Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hassidic movement, was the inspiration for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech in the UN, Netanyahu said last week, following the speech in the General Assembly.
The prime minister told reporters that his defense of the Jewish people was inspired by Schneerson, who urged him during a 1984 discussion at Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters to "light a candle of truth" in his dealings with the UN.
"'Remember, you are going to the UN,'" Netanyahu said, relating to the reporters what Schneerson told him over two decades ago, when he became Israel's ambassador to the world body. "'There is an assembly hall there that has eternal falsehood, utter darkness."
"'Remember that in a hall of perfect darkness, totally dark, if you light one small candle, its light will be seen from afar. Its precious light will be seen by everyone. Your mission is to light a candle for truth and the Jewish people.'"
Netanyahu repeated and expanded on his comments about Schneerson during an appearance co-sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The prime minister recounted a visit to Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn on Simhat Torah during his stint as UN ambassador. Thousands of hassidim eagerly awaited the arrival of the Rebbe and the beginning of festivities.
When the Rebbe entered the room, Netanyahu was prodded by a friend to meet him.
"I said in English, 'Rebbe, I came to see you,'" the prime minister recalled. "And he said, 'Just to see? Not to talk?'"
As Netanyahu recalled, some 4,000 people had anxiously stood waiting, looking to the Rebbe for the start of the traditional rounds of dancing known as hakafot, but the Rebbe instead engaged him in a lengthy conversation.
"He switched to Hebrew," recalled the prime minister. "And after 40 minutes, he stopped. He said what he wanted to say, and he turned to the audience, and with his hands, started to get the hassidim to sing and dance."
"And then something happened I'll never forget till the end of my life," continued Netanyahu. "The Rebbe and his brother-in-law â€¦ took the Torah scroll and they went into the center of this hall â€¦ and I see [them] dancing in a circle of light with a Torah. I felt the strength of generations, the power of our traditions, our faith, our people."
During the national election campaign in 1996, when Netanyahu was first elected prime minister, Chabad publicly supported him with the slogan, "Bibi is good for the Jews." Netanyahu still has strong ties with Chabad.