The Book That Never Ends
At a meeting with President Barack Obama, Shliach Rabbi Levi Shemtov brought a booklet that people often ask about.
Photos by Pete Souza / White House
President Barack Obama downplayed tensions with Israel in a Tuesday meeting with Orthodox Jewish leaders in the White House, saying they should not to doubt his "fidelity" to Israel's security.
Participants included officials from the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, Agudath Israel of America, large shuls, Rabbinic Council of America and of course, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, the Shliach in Washington, DC and director of American Friends of Lubavitch.
Challenged by one of the attendees on the efficacy of his perceived even-handedness in dealing with Israel and the Palestinians, Obama countered that he has not been even-handed; he has favored Israel, JTA reported.
Obama's comments that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not interested in peace has angered officials in Ramallah. "This is all part of Obama's election campaign," one of them claimed. "Obama is obviously trying to win the Jewish vote in the upcoming election."
But what caught our attention was something that was not said at the table, but what was on the table - literally.
In official White House photos, Rabbi Shemtov was seen sitting directly across from the President with a thin leather-bound book, otherwise known to Lubavitchers as the hard-copy version of the "Dvar Malchus" weekly Torah study publication.
It came in handy when Rabbi Shemtov offered a Dvar Torah at the meeting and quoted from the Rebbe about the need of the middle flame of the Menorah - a leader - to always have his focus to heaven, G-d Almighty, since the other flames faced toward it, even as the branches hewn from the solid base faced in different directions.
"In this way, the lights not only illuminate but are uplifting - be'haalosechah, as this week's Torah portion is named," he said.
"I try to take the Dvar Malchus wherever I go," Rabbi Shemtov told COLlive.com when asked to identify which book was on the table next to the glass engraved with the Great Seal of the President of the United States.
"You can be sitting in an office waiting room or an event after clearing security before a program starts for a good few minutes, so why waste the time if you can learn a Sicha, Chitas or Rambam?"
Shemtov, preparing for the upcoming Living Legacy Conference in tribute to the Rebbe, said Washington regulars have seen him with the now worn booklet so often that a respected government official once asked him, "are you ever going to finish reading that book?" to which he replied "One never finishes this book..."
Interestingly, one of the Jewish communal leaders present who probably enjoyed the Rebbe's vort on unity conveyed by Rabbi Shemtov was his good friend R' Aaron Kotler, CEO of Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood, NJ.