At End Of Stormy Interview: Mishpacha Reporter Lays Tefillin On Prof. Aharon Barak


Aryeh Erlich, the editor of the Hebrew Mishpacha magazine, published a video on Thursday evening of him helping Aharon Barak, the former president of the Supreme Court, to don tefillin.

Erlich held a stormy interview this week with Barak that ended with the intriguing twist of him asking Barak if he would agree to lay tefillin.

The video caused a furor on social media. Barak, a bastion of the liberal left,  significantly increased the power of the Supreme Court during his term as president, including interpreting Israel’s Basic Laws as its constitution and advancing a judicial activist approach to an extent not seen in any other country, allowing the court to interfere in an unprecedented manner in pivotal matters such as security and religion.

The new government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is planning to carry out a series of judicial reforms that will partially reverse Barak’s advancements, spurring the left to make outrageous claims that Netanyahu is “crushing democracy” and Israeli citizens should “take to the streets” and “publicly uprise” against the government. Barak gave a series of interviews last week in the Israeli media speaking out against the planned reforms.

As would be expected, Erlich and Barak did not see eye to eye on the matter during the interview. Erlich wrote: “There was no point of agreement in the stormy conversation I had with Prof. Aharon Barak at his home this week. But then came the surprising twist. Look at the photo.”

“Just before parting, we suggested to Prof. Barak an unusual offer,” Erlich said. “We thought it would be a symbolic end to three decades of ideological conflict. ‘We brought tefillin with us,’ we said. “As a Jew born in Kovno, would you perhaps agree to put them on?’

“Surprisingly, Barak happily agreed. ‘After my Bar-Mitzvah, which was celebrated according to halacha in Ohel Rivka in Jerusalem, I put on tefillin and I was very religious,’ Barak responded. ‘I wore a kipah. Yes, I had a religious phase.’

“Barak stretched out his left arm, said the bracha ‘l’haniach tefillin’ with us and we wrapped the straps around his arm. Afterward, we said the bracha of ‘al mitzvas tefillin’ with him and put the tefillin shel rosh on him. And when he said the passuk Shema Yisrael with us, his voice choked. His eyes were moist and you could hear the emotion in his voice.'”

According to a Chareidim10 report, Rav Betzalel Katz, z’tl, the Rav of the Lithuanian city of Rokiškis, one of the most chashuve Chabad Rabbanim in pre-World War Lithuania, is Barak’s great-great-grandfather.

Barak, who was an only child, was five years old when the Nazis entered Kovno in 1941. After surviving two years in the ghetto, he and his mother escaped to a farm of a righteous Gentile, who hid them until Kovno was liberated by the Russian Army. They eventually reunited with Barak’s father, who also survived the war. The family made its way to Israel in 1947.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)


  1. It really warms my heart when I see non-Chabad yidden putting teffilim on other yidden.

    I remember in the mid-late 70’s when Chabad started their Teffilin Campaign, many frum yidden (including well-meaning, learned, and prominent Yidden) came up with all kinds of complaints against it.

    Boruch Hashem, we are past knocking this (at least the sane ones among us – the rabid ones will always howl at the full moon).

    Chabad does not have an exclusive “patent” on helping other yidden put on teffilin. In fact, we as a klal, can accomplish much more!

  2. Barak should have been hanged for treason. What he did was nothing short of a coup against the state of Israel. Israelis should have taken to the streets and had a public uprising against him, but they didn’t know what he had done. The news industry didn’t report it openly, in terms that the ordinary person could understand, and the politicians didn’t dare complain. And ever since, any attempt to fix the problem has been attacked as “against the rule of law”, when in fact it’s the exact opposite. What Israel has now is not the rule of law but the rule of lawyers and judges.

