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President Shimon Peres Agrees to Keep Shabbat--Once

The Chief Rabbi of France has convinced the secular President of Israel to abide by the laws of Shabbat (the Sabbath)--at least once.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 12/7/2007, 8:44 AM

President Shimon Peres has agreed with the Chief Rabbi of France to keep the Sabbath according to Jewish law, something he has not done since abandoning the influence of his grandfather, a Torah scholar and a descendant of a Torah sage.

Peres's concession to abide by Sabbath laws came in response to a request by Chief Rabbi Yosef Sitruk of France as part of an outreach effort to the approximately 600,000-strong Jewish community of France, according to a report by Israeli religious radio station Kol Chai.

Rabbi Sitruk called on the international Jewish public to unite in prayer and observe the Sabbath.
 
A spokesman for Peres said Thursday that the president responded with a call to worldwide Jewry to come to the synagogue on the Sabbath to pray for State of Israel on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish State. 

Peres's spokesman added in a statement that the president would like to extend the initiative to include Muslims and Christians as well.

The Polish-born 84-year-old president is avowedly secular. However, his grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi Meltzer studied at the Volozhin yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) and was a grandson of institution's founder, Rabbi Chaim Volozhim.

Peres grew up in his grandparents' home and learned Talmud from Rabbi Meltzer, according to a biography published by Wikpedia. "He looked after my education," Peres, born Szymon Perski, once said.

"It wasn't as easy as it sounds. I didn't come from an observant home. My parents were not Orthodox. But I was very religious. Once I found my parents listening to the radio on the Sabbath so I smashed it.  But to my father's credit, let it be said, I received a blessing from the Chofetz Chaim in Radin when I was a child. My father took me to see him."

Peres, however, eventually abandoned observance of Jewish law and has maintained a secular home.

Jewish tradition maintains that the Messiah will come when all the Jews in the world observe two Sabbaths.