Ynet has received information that Georgian Premier Vladimir "Lado" Gurgenidze asked of Lithuanian Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman to bless Georgia, and the rabbi did indeed deliver. On Tuesday he voiced the blessing, intended for the war-stricken country's Jewish residents "and all who live in that place."
It all started last winter when a delegation of rabbis from the Vaad L'Hatzolas Nidchei Yisroel met with the premier in his office in Tbilisi, where they bestowed upon him a special letter from Rabbi Shteinman, who is considered one of the greatest rabbis currently leading the ultra-Orthodox public. In the letter, Shteinman blesses Georgia, which he dubs "a kingdom of grace", and its people. Gurgenidze hung the letter respectfully on his wall.
Georgian Premier Gurgenidze hosts delegation in his office.
On Tuesday, during Morning Prayer, the Vaad's chairman Rabbi Shimon Brook received a phone call from none other than the Georgian prime minister. "You brought a letter from an old rabbi. Is he still alive?" the premier asked. When he received a positive answer he made his request. "I hear he is a holy man, and I ask that he pray for our country."
The Vaad has been active in the countries of the former Soviet Union for over 30 years, and in Tbilisi its programs include schools, a yeshiva, and temples. The activities are led by organization representatives that grew up in Georgia, left in order to receive an American education, and returned in order to educate the Jewish community in the country.
In light of the recent battles plaguing the countries, the Georgian Jewish leaders have been in constant contact with the Vaad in order to receive orders on how to act in this dangerous situation.
Rabbi Shteinman (right) with Rabbi Elyashiv. (Photo: Haim Zach)
Thus, following the premier's request for a blessing and the Jewish leaders' requests for orders, Rabbi Brook went to visit Rabbi Shteinman in Bnei Brak on Tuesday. The latter, despite being ill, agreed to see the guest and even granted Gurgenidze's appeal, blessing the war-torn state. He also answered questions directed at him by the Jewish leaders in Georgia.
Brook also asked Shteinman if the Vaad should send a delegation to help strengthen the Jewish community in Georgia, but to this the great rabbi answered, "Don't go there – there is fire there."
Other rabbis were convinced Shteinman had an auspicious effect on the battles in the region. "You can't ignore the fact that during the precise moments in which the meeting took place at Rabbi Shteinman's house, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced a ceasefire," the Vaad's public relations representative, Betzalel Kahan, told Ynet.
Sources close to the Georgian prime minister have claimed, however, after the report was published, that he did not ask for the rabbi's blessing.