MK Ben Ari
MK Ben AriIsrael news photo: Yoni Kempinski

MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) chose to begin his speech in the Knesset on Monday by reading an excerpt from a new book entitled “Redeemed in Peace” (Pada BeShalom in Hebrew).

The book tells the story of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (Rayatz), the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe. The Rayatz lived in Russia during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and had been forced to fight to keep Judaism alive in the Soviet Union.

Following the takeover of Russia by the Communists, they created the Yessektsiya, a special “Jewish Affairs Section” run by Jews who were members of the communist party, which instigated anti-Jewish activities to strip religious Jews of their religious way of life. The Rebbe had been questioned by this Jewish affairs section, whose methods were akin to those of the KGB, and the portion of the book which MK Ben-Ari chose to read at the Knesset describes this interrogation:

The Rebbe was invited for interrogation by the Council of Critics of Religion. They claimed that they engaged in criticism of the religion of Israel, and as such had already called in a few rabbis and listened to their answers.

Now, they wanted to hear the opinion of Rabbi Schneerson on issues related to Kabbalah and Hasidism. Their questions were expressed in Russian, but the Rebbe insisted on answering in Yiddish.

The Rebbe explained that ‘no man or demon has been born or will be born that will cause me to change my principles, even by a little bit.’

One of the investigators pointed a gun toward the Rebbe and said: ‘This toy removes the principles, fear of it opens the mouth, and the speaker becomes mute.’

The Rebbe replied coolly: ‘You are quite wrong. This toy only impresses infidels and cowards. They have only one world and many gods. But we have just one G-d and we believe in two worlds. So this toy that you showed me not only is not scary, but makes no impression on me.’”

Ben-Ari had obviously chosen to quote this excerpt due to the recent summons and interrogation of Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Yaakov Yosef by Israeli police. If the Yevsektsiya did not faze the Rebbe, he intimated, the two rabbis would certainly not be frightened into abrogating their principles by what occurred.

The two rabbis were detained over the “haskama”, rabbinical approbation, that they gave to the book Torat Hamelech. A “haskama” is found at the beginning of many Judaic works and signifies that the rabbi who read it testifies to the Halakhic coherence and accuracy of the writing. Authors attempt to get “haskamot” from famous rabbis for that reason.

Ben-Ari did not elaborate, but said during his speech that the excerpt he read reminded him of a current event.