for the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe."

Source: Transcribed and adapted and changed to third-person perspective by Yerachmiel Tilles from the JEM (Jewish Educational Media) weekly "Living Torah" video, which was distributed for the week of Yud-Beit Tammuz, 2009 (2010?), the anniversary of the miraculous liberation in 1927 of the Rebbe Rayatz at age 47. (To the best of my knowledge, JEM has not [yet] published its own transcript of its interview with Rabbi Porush.)

Connection: Seasonal - 12 Tammuz is both the birthday and the anniversary of the miraculous liberation in 1927 of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1927 (age 47) from Russian prison, Communist torture and Siberian exile. .

Biographic note:
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (12 Tammuz 1880-10 Shvat 1950), known as the Rebbe Rayatz, was the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, from 1920 to 1950. He established a network of Jewish educational institutions and Chassidim that was the single most significant factor for the preservation of Judaism during the dread reign of the communist Soviets. . In 1940 he moved to the USA, established Chabad world-wide headquarters in Brooklyn and launched the global campaign to renew and spread Judaism in all languages and in every corner of the world, the campaign continued and expanded so remarkably successfully by his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.


Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik (1886-1959), known as the Brisker Rav like his father and grandfather, was a son of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk. He was the rabbi in Brisk and rosh yeshiva (dean) of its yeshiva until WWII. He fled the Holocaust and moved to Israel, where he re-established the Brisk Yeshiva in Jerusalem.


Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.

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