Ariel Sharon & the Rebbe MH"M
(The Rebbe’s Letters translated by Rabbi Zushe Kohn)

After 28 years of outstanding military service and 25 years in the political arena, Ariel Sharon has been elected Prime Minister of the State of Israel. * How a family tragedy led to a warm relationship and a decades-long correspondence with the Rebbe MH"M. * Sharon’s life saved by a miracle. * Exclusive to Beis Moshiach. * Part 1

Ariel Sharon is the kind of person who is always at the center of the fray. Wherever he has been he has left behind a long trail of avowed loyalists – and sworn enemies. What he has never done, however, is left people indifferent. It is doubtful if any other personality in the history of the State of Israel has aroused fewer passions, both positive and negative.

Ariel Sheinerman was born on Sept. 27, 1928 in Kfar Mala, a small agricultural moshav near Tel Aviv, where he spent his childhood like any other Mapai’nik. The Sheinerman family lived in a very modest bungalow, the sun beating down on the roof in summer and the rain seeping through the cracks in winter.

Sharon was all set to follow in his father’s footsteps and study agronomy in Rechovot (he later studied history at Hebrew University and earned a law degree from Tel Aviv University) when the War of Independence intervened. The young fighter earned many decorations as a platoon leader.

In the early 1950’s, attacks by Arab fedayeen were becoming commonplace. Terrorists were routinely infiltrating into Israel, attacking settlements and murdering innocent Jews. This is when the fabled Unit 101, an elite commando anti-terrorist squad came into being. As part of this secret military operation, Arik Sharon would track the terrorists back to their homes over the border and dispense justice. Unit 101 was a great source of pride in Eretz Yisroel, and struck fear into the hearts of the Arabs. Its exploits assumed almost mythological proportions, and raised morale throughout the country.

A few years later, Arik Sharon was appointed commander of the Golani Brigade, whose acts of reprisal eventually led to the Sinai Campaign. Sharon, as head of the army’s parachutists, led the first attack of its kind in Israeli history.

Sharon would later serve in many other important military capacities, from head of the armored corps to director of training. During the Six-Day War his name was associated with another famous encounter, the battle of Abu Agila in the Sinai Peninsula. This was the turning point that effectively opened up the path to the Suez Canal.

It was not an easily won battle. The 90 Egyptian (Russian) tanks vastly outnumbered the forces under Sharon’s command. Even before their parachutes landed, the Israelis came under heavy fire, forcing them to retreat. At that point Sharon decided to try a multi-pronged attack that would combine ground forces, armored tanks, and parachutists. It was an extremely intense and bloody encounter, but within hours the Sinai desert was controlled by the IDF. The Israelis’ maneuvers, masterminded by Ariel Sharon, are still studied by military experts around the world.

It was shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967 when a small group of Chabad Chassidim from Yerushalayim set up a t’fillin stand in front of the newly-liberated Kosel. Among the tens of thousands of Jews who would put on t’fillin, many for the first time, was Ariel Sharon, an event that was immortalized by photographers and journalists. Among those present that day was Rabbi Chaim Gutnick from Australia, who happened to be visiting in Israel. When Rabbi Gutnick had a yechidus with the Rebbe not long afterward, he told him about having seen Sharon. "Nu, and what happened next?" the Rebbe asked. Rabbi Gutnick later transcribed the entire yechidus, and copies were distributed in Kfar Chabad. One of these transcripts made its way to Rabbi Yitzchok Gansburg, who kept it on his desk as a reminder to follow up on the connection with Ariel Sharon.

Unfortunately, a terrible tragedy took place in the Sharon household only a few weeks later. Ariel Sharon was at home in Tzahala with his two sons, Omri and Gur, when all of a sudden a shot rang out, followed by a scream…

"Gur was 11 years old," his father later recalled. "Just minutes before, he had walked into my room, given me a mock salute, and announced that he was going outside to play. I was on the telephone when I heard the shot. I walked outside and found him on the ground, blood pouring from a wound over his eye. I picked him up and ran. All I could do was stand outside and wait for someone to come by and offer me a lift, as my own car wasn’t there that day. I could see that he was dying in my arms. We made it to the infirmary, and from there we went to Tel HaShomer.

