December 15 is "Freedom for Jonathan Pollard Shabbat"

Justice For Jonathan Pollard Release - December 11, 2001

Justice For Jonathan Pollard is recirculating the following announcement in support of the December 15 "Freedom for Jonathan Pollard Shabbat" declared by the Jerusalem -based Committee to Bring Jonathan Pollard Home.

While Justice for Jonathan Pollards supports constructive intiative and community action on behalf of Jonathan Pollard, Justice for Jonthathan Pollard is not involved in and does not support or benefit from fundraising activities of any kind.


Attention: Rabbis and Community Leaders:

The Committee to Bring Jonathan Home has declared a "Freedom for Jonathan Pollard Shabbat" for Shabbat Kodesh Parshat Miketz, 30 Kislev 5762 (Dec. 15, 2001). On this Shabbat, we are asking rabbis of communities all over Israel, North America and the former Soviet Union to dedicate their sermons to the subject of Jonathan Pollard and Pidyon Shevuyim. We request that you join hundreds of rabbis internationally who will IY"H be participating in this special Shabbat, and suggest the following action items:

  1. Publicize the Shabbat event in your community.

  2. In your Parshat Miketz Shabbat drasha, discuss Jonathan Pollard and Pidyon Shevuyim.

  3. Say a Mishebeirach prayer for Yehonatan ben Malka on this and every Shabbat thereafter.

  4. Photocopy the Facts Page the Facts Page and distribute them to members of your congregation. Ask your congregants to write a letter to their elected representatives and enclose a copy of the Facts Page.

  5. Pledge to organize community events to publicize the plight of Jonathan Pollard and to lobby for his release.

A Sample Sermon for Rabbis follows below:

For further information, visit the J4JP Web site at: jonathanpollard.org

DRASHA FOR PARSHAS MIKETZ/JONATHAN POLLARD FREEDOM SHABBOS

Since Parashat Miketz is the Torah portion in which Yosef Hatzadik is redeemed from captivity, we have chosen to dedicate this Shabbat to the Mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim (1), and particularly to redeeming that most neglected of captives, our brother Jonathan Pollard.

The Mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim is summed up powerfully by Maimonides (2) as follows:

"Pidyon Shevuyim takes precedence over feeding and clothing the destitute; there is no greater Mitzvah than Pidyon Shevuyim, for the captive is counted among the hungry and the unclothed, and his very life is endangered. He who turns a blind eye from his redemption transgresses four separate negative commandments, and neglects at least four positive commandments. There is no Mitzvah as exalted as Pidyon Shevuyim."
Despite the potent emphasis ascribed by Maimonides to this precept, it is not an easy one to observe. While the observance of other commandments can often be accomplished with minimal discomfort, an effort to free a captive from a non-Jewish prison is often inconvenient at best. There are four principle hindrances to involvement in the cause of Pidyon Shevuyim in general, and to acting on behalf of Jonathan in particular. Below is a sampling of such obstacles. Since Parashat Miketz is the Torah portion in which Yosef Hatzadik is redeemed from captivity, we have chosen to dedicate this Shabbat to the Mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim , and particularly to redeeming that most neglected of captives, our brother Jonathan Pollard.

The Mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim is summed up powerfully by Maimonides as follows:

"Pidyon Shevuyim takes precedence over feeding and clothing the destitute; there is no greater Mitzvah than Pidyon Shevuyim, for the captive is counted among the hungry and the unclothed, and his very life is endangered. He who turns a blind eye from his redemption transgresses four separate negative commandments, and neglects at least four positive commandments. There is no Mitzvah as exalted as Pidyon Shevuyim."

Despite the potent emphasis ascribed by Maimonides to this precept, it is not an easy one to observe. While the observance of other commandments can often be accomplished with minimal discomfort, an effort to free a captive from a non-Jewish prison is often inconvenient at best. There are four principle hindrances to involvement in the cause of Pidyon Shevuyim in general, and to acting on behalf of Jonathan in particular. Below is a sampling of such obstacles.

Reason #1:


Is Pollard my brother? He's a far-off prisoner, and I have priorities closer to home.

Reason #2:


I am involved in teaching Torah, and my students cannot be neglected.

Reason #3:


I am busy supporting my family of X number of children; I have no time left for other activities.

Reason #4:


The times are extraordinary - there is a danger of no less than a world war, and besides, rocking the boat with the world's loan superpower could bring dire results.

Reason #5:


A life sentence is a life sentence. A group of private citizens, much less an individual like myself cannot hope to change the policies of a great sovereign nation like the United States. The situation is irreversible.

The Torah provides us with a paradigm for the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim - one that address all of the abover obstacles. In Genesis chapter 14, we read of a war between the Four Kings and the Five Kings (3). The former, in the course of winning the battle, take Abraham's nephew Lot captive. We read of Abraham's response in verse 14:

"And Abraham heard that his brother was taken captive, and he armed his disciples, those born in his household, three hundred and eighteen, and he pursued them up to Dan."

Let's examine the verse phrase by phrase, to see how our Patriarch Avraham dealt with Lot in his hour of need:

1. "And Abraham heard that his brother was taken captive"

Comments the Tanchuma (4):

Was (Lot) his brother? From here we see Abraham's outstanding character; despite the dispute between Lot's shepherds and those of Abraham (5), Abraham still calls Lot his brother.

