About twelve years ago, my wife and I accompanied my late father when he was honored by President George W. Bush for his outstanding collection of contemporary American art. Before going to the White House, I said to Hashem, “I want to make a kiddush Hashem and speak to the President about the return of Am Yisroel to the Holy Land.”
There were about twelve hundred people at this reception, and the only guest who had a private conversation with the President was … me! The President had stopped for a moment on his way to his next appointment and was briefly chatting with a man next to me.
What could I say to attract the President’s attention? Hashem gave me words, which came into my mind at precisely the right moment. Just as the President was about to leave, I said, very quietly, “Mr. President, may I give you a blessing?”
About 3800 years ago, a man was born who changed the world forever. His name was Avraham ben Terach. In a world filled with idolatry, he alone had the courage to recognize the sheker and search for Hashem in a spiritual wasteland. He was not afraid to call upon the Name of G-d. For his courage, truth and loyalty he was rewarded uniquely: “You shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and him who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”
In that White House throng, President Bush saw one yarmulke. The Jew wearing that yarmulke wanted to bless the President and the President wanted the blessing. How do I know? Because the President spent five minutes with me in direct conversation. Then, a few minutes later, one of his aides came over and said to me, “Thank you for speaking to the President. He needs to know that he has friends!”
The world is thirsting for our blessing. Avraham Avinu taught us.
I have mentioned this in the past, but I want to quote once again from the powerful introduction to the sefer Miluai Shlomo, by Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz zt”l, which was shown to me by Rabbi Yechezkel Weinfeld Shlita”h:
“When I visited America, I met the [former] President of the United States, Harry Truman, in his home town of Kansas City with Rav Solomon, one of the rabbis of the city. President Truman said to me, ‘I am happy to have the opportunity to explain to the Rabbi why I recognized the Country of Israel, something that was [apparently] against the interest of the United States, to favor 650,000 Jews who wanted their own country, where around that country you have tens of millions of Arabs who are against it. As is known, in the city where I grew up, one of the newspapers came out with a headline, ‘Truman the Traitor.’
“He continued his interesting monologue: ‘In my youth, I grew up in a neighborhood of Jewish families that I looked up to. On the Sabbath I would turn on and off the lights for one of the Jewish families, and, as a reward, I got a slice of bread.
“‘My father’s custom was to read the Bible to me every Sunday. When we read about Koresh, the King of Persia, who gave the Jews permission to return to Eretz Yehuda and to build the Temple in Jerusalem, I thought to myself that a day will come when I will be the President of the United States – the dream of every child in America was to be the President – and I am going to do what King Koresh did in his time.
“‘The dream came to fruition, and when your president, Chaim Weitzman, came to me – and in his hand was a gift, a Sefer Torah -- and he asked that I give the United Nations representative instructions to support your country, I remembered everything that was in my heart in my youth.
“‘It was clear [however,] that these feelings from the memory of my youth could not weigh against the responsibilities and interests of the United States, so why – with all this – did I come out for your side, on your behalf, and recognize the State of Israel?
“‘The reason for this is that only Stalin and I knew the true dangers that faced the world. (This was just after the Hiroshima bombing.) The possibility of an atomic war will continue to threaten to destroy the world, and – even more -- to leave the residents of the world in a situation worse than death. And if I still have the will to continue to live, it is only because I believe that, just like in the past, three thousand years ago, you Jews saved humanity, wild mankind, via your Torah, so too I believe and hope that, even nowadays, you, the Jewish Nation, will be successful again, to enlighten and to heal the beasts of cruelty in our midst and save the world from total destruction.’
Rabbi Lorincz continues: “When I returned to Israel from that interesting meeting, I gave over the words of President Truman from the podium of the Knesset, so that the leaders should know what the leaders of the world expect of the Jewish Nation. These words are copied in the archives of the speeches of the Knesset.
“The wise among the nations know that the job of the Jewish Nation is to be a light unto the nations, and through the Torah that is in our hands to save the world from destruction and to cause goodness to come to the world. If we don’t actualize this mission, our friends will turn their backs on us and they will conduct themselves solely focused on their own interests, and then they will favor the hundred million Arabs and the billion Moslems over the handful of Jews. Our obligation is to ensure that Hashem’s Name is great and sanctified, and then we will merit that Hashem will fulfill His promise and our problems will find the best solution, al y’dai Tishbi.”
We learned all this from our Father Avraham. If we would internalize this lesson and all become the source of blessing which we are supposed to be, then the world would instantly change, our enemies would cease to threaten us and Moshiach ben Dovid would arrive in an instant.
May we see soon, in our lifetime, the fruition of the life-work of our Father Avraham!
Conversing with President Bush