Letter & Spirit: Chabad and Israeli Politics

In this week’s edition of Letter & Spirit, we present a letter from the Rebbe to an individual who questioned Chabad’s involvement – or lack thereof – in various politically-connected activities in Israel. The letter was written through the Rebbe’s trusted secretary Rabbi Nissan Mindel, and was made available by the latter’s son-in-law, Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro.

The Rebbe’s powerful letter clarifies Lubavitch’s work in the holy land, their service in the Tzahal, the exemption of yeshivah students from IDF military service and the Jews’ claim to Eretz Yisrael. Is our claim based on the Balfour Declaration or is the G-d-given Torah our charter? Do we support the so-called “religious extremists” or those whose position is based on “Yom Haatzmaut” on the question of surrendering parts of the land?

This weekly feature is made possible by a collaboration between CrownHeights.info and Nissan Mindel Publications. Once a week we publish a unique letter of the Rebbe that was written originally in the English language, as dictated by the Rebbe to Rabbi Mindel.


                                                                                                                                            By the Grace of G-d

26th Iyar, 5740

Brooklyn, N.Y.


North Hollywood, Cal. 91606

Greeting and Blessing:

I duly received your letter with the enclosures and as requested, will remember you and your family in prayer when visiting the holy resting place of my father-in-law of saintly memory.

In light of your writing, there is surely no need to emphasize to you at length that there is always room for advancement in all matters of Torah and mitzvos which, though a “must” for their own sake, also widen the channels to receive G-d’s blessings in all needs.

Needless to say, no Jew is exempt from the said commitment, as indicated also by the fact that the Ten Commandments were given in the second person singular, addressed to every Jew personally; and all Jews accepted the Torah and mitzvos both individually and collectively, which includes the commitment to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit to the fullest extent of one’s ability and influence.

In answer to your questions and to begin with the question of why Lubavitch is not active in this or that project – apparently you are not fully informed about the Lubavitch activities, since some of the specific projects you mention in your letter have not only been included in Lubavitch work, but have been part and parcel of it for many years. However, you can rectify this lack of information through your Lubavitch contacts.

Let me cite some examples with reference to some of your questions. You ask why Lubaitch Chassidim do not serve in Tzahal. Obviously you are misinformed, for many do and many have attained high rank in the defense forces on active duty; and not only in the Chaplaincy, as you thought. As for those who serve in the Chaplaincy, clearly that is where they contribute most to Tzahal and the security of the country, since keeping the morale of the defense forces on the highest level is of primary importance. It would be a poor judgment on the part of Tzahal  to press one who is qualified to be a Chaplain into service as a private, as it would be to force one who is qualified to be a colonel to serve as private instead.

While on this subject, let me mention a further point, though you do not refer to it explicitly, namely, the exemption of yeshivah students from military service. As you may know, this exemption was recognized and agreed to by the founder of Tzahal , the late D. Ben Gurion. It is based on the fact that a yeshivah student can accomplish more to the security of the country by continuing his Torah learning than by military duty. Anyone who is familiar with the Sedra Bechukosai and is not prejudiced can see this clearly.

Having answered some of your questions, I trust I may indulge in asking you some pertinent questions in turn.

In light of your deep concern for the security of the Land of Israel and the people of Israel and since you are aware how much this security is entwined with adherence to the Torah and mitzvos , as repeatedly stated in the Torah in the sedra Bechukosai and elsewhere – how much have you done and have you done enough, in these past years to strengthen this security by strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit , Torah and mitzvos?

Secondly, since all Jews and the Jewish people constitute one entity, one organism, where a benefit to one part of it is a benefit to all – what have you done and couldn’t you perhaps have done more, to encourage the observance of mitzvos in those circles where you nave influence, whereby all our Jewish people and particularly our brethren in our Holy Land, could have benefited so much?

Thirdly, being aware of the ill-conceived wrongful approach of  those Jews who base their claim to Eretz Yisrael on the Balfour Declaration and the “kindness” of the nations of the world (the very same that forced the surrender of oil wells and military installations in Sinai so vital to the security of the Land of Israel and clamor for further concessions eroding its security) – what have you done, or have you doneenough to help these misguided Jews see the light, namely, that the G-d-given Torah is our charter and that it is G-d Who has given us our Holy Land as an everlasting inheritance and has reaffirmed it by an everlasting Covenant with our Patriarchs and our people ever since(as also emphasized by Rashi on the first posuk of the Torah)? What have you done to support and encourage the so-called “religious extremists” who are stubbornly fighting to prevent the dismembering and surrender of parts of our Eretz Yisrael, while those whose position is based on “Yom Haatzmaut “namely, on the good graces of the United Nations, have already surrendered parts of the land and are eager to give away more for worthless promises?

Needless to say, these are not rhetorical or homiletic questions, but a challenge that calls to practical action, which I trust will not be lost on you, as well as those on whom you can bring your influence to bear in the right direction – if you share my views and accept my words in their proper spirit.

And surely such action is called for even if it were not related to the security of our Holy Land and our people who dwell therein, for it is an imperative of the “Great Principle” of our Torah the mitzvah of v’ohavto l’re’acho komocho, making it the obligation and privilege of every Jew to see to it that all Jews live by the Torah and mitzvos.

                                                          With blessing,


The above letter is from a forthcoming volume of The Letter and the Spirit Series, two volumes of which have been published to date, with volume three coming out shortly, IYH. The letters are from the archives of Rabbi Dr. Nissan Mindel, a personal secretary to the Previous Rebbe and The Rebbe, whose responsibilities included the Rebbe’s correspondence in English.

We thank Rabbi Sholom Ber Shapiro, director of Nissan Mindel Publications and the one entrusted by Rabbi Mindel, his father-in-law, with his archives, for making these letters available to the wider public. May the merit of the many stand him in good stead.