"This is something a person thinks that he can never overcome, that it is impossible to ever recover from and continue on with your life. At that moment, your whole world is destroyed. I thought so, too. It was very, very difficult. In the beginning, you are reliving that moment thousands of times a minute. The pain is constant and unrelenting, and you keep asking yourself the same questions over and over again. What could I have done differently? The pain never goes away. It is always there – you carry it around on your back wherever you go. But people are tested all the time. Some people are able to withstand even the very worst trials and continue to function. I was fortunate to have the strength to do this."

When Rabbi Gansburg heard about the accident he decided to visit Sharon to be menachem avel. As he recalls:

"When I got there it was early evening. Arik’s house was filled with army generals, including Chief of Staff Yitzchok Rabin. I sat down, and a few minutes later Arik walked into the room. As soon as he saw me he called me over into a side room and asked me what I, as a religious person, thought about the tragedy.

"I said to him, ‘Look, I’m only a simple Jew. I don’t know what to tell you. The only thing I suggest is that you write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He will give you the right answers.’

"Up until then Arik had no connection with the Rebbe, and he didn’t understand why he should suddenly write him a letter. But after I explained that the Rebbe is the leader of the entire Jewish people, and that every individual Jew’s pain is the Rebbe’s pain, he agreed to write a letter that very night. I told him I would come back the following morning to pick it up."

The next day Rabbi Gansburg arrived in Tzahala with several other Lubavitchers. This second visit to Sharon was described in a letter Rabbi Gansburg wrote to his friend Rabbi Yisroel Leibov:

"…Now we get to the reason why I am writing to you so urgently: Surely you remember Rabbi Gutnick’s yechidus in which the Rebbe mentioned Ariel Sharon, the famous military commander. Right before Rosh HaShana his son was playing with a hunting rifle when it accidentally went off and killed him. It was a terrible tragedy, even more so because Sharon’s first wife was killed in a car accident several years ago. I decided that we should pay him a consolation call as representatives of Kfar Chabad.

"We went there yesterday: Chefer, Maidanchik, Z. Levin, Peles, Meizlish, and myself. The house was full of high-ranking officers, including Mordechai Hod, General A. Yaffe, Meir Artzi, Chaim Bar Lev, and a few members of Knesset. First we davened Maariv and Sharon said Kaddish. Then he gave us his complete attention, and swallowed up everything Chefer told him. You could see that they were really connecting. He told us that his son Gur had a real Chassidic neshama. We left him a tallis and t’fillin and a small siddur. On the way out, his close friend Zev Amit walked us to the door and told us that Arik had been looking forward to our return visit. When we told him that the Rebbe had spoken about him during yechidus, he said that he had been very emotionally aroused while standing at the Kosel. Before we left he asked us to please ask the Rebbe to write him a few words of encouragement, as the tragedy had affected him to the depths of his being. So please speak to Rabbi Hodakov about this, and the sooner the better."

The Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach sent Sharon more than just a few words. The following letter of consolation, found on page 2 of Volume 25 of the Rebbe’s Igros Kodesh, was the beginning of a decades-long correspondence:


(Free translation.)


By the Grace of G-d

13 Tishrei, 5728

Brooklyn, NY

To Mr. Ariel Sharon,

Greetings and blessing!

I was deeply grieved to read in the newspaper about the tragic loss of your tender son, may he rest in peace. We [human beings] cannot fathom the ways of the Creator. During a time of war and peril you were saved – indeed, you were among those who secured the victory for our nation, the Children of Israel, against our enemies, in which "the many were delivered into the hands of the few, etc." – yet, during a time of quiet and in your own home, such an immense tragedy occurred! But if it is not surprising that a small child cannot comprehend the ways of a great, venerable, and elderly sage, even though it is only a finite gulf that separates them, then it is certainly not surprising that a created being cannot comprehend the ways of the Creator, Who is infinitely transcendent.

Obviously, the aforesaid does not come to minimize the hurt and pain in any way. Despite the vast distance between us, I wish to express my sympathies.

At first glance it would appear that we are distant from one another not only geographically, but also – or even more so – in terms of being unfamiliar, indeed, unaware of each other, until the Six Day War, when you became famous and celebrated as a commander and defender of our holy land and its inhabitants, and as a person of powerful abilities. G-d, blessed be He, shined His countenance upon you and granted you success in your activities – indeed a victory of unexpected proportion.

