On the morning after Yom Kippur in September 1993 Senator Moynihan and I had a private meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres after his public appearance at the Park East Synagogue. Senator Moynihan had requested the meeting at the behest of my Rebbe, Rav Ahron Soloveichik, who had a number of questions about the newly signed Oslo Accords, Mr. Peres was eager for the Rabbi’s support for this undertaking and gave us detailed answers to every question(alas, everything he predicted could “go wrong” did so in short order) At the end of the meeting, Senator Moynihan thanked Mr. Peres for his “strong support of the Jerusalem Fellowships “, a project of Yeshivat Aish HaTorah (the Senator was a Founding Honorary Chairman of the program) Shimon Peres grew animated “Senator, let me tell you why I support The Jerusalem Fellowhips and Yeshivot. Over 60 years ago, when I was 8 years old, I was already an ardent Labor Zionist. I had a religious uncle who was upset by my lack of faith and dragged me to the village of Radin to meet the venerable Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan” Mr. Peres then turned to me and asked “have you heard of him?” I assured him that I even had many of his books in my home. He then continued “The Old Rabbi and I had quite a talk. He quoted Maimonides. I responded with Marx, He quoted Talmud, I quoted Ushkushkin. And then he began to cry and put his hands on my head and blessed me: ‘the Aibeshter gave me long life. He should give you the same. You should go as you wish to Eretz Yisroel and become a great leader of the Jewish people, but remember meiner kind, that you can’t have a Jewish State without the Aibeshter and the Aibesher’s Torah,’” And then he grew quite emotional “Senator” he declared, “Yesterday was Yom Kippur. I do not fast all day. My wife does. I do not spend the day in Synagogue. She does. But every Yom Kippur night I think of that old Rabbi and realize how true his words were…and that’s why I support the Jerusalem Fellowships and Aish HaTorah.”
Today was the Chofetz Chaim’s 83rd Yahrzeit. He lived to be either 93, 94 or 95 depending on which source you accept. As we heard of Shimon Peres’ imminent death this afternoon I thought of how he often credited the Chofetz Chaim’s bracha for his own extraordinary good health well into his tenth decade. And how the tzadik‘s bracha seems to have held out until it ran up to the recipient’s life span. Shimon Peres was 93.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.