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Tuesday
Oct172017

ERRONEOUS CITATION  

It was a Tuesday afternoon at 2:00 at the Chabad tefillin stand in Hertzliya. The street was busy and the extreme heat seemed to have eclipsed the uproar over themistaken citation.” It was a major news item that was heard not only in Eretz Yisroel but throughout the world. Despite the heat, I joined the shliach who regularly mans the tefillin stand. Every now and then, someone came over and asked to put on tefillin, “Just because of what they did to you.”

R’ Halperin puts on t’filin with the mayor | The mayor’s letter to the Rebbe. | The citation that created an uproar.How did this beloved tefillin stand, which attracts numerous Jews every day, become the most talked-about tefillin stand in the country?

Although the uproar is behind us, it’s important to know the chain of events. It all began at 11:00 in the morning, when Rabbi YY Amitai, a shliach of the Chabad House in Hertzliya, set up his stand as he does every Friday, in the business district which is near the Chabad House. He then offered passersby the opportunity to put on tefillin. A city inspector went over to him and gave him a ticket with a 730 shekel fine.

“He was asked several times to remove the table and tefillin,” the municipal officer wrote in the citation, “but he refused. He also annoyed passersby by asking them to put on tefillin.”

The unfortunate terminology created a firestorm. Someone took out his cell phone and videoed the officer giving the citation. A few minutes later, when the video went viral, various media outlets carried the story as well. Knesset member Betzalel Smotrich, who reacted first to the incident, wrote, “This is unacceptable in a Jewish country. I will ask the municipality to dismiss the fine and reprimand the inspector for his behavior.”

The minister’s deputy, Rabbi Meir Porush, responded swiftly. “I greatly hope and want to believe that the behavior of the inspector in Hertzliya was his own doing and unrelated to policy. There isn’t, and can’t be, a policy of the establishment to prohibit, G-d forbid, the putting on of tefillin on anyone. This was the policy in communist Russia. We aren’t there.”

Knesset member Dudi Amsalem joined those who protested and wrote, “When a tzaddik gets up in the morning, leaves his parnasa and puts tefillin on another Jew in Hertzliya, he is a criminal who bothers people on the street. And is fined 730 shekels. All this happens in a Jewish state. Oy, how shameful!”

As the hours passed, the firestorm drew in hundreds of thousands of Jews who were shocked by this new war that seemed to be starting. Senior figures in the Hertzliya municipality were taken aback. People in the city government who are friendly with the local Chabad shluchim sought a way to bring the temperature down. The mayor, Mr. Moshe Fadlon, began looking for a way to save face and before Shabbos began he wrote, “The Chabad shliach who received the citation should submit an appeal and the citation will immediately be dismissed.”

MEDIA TURMOIL

The media raised the story to a fevered pitch and from all directions came condemnations and protests about the erroneous citation. In interviews on various stations, the shliach of Hertzliya, Rabbi Yisroel Halperin, said, “We came here to Hertzliya on the Rebbe’s shlichus 33 years ago. Since then, we have been putting tefillin on with people every week. This is the first time in Hertzliya, and perhaps in the entire world, that a Jew has received a citation for putting tefillin on other Jews.”

Rabbi Halperin, what caused the change in the mayor’s approach?

The mayor is a wonderful person. We do not want to clash with him. Nobody in the world can silence the putting on of tefillin with people. We were told to do this by the Rebbe MH”M, and by divine providence, the incident occurred on the eve of the birthday of the Alter Rebbe and the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov said that when he rose to the heavenly chamber of Moshiach the night of Rosh Hashana, Moshiach told him, “I will come – when your wellsprings spread outward.” We must spread the wellsprings and “outward” means the street. Nobody can stop this.

