For the Sake of My Brothers and Friends
A story for young and old on the importance of helping Jonathan Pollard
Elkana Silberschein - Justice4JP - May 2, 2004 - (Translated from Hebrew)
J4JP Prefacing Note:
"For the Sake of My Brothers and Friends" was originally written in Hebrew by Elkana Silberschein as a pedagogical device for publication in a Parsha of the Week paper. Mr. Silberschein's family translated the story and provided it to J4JP for editing and publication in English. It is suitable for all ages, and may be reprinted with attribution. An "Afterword" by J4JP follows the story.
Pidyan Shvuyim, the redemption of captives, is part of the mitzvah of pursuing justice (Tzedek); and is even more important than strict justice itself (Mishpat). In the lesson on the pursuit of justice the teacher explained: "To be a captive is worse than hunger or poverty."
In this commandment G-d reveals his abundant kindness as stated in the first of the Ten Commandments:"I am the Lord who took you out of Egypt, from servitude"
The teacher told the students about Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who worked with secret information for the US Navy. In the course of his work, Pollard discovered that American authorities weren't sharing security information that was vital to Israel's survival. Jonathan did everything he could to get the Americans keep their promise to share this information with Israel, but they refused. Afraid that many Israeli lives might be lost, Jonathan gave the information to Israel himself. He was caught and charged with spying for Israel. He was unfairly and improperly sentenced to life in prison, without benefit of trial. He has been in an American prison for over 18 years!
The pupils had already heard about the Pollard case, but this was the first time that they understood how unjust his imprisonment is and how important it is to help free him.
"What can we do to help him?" asked several students.
"A lot," replied the teacher. "Most important is to pray for his welfare. His Hebrew name is Yehonatan ben Malka. You can attend and participate in the many conferences and demonstrations on his behalf. You can purchase T-shirts and sweatshirts imprinted with his name and photo that are available at school. The youngsters who sell these items make no profit. They just want lots of people to wear these shirts to publicize Jonathan's case. You can also write letters of encouragement to Jonathan and letters to President Bush requesting that he release Jonathan from jail. There are many other activities that you can do and others that are constantly being organized."
The students were very moved and decided to organize a school action committee that would coordinate "Free Pollard" projects. They contacted rabbis in Israel and abroad and made contact with Jonathan Pollard's wife, Esther, who greatly appreciated their support. They raised money for their activities and distributed bumper stickers publicizing his plight.
Yael reminded the sexton of the synagogue to say a public prayer for Pollard's freedom and asked her mother to reserve a seat at the Passover seder for Jonathan Pollard and Ron Arad. Yael embroided both their names on a covering for the chair and added the Biblical verse, "The prisoners of G-d will return and come to Zion in joy"
One night Yael had a dream and in it her wish came true. She dreamed that Israel's Prime Minister strongly demanded Jonathan Pollard's release and the US President relented and freed him!
She was filled with joy and she pictured herself going with her friends to Ben Gurion Airport to welcome Jonathan and Esther with flowers and dances. Thousands of people cheered when Jonathan's face appeared at the door of the airplane. A large orchestra played and Yael could control herself no longer and burst out in tears of joy. She didn't remember what happened, but suddenly she found herself in her mother's arms.
"Yael, Yael, " Her mother's voice tried to calm her. "Yael, you are dreaming." Yael tried to explain to her mother that she was excited, not upset, but her voice was choked up.
"Wow, what a dream I had!!! " Yael exclaimed exuberantly. "They freed Jonathan Pollard! He came to Israel and I was there"
"In the dream they freed Jonathan Pollard?" asked her mother.
"Yes! Yes! It was amazing! Oh, how unfortunate that it was just a dream. I so much wanted the dream to be real!!"
"You know, Yael", said Mom, "more than 25 years ago I was active on behalf of Soviet Jewry. There were Jews in the former Soviet Union that wanted to fulfill the commandment of making aliya to Israel. The Soviet authorities would not let them. They were called Prisoners of Zion or refuseniks.
"Among them were famous people such as Ida Nudel, Natan Sharansky, Yosef Mendelevitz and many more good Jews. We wrote many letters, demonstrated and prayed. In the end, G-d redeemed them and they were free to leave. You can't imagine how much joy there was when they arrived in Israel. We carried them on our shoulders and danced for hours. We arranged many dinners to express our thanks to G-d. Even our family had such a dinner."
Yael listened with glistening eyes. "I also want to arrange such a dinner when Jonathan Pollard is freed! How many people attended your dinner?"
"A lot", answered Mom, "we purchased lots of food and removed the furniture from the salon and crowds arrived. It was wonderful!"
"Weren't you afraid that only a few people would show up and you'd have to throw out lots of food?"
"We invited many people and publicized that it was a 'mitzvah' to participate and people just came!"
"That's exactly what we learned in this week's Torah portion Tzav!" said Yael. " In a Thanksgiving Offering, there is more food to eat than a Peace Offering, but the time set aside to eat it is shorter. That is because the person who brings the offering should invite many guests to his thanks-giving feast thereby publicizing the miracle that happened to him."
"That's very fitting!" Mom continued, "A Thanksgiving Offering is brought for the four types of redemption that appear in Psalm 107: redemption of prisoners, sea voyagers, lost travelers and those afflicted by illness. The acronym to remember this is the Hebrew word for life, 'chaim' as it appears in this verse, 'And all the living will thank G-d, selah!'
"Now that we don't have sacrificial offerings, people who have been saved from such misfortunes recite the Gomel Blessing in a minyan and arrange a dinner of thanks-giving," Mom continued.
"Let us truly hope and pray that we will all merit to participate in such a dinner in honor of Jonathan Pollard - very soon! "Amain! Ken Yihi Ratzon!
Only the Almighty can free Jonathan, but we are not free to desist from our efforts.
The Almighty desires that we assist him in the holy Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim. Why? Not because He needs our help, but because in participating in this mitzvah we build ourselves and earn our own redemption - and collectively, the redemption of AM Yisrael.
The Almighty asks that each of us do exactly as much as we can, no more and certainly no less. Each of us knows what we can do best and we must do it! No matter how small or insignificant your own efforts may seem to you, every effort is counted in Heaven, and the sum of our united efforts to combat the lies and bring the truth to light is what counts. Every prayer for Jonathan (Yehonatan ben Malka) is precious. Every single action on his behalf has profound cosmic consequences.
As long as Jonathan Pollard remains in captivity, our rabbis teach, the Shechinah, (G-d's own Presence on Earth) is in captivity with him. We cannot rest until this affront to Heaven is rectified, and Jonathan is set free - speedily in our day! Amain!