The following is a free translation/excerpt for Lubavitch.com of remarks by Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, parts of which were delivered at an economic conference in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday. The conference on March 19, 2018, was sponsored by TheMarker, an Israeli daily business newspaper published by Haaretz. In his full remarks, Rivlin called for a merging of the country’s two distinct economies to narrow the gap between its poor sector and its prosperous high-tech community.
From my maternal side, I am a descendant of the first Chabad leader, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the author of the Tanya. The Tanya is also known as Sefer shel Beinonim, [The Book of the In-Betweeners or The Book of Intermediates]. The Tanya guides its readers to aspire to the level of “Beinoni” rather than “Tzaddik” [perfection]. This is not to be confused with striving for mediocrity. To the contrary, the Beinoni is the individual who stands “in-between” and connects disparate realities in all their complexity.
I’ve come here in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday with a rather unusual wish, namely, that we succeed to build up the “middle”; that we learn to love and value the attribute of the “beinoni.” My wish is for us to achieve the level of “beinoni” which is a necessary condition for excellence.
Remarks of this nature, I admit, would have been out of place at an economic conference some years back. But thanks to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Chabad’s conceptual terms have made it into our modern day vernacular.
I have had the privilege of meeting the Rebbe 35 years ago. The Rebbe invited me to meet with him, and as always, the reason for the meeting was his concern for the well being of the Jewish people and Jewish continuity. On that particular occasion, El Al, Israel’s national airlines, was in the throes of a debate about whether it should not operate on Saturdays, in observance of the Sabbath. I was then the director of El Al.
It was a brief meeting, but for me, the experience was as authentic and as remarkable as those classical descriptions of the disciple (Hasid) in the presence of his Rebbe. Perhaps it was a reflection of an earlier relationship; my great, great grandfather, Rabbi Eliyahu Yosef Rivlin, made aliyah to the Holy Land some 170 years ago, and was among the founders of the Chabad settlement in Hebron. Possibly it was in the merit of this historic relationship with Chabad, as well as the meeting and the rich correspondence that ensued between the Rebbe and my father, Professor Yosef Yoel Rivlin.
But in anticipation of the Rebbe’s birthday, [11 Nissan, this year March 27] allow me to focus on my more recent encounters with the Rebbe’s emissaries. A birthday, as the Rebbe taught, is an auspicious time to reflect on the legacy and life works of the individual, and his or her impact on the future.
As President of the State of Israel, I have the opportunity of seeing, almost on a daily basis, the “blessed fruits of the Rebbe’s labors.” Primarily, I am witness to the extraordinary manner in which they, his shluchim [emissaries, representatives] perpetuate and enlarge on his legacy.
I have met the Rebbe’s emissaries in Greece, Georgia, Mumbai, Bulgaria, Moscow, Prague, Berlin and Ho Chi Minh. I’ve talked to his representatives in Singapore, Paris, St. Petersburg and Italy. And I’ve presented his emissary in Thailand with the Jerusalem Prize.
All of these unique encounters with the Rebbe’s shluchim around the world, as well as the many opportunities I have here in Jerusalem are marked by a spirit of love and an abiding sense of responsibility that the shluchim and their families carry in their roles as ambassadors of love for the People, the Torah and the Land of Israel.
Even today, it is evident that the Rebbe’s inspiration continues to animate his disciples around the globe. May you continue your eternal work of boundless love, and may we all be blessed to see the fulfillment of the prophet’s words: “As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my wonders.” Wishing you a kosher and happy Passover.