  3. What impresses me is that someone is trying to speak to the neshomo of Aharaon ben Leah, as we should be doing for all these public figures and daven for them to wake up and get out of the klipos that have gotten hold of them. Same for Benyamin ben Tzirel, Yair ben Shulamit. “And when he said the passuk Shema Yisrael with us, his voice choked. His eyes were moist and you could hear the emotion in his voice.” There’s still a Yiddishe neshomo in there, maybe someone can find some way to fan the sparks. What a Kiddush Hashem that would be if he would become the next Uri Zohar (להבדל בין חיים לחיים). Rebbetzin G…, why pick on sectarian issues, focus on the neshomo issues.

  4. 80’000 people protested, assumingly with the financial assistance of the New-Israel fund (US and European tax-payers money) against Judicial reform in the Knesset as Anti-democratic!
    For me, democracy means to rule according to the majority votes and not according to a small group of anti-government leftist supreme court judges paid by foreign interfering goverments.
    The proposed changes are DEMOCRATIC the current leftist system is UNdemocratic!

  5. por, I was merely pointing out how we, as a klal, have been eventually “catching up” with Chabad AND as a klal, we can do so much more for Am Yisroel than what they do as a chelek of the klal.

    I remember in the 60’s when the frum oilom was actually against kiruv rechokim, and mocked Chabad for doing so (- someone even asked a shaylah to Reb Moshe if it is ok to do kiruv and he replied it is a chiyuv to give at least 10% of one’s time…), and then the klal joined in kiruv programs, Aish Hatorah was founded in 1974 and as a klal we followed Chabad’s lead.

    I remember in the late 60’s- early 70’s a girl in my Bais Yaakov class kept a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L in her purse, and we (students AND teachers) mocked her, telling her it’s avoda zara to have a picture of a gadol – totally ossur! Shortly after came Tzaddikim Cards and EVERYONE had pictures of tzaddikim and gedolim. I now ask her mechilah!

    In the mid to late 60’s Chabad started the tefillin campaign. It took nearly a decade for the rest of us to come on board, as I wrote in my earlier posting, at the time, many chosheveh rabbonim spoke out against it, till they came around.

    But we still had major issues that Chabad would ask their Rebbe for brochos in health, parnossa, children etc. We loudly complained, why ask a Rebbe for a brocha when you can daven directly to Hashem?! Wh felt that it was totally wrong!! Guess what, we caught up! Now it is common to go to a tzaddik, a godol, a rosh yeshiva and ask for a brocha whenever someone has a tzarah or bakosha.

    We mocked when Chabad Houses were opened in far-flung places…we caught up and also send kiruv couples to bring yiddishkeit to spiritual deserts (and we benefit from those Chabad Houses when stuck on a business trip in Thailand for shabbos minyan and cholent or when an OTD child that grew up in Bnei Brak yeshivos finds her way into Chabad of Nepal – true stories).

    We laughed out loud when Chabad started to speak openly about Moshiach and sang “We want Moshiach now!”, but we finally caught up and Moshiach is no longer a taboo topic for public speakers, it became mainstream.

    We mocked that they go to the Ohel, to daven there and ask for yeshuos, while we run to kivrei tzaddikim to daven there and ask for yeshuos…

    For the past 50 years, I am watching as we play catch up with Chabad. It warms my heart but I am sad for two things: That we mocked and knocked them relentlessly before we realized that they are correct and adopted their ways; and that we don’t do so much more.

    I will never be a member of the Chabad chassidus, it is not my derech, but I will always admire what they do for klal yisroel.

  6. Rebetzin
    We mocked them(I included) because aside from setting up tfilin booths they were insisting that the rebbe was moshiach even posting billboard asserting that. So you would drive on the FDR see signs for Jesus is (CV) the savior followed by the rebbe is moshiach. they even would predict times when he would reveal himselfas such. If your from my generation you might remember the moshiach beeper!
    Yes I’m sure it was only a minority, but it was a loud minority

  7. Based on how frail Barak looks in this picture, he may have agreed to don תפילין as he may be realizing that he is not far off from having to face his Maker

  8. Get-r-dun,

    You and I mocked them DECADES before any billboards of moshiach!