But on the basis of a fundamental, deeply rooted, Jewish principle, namely, that all Jews are kindred, the fame that you received served to reveal something that existed even before, i.e., the interconnectedness of all Jews, whether of the Holy Land or of the Diaspora. It is this interconnectedness that spurred me to write the abovementioned words to you and your family.

Another factor that motivated me to write this letter is the great arousal that you affected in the hearts of many of our Jewish brethren when you put on t’fillin at the Western Wall, an act which merited great publicity and echoed powerfully and positively into the various stratums of our nation, both in places near and far.

An element of solace – indeed, more than just an element – is expressed in the ritual blessing, hallowed by scores of generations of Torah and tradition among our people: ‘May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.’

At first glance, the connection between the mourner to whom this blessing is directed and the mourners of Jerusalem’s destruction appears to be quite puzzling. In truth, however, they are connected, for as mentioned, the main consolation embodied by this phrase is in its inner content, namely, that just as the grief over Tzion and Yerushalayim is common to all the sons and daughters of our people, Israel, wherever they may be (although it is more palpable to those who dwell in Jerusalem and actually see the Western Wall and the ruins of our Holy Temple, than to those who are far away from it, nonetheless, even those who are far, experience great pain and grief over the destruction) so is the grief of a single individual Jew or Jewish family shared by the entire nation. For, as the Sages have taught, all of the Jewish people are one composite structure.

Another point and principle, expressing double consolation, is that just as G-d will most certainly rebuild the ruins of Tzion and Yerushalayim and gather the dispersed of Israel from the ends of the earth through our righteous Moshiach, so will He, without a doubt, remove the grief of the individual, fulfilling the promise [of resurrection] embodied by the verse, ‘Awaken and sing, you who repose in the dust.’ Great will be the joy, the true joy, when all [Jews, both of the present and past] will be rejoined at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead.

There is yet a third point: Just as in regard to Tzion and Yerushalayim, the Romans – and before them, the Babylonians – were given dominion only over the wood and stone, silver and gold of the Temple’s physical manifestation but not over its inner, spiritual essence, contained within the heart of each and every Jew – for the gentile nations have no dominion over this and it stands eternally – so too regarding the mourning of the individual, death dominates only the physical body and concerns of the deceased person. The soul, however, is eternal; it has merely ascended to the World of Truth. That is why any good deed [performed by the mourner] that accords with the will of the Giver of life, G-d, blessed be He, adds to the soul’s delight and merit, and to its general good.

May it be G-d’s will that henceforth you and your family should know no hurt and pain, and that in your actions in defense of our Holy Land, the land which G-d’s eyes are upon from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, and in your observance of the mitzva of t’fillin – and one mitzva brings another in its wake – you will find comfort.

With esteem and blessing.

The letter was not sent directly to Sharon, but was delivered to him through Rabbi Gansburg, who received the following message from the Rebbe’s secretariat: "In answer to your letter, enclosed is a letter from Kvod K’dushas Admur shlita to Mr. Ariel (Arik) Sharon. As not many personal details are known about the addressee, exactly when and how to deliver the letter is left to your discretion. Please keep us posted, and thank you in advance."

Rabbi Gansburg returned to Sharon’s house in Tzahala for a third time, accompanied by several elder Chassidim. He gave him the Rebbe’s letter, and spent a long time discussing it with him.

This visit was described in a letter Rabbi Gansburg wrote to the Rebbe in MarCheshvan of 5728 (fall of 1967): "I received the Rebbe’s letter to Arik Sharon on Friday. After we visited him during the Shiva, Shlomo Maidanchik stayed in touch with him. On Erev Sukkos we brought him the arba minim. This past Friday, I went to him with R’ Dov Chein and brought him lekach and mashkeh. He put on t’fillin, and at the end of our conversation we invited him to Kfar Chabad for a Shabbos or at least a Motzaei Shabbos. When I received the letter from the Rebbe I told him I would give it to him when he came on Motzaei Shabbos, but as his wife was sick, he asked us to come to him instead. I made the trip with Shlomo Maidanchik. Sharon read the letter very carefully and we discussed it for an hour and a half. When we left, it was on condition that we meet again. (Incidentally, he said that we could publicize the letter if we wished.)"

