Spurred by the drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis and a young man's desire to be a player on the international scene, I decided to major in political science and pursue a career in the diplomatic corps. The year 1967 found me, an up-and-coming diplomatic aide, on the staff of the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Arthur Goldberg.

In the first week of June I received a call from a cousin of mine. In an anxious voice, she asked that I stop by at her apartment after work. As I sat in their living room that evening, she and her husband told me the cause of their distress. Their only child, Abraham-a young man several years my junior who had become a baal teshuvah the year before-was studying at a Lubavitcher yeshivah in Israel. Alarmed by the increasing talk of war, they sent him a plane ticket and begged him to come home. Abraham remains adamant in his refusal: the Lubavitcher Rebbe says to stay.

"We tried to approach the Rebbe," my cousin continued. "We wanted to explain to him that Abraham is our only child, that he is our entire life, and to appeal to him to please allow Abraham to return home. But it seems that one must wait several months for an audience with the Rebbe. We wrote him a letter, as his secretaries advised, and received this as a reply." She showed me a short note with the sentence, "The Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers." She seemed little eased by the quote from Psalms.

"Tell us, Joe," my cousin asked, "What's really going on? You have the inside story. Is Israel in any real danger?"

I didn't want to add to their distress, but I felt duty-bound to tell them the truth: the State of Israel is indeed in grave danger. War is all but certain. The Arab states have mobilized forces far superior to Israel's and stand a good chance of defeating the tiny Jewish state; if this happens, I didn't want to imagine the fate of the Jews residing there. My boss, Mr. Goldberg, a deeply committed Jew, cannot sleep at night. "I cannot emphasize enough how serious the situation is," I concluded. "We must get Abraham out of there at once!"

"But how?" cried my cousin. "To him, the Rebbe's word is law. If the Rebbe says to stay, he'll stay!"

"Listen," I said, "I'll speak with the Rebbe. When I introduce myself as Mr. Goldberg's aide, I'm sure to be received immediately. I am certain that I will succeed in persuading him to allow Abraham to come home."

The next morning I contacted the Rebbe's personal secretary, Rabbi Hodakov. I introduced myself as a member of the United States delegation to the UN and said that I had an "urgent matter" to discuss with the Rebbe. Rabbi Hodakov promised to contact me shortly. A half-hour later he called back to inform me that the Rebbe would see me the following night at 2:00 am.

There was more white in the beard, but otherwise the youthful face and manner had changed little. The same noble countenance, the same penetrating eyes gazed at me from across the desk that night, almost fifteen years after the my last meeting with the Rebbe.

The handshake was firm and warm. "I have already had the privilege of meeting the Rebbe," I began, "Grandfather brought me before my bar mitzvah." The Rebbe's broad smile assured me that he indeed remembered me.

"I must apologize to the Rebbe," I went on. "I'm afraid that I used my position rather unjustly to gain this audience. The 'urgent matter' I spoke of is a personal one."

Again, the Rebbe's warm smile put me at ease. Encouraged, I told the Rebbe about my cousins and their son. "The parents are beside themselves with anxiety." I concluded. "They would greatly appreciate it if the Rebbe would allow their only child to come home until the danger blows over."

The warm smile had disappeared. A grave expression now cloaked the Rebbe's features. "I have thousands of only children in the Land of Israel," said the Rebbe. "If I tell them to remain there, it is because I am certain that no harm shall befall them. Tell your cousin and her husband that they can put their fears to rest. The Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers. G‑d watches over His people wherever they are, and especially in the Holy Land."

"Rebbe," I said, "with all due respect, they cannot put their fears to rest. Neither can I. Perhaps the Rebbe is unaware of the gravity of the situation, but because of my position I am privy to extremely reliable information. Unfortunately, as we speak, the state of Israel is in grave danger."

"Israel," said the Rebbe with absolute conviction, "is not in grave danger. She stands on the threshold of a great victory. With the Almighty's help, this month shall be a month of great miracles for the Jewish nation.

"Now," continued the Rebbe, "If you don't mind, I would like to request something of you. Tell Abraham's father that he, too, can do something for the our brethren in the Land of Israel: tell him that I request that he begin observing the mitzvah of donning tefillin every weekday. I ask that you, too, should begin the daily observance of this mitzvah. I don't know how much you can help Israel in your capacity as an assistant to the UN Ambassador, but with your daily donning of tefillin you will certainly contribute to Israel's victory-without," added the Rebbe with a slight smile "encountering any complications of 'divided loyalties'..."