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.”
לא הייתה שום נקודת הסכמה בשיחה הסוערת והכמעט יצרית שהייתה לי השבוע עם פרופ' אהרן ברק בביתו.
אבל אז הגיע טוויסט מפתיע.
תראו בתמונה: pic.twitter.com/0tzxHTkQj2
— אריה ארליך A. Erlich (@AryeErlich) January 12, 2023
“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)