Lot's shepherds (and thus Lot) were guilty of nothing less than theft, grazing in the fields of others (6). The rift between the meticulous Abraham and the lax Lot was inevitable. Nonetheless, when the latter was captured, Abraham instantaneously considered him as his flesh and blood-his brother (7). All other considerations fell by the wayside.

2. "and he armed his disciples"

Abraham had dedicated his life to the overarching goal of bringing the knowledge of the One G-d to mankind. But when a former disciple-wayward though he may have been-was placed in jeopardy, he dropped everything and gave his charges the greatest education he could: action (8).

3. "those born in his household, three hundred and eighteen"

Rabeinu Bachya comments: "this verse comes to teach us that Abraham had no less than 318 charges dependent on his financial support." Abraham had far more than a family of seven or ten to support (9), but nonetheless turned his attention to Lot's straits.

In the previous verse (Gen. 14:13) we read:

4. "And the refugee came and told Abraham the Ivri, and he dwelt in Elonei Mamrei"

What is the relevance of telling us of Abraham's whereabouts at this dramatic juncture? Particularly since in the previous chapter (Gen. 13:18) we had already been duly informed of Abraham's abode! The subtle message may be that despite Elonei Mamrei/Hevron's proximity to the site of the rising world power, Abraham chose not to flee and save his own tribe from the impending conquest of his area nor to lie low and act with political expedience, but on the contrary, to muster his own meager force to save the life of a single recalcitrant soul in danger (10).

5. "And the refugee came and told Abraham the Ivri (11) "

Why is Avraham called the "Ivri"? Rabbi Yehuda (12) explains that this refers not merely to the geographic fact of Abraham having crossed the Tigris to reach the Promised Land. The title hints to the quintessence of Abraham's being itself: despite the entire world being on one side, Abraham was not afraid to stand utterly alone representing the truth.

There are many historic examples of hopelessly irreversible evils in the world. Louis XIV's France was one example. The Soviet "Evil Empire" was another example of irreversibility more recently. The people of Israel was irreversibly enslaved in Egypt. And Abraham the Ivri was born into a world immutably steeped in idolatry.

Luckily, "irreversible" was a word not found in Abraham's lexicon, and therefore the title "Ivri" is given him in introduction to his valorous actions on behalf of the captured Lot (13). As was his wont, Avraham reversed the irreversible.

What was the underlying impetus for Abraham's seemingly illogical determination in the face of so many solid justifications for turning a blind eye? The Midrash Rabba tells us explicitly:

"'And Abraham heard that his brother was taken captive' this is what is meant by the verse (Is 33),

'he seals his ears from hearing bloodshed.' 'And he armed his disciples'R. Yehuda said (Abraham's disciples) were angry (14) with Abraham and said, five kings were unable to defeat (the four kings); shall we be able to? R. Nehemiah said, Abraham was angry with them and said, I will go and fall in sanctification of G-d's name."

The secret of Abraham's tenacity in defiance of all apparent reason was the secret of Abraham's entire existence: the sanctification of G-d's name. Abandoning a captive --all logic and contrary arguments notwithstanding-- amounts to a desecration of G-d's holy name. To avoid this, one is obliged to sacrifice not only career and livelihood, but indeed one's very life.

Acting on behalf of redeeming a prisoner from captivity, was the prototypical Kiddush Hashem to which Avraham HaIvri had dedicated his life, and was even willing to offer up his very life to realize. Today, no one is being asked to sacrifice life or limb to redeem Pollard. On the other hand, ceding a few hours of recreational time is certainly not too much to ask for the sake of a brother, one who has sacrificed his whole life to alert his beloved people of a very real threat to the Holy Land and her inhabitants.

In this week's Parsha, Yehuda makes the bold pledge on to his father on behalf of Binyamin:

"I shall be a guarantor for him, from my hand shall seek him; if I do not bring him back and return him to you, I shall be considered to have sinned before you all my days."

The Midrash (15) recounts that King David reenacted his ancestor Yehuda's pledge in taking on the giant Goliath in order to deliver Binyamin's descendent Saul and Israel from their Philistine foes. Not only did David overcome all the odds and defeat the enemy colossus; but in the merit of his self-sacrifice the Temple was built in Yehuda and Binyamin's portions.

May the Almighty hear our prayers and redeem our brother Yehonatan ben Malka, and in the merit of our redoubled efforts to this supreme Mitzvah may the Almighty redeem all of Israel from our sufferings and rebuild the Beit Hamikdash speedily in our times.

Footnotes:

  1. Redemption of captives
  2. Rambam Matnot Aniyim 8:10
  3. Gen. 14:1,2
  4. Tan., Lech 16
  5. Gen. 13:7-9
  6. Rashi, Gen. 13:7
  7. Contrast with "Reason #1" above.
  8. Contrast with "Reason #2" above.
  9. Contrast with "Reason #3" above.
  10. Contrast with "Reason #4" above.
  11. Lit. "from the other side."
  12. Breishit Rabba 42:8
  13. Contrast with "Reason #5" above.
  14. "Horiku panim." Lit. their faces blanched.
  15. Tanhuma Vayigash 8

For further information, please call 055-665-036 or email arvut@egroups.com.

In the merit of our rededication to the great Mitzva of Pidyon Shevuyim may we soon rejoice in the liberation of our brother Jonathan and in the redemption of all Klal Yisrael.

With faith and prayer,

The Israel Action Alliance - Committee to Bring Jonathan Home