From that point on, Sharon’s encounters with Chabad Chassidim became more frequent. At first Rabbi Gansburg informed the Rebbe every time they met. Later, this was taken over by Shlomo Maidanchik, with whom Sharon still enjoys a close relationship.

It was around that time that the Jewish Agency sent Sharon to the United States. When Rabbi Gansburg heard about the impending trip, he suggested to Sharon that he take the opportunity to meet the Rebbe in person.

Sharon was very emotional in describing his first yechidus when he returned to Israel. "Before I went in to the Rebbe," he told Rabbi Gansburg, "I assumed I would be meeting a Chassidic rabbi whose only field of expertise was in the realm of Torah. I was astounded when the Rebbe began to talk about defense issues so authoritatively one would have thought he was a general in the IDF!

"One of the topics that came up during the yechidus was the battle for Kalkiliya. The Rebbe asked me why eight soldiers had fallen. When I explained to the Rebbe that we had had to cross a certain wadi where the enemy had been lying in wait, the Rebbe said, ‘But why did you have to go through that wadi? Surely you could have approached the city from another direction…’ The Rebbe then drew up a diagram of how we should have gone about capturing Kilkiliya, as if he had consulted the most detailed military map of the region!

"Then the Rebbe started talking about the different kinds of weapons in use by the Israeli forces. In this area, too, I was shocked by his knowledge. The Rebbe even asked me why we were using a certain gun instead of superior model. The Rebbe was so thoroughly familiar with all our military vehicles it was as if he was receiving daily intelligence updates!"

On the 29th of Sivan 5728, the Israeli newspaper Maariv ran an article about this first encounter between the Rebbe and Sharon:

"This past Thursday, General Sharon had a very instructive meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The meeting began at 1:00 a.m. and concluded at 3 in the morning. The Rebbe had invited Sharon to his yeshiva, and when Sharon’s taxi pulled up in the middle of that rainy night, it was immediately surrounded by dozens of people. At first the driver thought he was being attacked by robbers, but eventually discovered that this was a friendly greeting. The Lubavitcher Rebbe demonstrated an unusual degree of knowledge about Israel’s military, security and politics, as well as international relations, particularly the goings-on in Washington. The Rebbe also showed an extremely detailed knowledge of the battles of the Six-Day War.

"‘Our greatest mistake,’ the Rebbe told General Sharon, ‘would be to withdraw from our new borders… We must stop trying to please the gentiles. This approach has never helped and it will never help. There must be no hesitation on the part of Israel. We must uproot the exile from Eretz Yisroel.’

"The Rebbe added, ‘If the government were to decide that the newly-liberated territories should be settled, and issued a call to world Jewry to that end, I am sure that a half-million young Jews would respond to the challenge.’

"Regarding the various solutions now being put forward involving either the full or partial withdrawal of Israel, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that these plans are liable to cause a worsening of tensions in the future. ‘These are solutions that defy the natural order,’ the Rebbe declared. In his opinion, the current borders of Israel are its natural borders.

"The Rebbe added painfully that everything that goes on in the Israeli government is immediately known to the world at large. ‘Why doesn’t the Israeli army state its opinion [about the borders] forcefully?’ he asked General Sharon. ‘It’s a political issue…’ Sharon replied. The Rebbe responded with a dismissive wave of the hand. ‘It is not a political issue; it is a matter of security. I believe in full faith that we can and must settle the territories.’

"By 3:00 a.m. the rain had turned into a full-fledged storm. The Rebbe bid goodbye to General Sharon, who was immediately surrounded by yeshiva students who begged him to reveal what the Rebbe had said."

(Click here to continue.)


Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan 5747: Ariel Sharon receiving a dollar from the Rebbe MH”M.
"After I explained that the Rebbe is the leader of the entire Jewish people, and that every individual Jew’s pain is the Rebbe’s pain, he agreed to write a letter that very night."

Ariel Sharon at a farbrengen with Tmimim and Anash in 770, after a yechidus with the Rebbe.
"I assumed I would be meeting a Chassidic rabbi whose only field of expertise was in the realm of Torah.
I was astounded when the Rebbe began to talk about defense issues so authoritatively one would have thought he was a general in the IDF!"


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