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Watching…and Waiting

Sunday, 9 August 2009

KOREA-NORTH/
In her pink sweater and white skirt, the wide-eyed four-year-old little girl cautiously approached the woman. There was something familiar about her. This woman whom she had not seen in 140 days – 10% of her life. The woman beckoned, and she allowed herself to be hugged. Then she remembered. And tucked herself into her mother’s warm embrace.

This past week, Hanna Saldate, daughter of journalist Euna Lee, was reunited with her mother as both Ms. Lee and Laura Ling were safely returned to their families.

This past week, we witnessed the mitzvah of pidyon sh’vuyim – the redemption of captives.

According to the Talmud (Bava Batra 8b), captivity is harder that all [other forms of suffering] because it includes the suffering of all [the other forms]. Starvation, physical punishment, isolation. These are just a few of the unimaginable hardships faced by those held in interment. Captivity affects the families of the detained as well. For they face the despair of not knowing when, or if, their son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother will return home.

An ancient people, we are well-acquainted with the suffering faced by those held captive. As long as we have lived among a hostile majority, the mitzvah of pidyon sh’vuyim has been a central obligation of every Jewish community. Throughout the Middle Ages, and even into modern times, communal funds were established to pay for the ransoming of Jews held hostage simply because they were Jews. So commonplace was the abduction of Jews that a prayer was included in our daily liturgy to thank God for redeeming the captive.

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam matir asurim.
Blessed are You, Sovereign of the universe, who frees the captive.

Though our joy at the release of the two American journalists should not be diminished, our community continues to pray for the secure release of IDF Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit, whose abduction by Hamas on 25 June 2006, has caused a searing absence in the lives of his family, friends, and fellow soldiers. Just as God has redeemed countless others from their captors, may Divine Redemption come too for Gilad and all those whose names are unknown to us. May God grant them strength as they, and their loved ones, continue to wait…with undying hope…for release from their internment.

Keyn y’hi ratzon
May this be God’s Will

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