    I am talking about the 60’s. 70’s, 80’s.

    We were misnagdim and hated anything chassidish. Chabad was our perfect target! Even our teachers encouraged us to bully our fellow Chabad classmates.

    You sound like a Palestinian saying that he tries to kills Jews because of the settlements – even though he tried to kill Jews before 1948 (before the State of Israel existed), and before 1967 (before there were any “occupied territories).

    We know the settlements are just an excuse for killing Jews. We also know the emes, that the billboards just an excuse to hate other yidden. Don’t fool yourself. It took me a long time to realize the emes.

    And regarding billboards, who knows, maybe one day soon we will see a billboard of, say, HaRav Dovid Hoffstedter Shlita, Nasi of Dirshu, as moshiach. He is undoubtedly bringing kinyan Torah to thousands of yidden worldwide; he was already on the front cover of Mishpacha; his leadership qualities make him worthy and capable.

    You may not agree with putting HaRav Dovid Hofsteder Shlita’s picture on billboards, but would you mock Dirshu as a result?!

  9. The concept of “moshiach beepers” was new to me!

    I researched if there is any validity to this or is it just another “blood libel” from mockers. Here is what I discovered:

    (1) Wikipedia –
    “The beepers were to alert his followers when he was able to be seen on the balcony of his hospital room. They nicknamed it a moshiach beeper but they had no intention of it being the 1st response to the Moshiach.”

    (2) A research paper from Concordia University Montreai, Quebec, Canada
    *1t was customary for the Lubavitchers to Wear a beeper so that they would be notified immediately if the Rebbe was giving an unscheduled sicha. After the Rebbe became ill, the Lubavitchers kept their beepers on in order to receive medical updates on the Rebbe’s condition.

  10. “Rebbetzin” Golden….: It really warms my heart when I see non-Chabad yidden putting teffilim (sic) on other yidden.

    Aryeh Erlich is actually of the Chabad Lubavitch faith. His father is Chabad mashpia Ido Erlich-Weber. For more about him, see his entry in Chabadpedia or info elsewhere online (a search for אריה ארליך will take you to such sources).

  11. Lemayseh, there you go. Whether by rabid howling or wisecrack snide commentary like “the Chabad Lubavitch faith”, your purpose is to rip apart klal Yisroel, no different than our enemies. In fact, it puts you a few levels worse than Haman who admitted ישנו עם אחד that klal Yisroel is of one faith. Shame on you.

  12. אב אחד לכולנו no matter if you are Yekkeh, Sefardi, Yeminite, Litvish, Chaim Berlin, Telz, Lakewood, Mir, Chabad, Brisk, Breslov, Bobov, Satmar, Vishnitz, Square, Young Israel, Agudah, Chasam Sofer, Eida Hachareydis…it doesn’t matter, we are all part of one glorious klal Yisroel!

    Enough with the BMG bochurim mocking the Telzers, and both mocking the Briskers (ya, those old jokes about Briskers), and the Litvish mocking the Chassidish, while Ashkanazim mock Sefardim, and FFB mock BT…ENOUGH! ENOUGH!

    Because when you mick one part of klal Yisroel, you damage the ENTRE of klal Yisroel. It took me many years to realize and internalize this.

    You all know the famous moshol about making a hole in a ship. It doesn’t just damage a particular individual or group, it damages the entire ship!

  13. לפי שהוציא עצמו מן הכלל כפר בעיקר when you remove parts from the klal, either yourself or others, that is kefira in the Ikar – HKBH. Yisroel and HKBH are intertwined as one. When you consider a group of yidden as if they are from snother fsith, you are removing part of HKBH from yourself which is true kefira.

  14. לפי שהוציא עצמו מן הכלל כפר בעיקר when you remove parts from the klal, either yourself or others, that is kefira in the Ikar – HKBH. Yisroel and HKBH are intertwined as one. When you consider that a group of yidden are as if from another faith, you are removing part of HKBH from yourself which is true kefira.