From Heaven, they want us to intensify this campaign, so they sent inspectors to convey what seems to be an opposite message. After the s’farim incident of Didan Notzach, the Rebbe said that apparently the entire legal objection happened in order to get us to strengthen the learning of s’farim. Here too, we feel we got a message to continue intensifying Mivtza Tefillin in honor of the fiftieth year since the Rebbe announced this campaign.

***

R’ Halperin used the publicity and the many interviews he was invited to, to emphasize the shlichus from the Rebbe to publicize the prophecy of Geula. When he was asked whether he would submit a request to cancel the citation, he said, “G-d forbid! We are going to keep this citation for a special museum that will open in the era of Geula.”

SETTING SOCIAL MEDIA ABLAZE

Boaz Golan, owner of the 0404-news station, was the one who raised a hue and cry and lit the fire on social media. In an interview with Beis Moshiach, he told of the protest he set up in response to a post on the site, which generated moving reactions from all over the world, as many Jews ran to have their pictures taken as they put on tefillin. “The protest post that I set up is a protest that comes from the heart. You see things like this and feel that you cannot stand on the sidelines. I am not talking about the dry law about placing a tefillin stand here or there. Tefillin stands are found everywhere: Germany, France, China, Australia, and, of course, in Eretz Yisroel. This wonderful work of Chabad connects us, and this is the most blessed thing that could be. I was happy to later publicize that the mayor canceled the citation.

“As a result of the incident, I wrote a column that generated a big media reaction. I explained the significance of our being Jews in Eretz Yisroel, no matter our political beliefs. I included a picture of me putting on tefillin (by the way, thanks to the uproar, I put tefillin on that Friday), and called upon people to have their pictures wearing t’fillin taken too.”

How did people respond?

“It was unbelievable. Within minutes, we began getting many pictures, so many that they added up to thousands. People kept sending more and more. Even as I’m speaking to you now, pictures keep coming in and not only from here, but from all over the world. You can see so many types of people who put on tefillin: soldiers, tourists, Jews of every walk of life. I feel that we started a ‘virtual Chabad tefillin stand.’

“There were also many people who wrote something along with their picture and said they had not put tefillin on in a long time, but thanks to our protest, they decided to put on tefillin. I became a Chabad shliach,” Golan chuckled.

“This moved me even more since, although I am not religious, I have a warm spot for Chabad Chassidim. I was recently at an event to honor IDF soldiers in a forsaken hole on the Syrian border and when I arrived, I was not surprised, because I am used to it, to see a Chabad tank.”

THE MAYOR IN A LETTER TO THE REBBE: “I APOLOGIZE”

After the storm died down a bit, the mayor of Hertzliya went to R’ Yisroel Halperin’s home in order to apologize for the citation. The mayor had announced that the fine was canceled and he explained that there was a misunderstanding. He said he was sorry and took responsibility. He said he admired Chabad’s work and the one who led it all, the Rebbe, and was thankful for the outreach work done until then.

R’ Halperin blessed the mayor with success and suggested that he write to the Rebbe through the Igros Kodesh. The mayor agreed and wrote:

In honor of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach shlita, I, Moshe ben Toni Fadlon, mayor of Hertzliya, hereby inform the Rebbe that unfortunately there was a misunderstanding regarding the tefillin stand. I hereby express my regrets and wish to inform that I appreciate the work of Chabad under the leadership of your holy honor and bless the continuation of Chabad activity throughout the city as before. I request of your holy honor a blessing for success and a good and sweet year.

The moving meeting between the shliach and the mayor ended with a warm hug. “This incident should be used to publicize the Rebbe’s request to put tefillin on with more Jews, along with publicizing the prophecy of Moshiach’s coming,” concluded R’ Halperin.

The mayor summed things up to the Beis Moshiach reporter thus, “We are restoring things to the way they used to be, Chabad will continue to grow and expand and enable Jews to do mitzvos.”

Will your relationship with the Rebbe’s shluchim in Hertzliya continue as usual?

“This incident only strengthened the connection. R’ Halperin and I are like brothers.

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