President Obama on The Parsha

“Like streams of water, the heart of the king is in the hand of God. He directs it anywhere He wishes.” (Proverbs, 21:1) Today, He directed 80 presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, heads of parliaments, ambassadors and other representatives to gather in our holy capital of Jerusalem to pay final homage to Shimon Peres and by extension to honor the Jewish homeland and its people.   

US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande, French FM Laurent Fabius, German President Joachim Gauck, British FM Boris Johnson, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, former British prime minister David Cameron and Britain’s Prince Charles, were among the notables.

“Like streams of water” G-d directed them to assemble, with Yarmulkas donned, to the theme music of Rosh Hashana, “Ovinu Malkeinu” – Our Father Our King – reverberating as per Peres’ wishes throughout the hastily arranged summit. Being the eve of Shabbat, Prime Minister Netanyahu was able to officially receive only a handful of them, as he cut his day short to receive Judaism’s Queen, the holy Shabbat.

In a correspondence dated Rosh Hashanah Eve 1985, The Rebbe thanks Minister Peres for his warm New Year wishes. In a post script, The Rebbe highlights two of Peres’ talking points that he had shared with The Rebbe at a private audience in 770, Brooklyn NY. As an answer to Peres’ request for a blessing in Israel’s perilous times, The Rebbe recounted Peres’ “staunch, justified, passion” as he told of his miraculous birth. Peres’ parents had been childless. Only after receiving a special blessing from a “Tzaddik-Rebbe” did they have a child, and it was him. Peres also had remarked about Israel’s future to The Rebbe, translated from Yiddish, “Hashem will surely help.”

Taken together, The Rebbe offered these realities as a foundation from which all else shall flow. Were Peres to fully utilize these innate proud convictions, he will see success in the “overwhelming and critically important responsibilities” he shouldered.

At the funeral, Prime Minister Netanyahu heralded one such success, noting it was Peres the defense minister who approved the bold and miraculous rescue operation in Entebbe. Ultimately, the one soldier who died was Netanyahu’s brother Yoni. Netanyahu remarked that the spot on which they stood was the same as at his brother’s funeral. There and then Peres had eulogized Yoni. “My late parents, my brother, and I were profoundly moved by what he said about Yoni, about the Operation, about the bond with our forefathers, and about the pride of our nation.”

A more hushed achievement was Peres’ securing nuclear capabilities for a young, tiny, post-holocaust Israel. This deterrent elicits a fear from Israel’s enemies, through today, that protects and has protected Israel and her people in ways we might never know.

President Obama, referring to Peres by his biblical name, remarked, “Shimon once said, the message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.” The powerful truth of these words was evident as Obama recounted what happened as the Peres family fled the shtetl for Palestine. “Shimon’s beloved grandfather’s parting words to him were, “Shimon, stay a Jew.”

Concluding the service, Obama quoted this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim. The verse tells of Moshe proclaiming; “I call upon heaven and earth to bear witness this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live. Uvacharta Bachayim – Choose life.”

Masterfully begun in Jerusalem today, “Ovinu Malkeinu” will reverberate throughout the world this Sunday night as Jewry for the 5777th year, will beseech The A-lmighty, our Father our King, for all good men, and indeed for all of creation, that we and they be entered into the book of life.

Today from Zion, a powerful blast of Jewish pride, unquestionably Divinely orchestrated, served as timely reminder that this Monday and Tuesday, for 48 hours, all of Jewry shall stand tall and in unison listening to the Shofar exclaim the miracle of our existence as we plead with The A-lmighty, our Father our King, for ever more.

Let us follow the world’s leaders to our local synagogue to exclaim Ovinu Malkeinu. Let us proudly don head coverings and stand with all of our fellow Jews to thank Hashem for His miraculous goodness. As we contemplate G-d’s gifts to our generation, let our sincerest wishes and hopes ascend on the wings of the ever soaring voice of The Shofar.

There is, for sure, something very special in the air. Let us pray that it be the prelude to an even more historic gathering in Zion, that of all of Jewry. May it be in time for this Rosh Hashanah, as G-d takes out His long awaited Shofar, “Blow your great Shofar to our redemption” will finally be heard and the world will experience sweetness and only revealed goodness for all days to come.

Shanah Tovah!


About the Author
Ciment is Founding Rabbi of Chabad-Lubavitch of Greater Boynton Beis Menachem, a pioneering traditional Jewish presence in Central Palm Beach County, Florida established in 1994. Chabad's 5 acre, "Rae & Joseph Gann Campus for Living Judaism" serves hundreds of member families and services thousands of Jews from all walks of life.