This week, our Shavuot vort is being sponsored by an anonymous donor L’ilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of his grandfather Shmuel ben Binyomin Zev. To the anonymous donor and his family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua.
Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
The Sefer Shem Mishmuel (page 302) cites Rabbi Berachyah in Shemos Rabbah Perek 28, posuk 1:
“The Tablets were six tefachim (handbreadths) long — in some sense, Hashem grasped two tefachim, Moshe grasped 2 tefachim and 2 tefachim bridged the gap between them.”
Shem Mishmuel then explains (pages 302 – 304):
We can sub-divide all mitzvot, and indeed, all human endeavors into three spheres: thought, speech and action. There are some Mitzvot which require a Jew to think in a particular way. For example, the first of the Ten Commandments demands belief in Hashem.
Other Mitzvot are dependent on speech. For example, one must verbally recall Shabbos…. not lie to the Beis Din or speak badly of another.
Finally, there are many Mitzvot which utilize the Jew’s power of action. There are requirements to put on tefillin, shake the lulav, eat matzah, etc.
…Each of these three divisions reflect different interactions between man and Hashem.
Action… is entirely in an individual’s domain. He is not forced to do anything that he doesn’t want to do.
The actions of the Jew determine everything, even the ultimate success or failure of the peoples of the world. This idea is illustrated by Chazal:
“After Yisrael did that wicked act [the sin of the golden calf], Hashem wanted to grab the tablets from Moshe. However Moshe prevailed and snatched them back.”
To conclude, the actions of a Jew can have enormous consequences for good or for bad. Literally, everything depends upon it. And it could be that when the Jews received the Torah at Sinai they had all this in mind when they proclaimed: “All that Hashem has said, we will do and hear.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 24, posuk 7)
In reflecting on Shavu’ot and the story of Ruth, it is striking to view the similarity of actions between Ruth’s cleaving to Naomi and to Jewishness, and Jonathan Pollard’s actions on behalf of Israel and B’nai Yisrael — putting his life on the line, the price — come what may — now in his 30th year of incarceration, for the survival of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael — Our Land. Jonathan is not a Ger Tzeddeket as Ruth was when she clung to Naomi saying;
“Do not urge me to leave you, to go back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G’d is my G’d; where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. Thus may Hashem do to me — and more! — if anything but death separates me from you.” (Megillat Ruth, Artscroll Tanach series, Perek 1, posukim 14-17, pages 79-81)
There was no mandate, no earthly obligation for Ruth to follow Naomi. She could have done what her sister-in-law Orpah did — they were both widowed of Naomi and Elimelech’s sons Machlon and Kilyon. When after the deaths of her husband and two sons, Naomi sought to return to Eretz Yisrael and bid the two widows to return to their Moabite people and land. Orpah tearfully left Naomi and returned to Moav, while Ruth clung to Naomi and her Jewishness thus charting her life unalterably along a Jewish path.
In much the same way, Jonathan Pollard, Yehonaton ben Malka, then working in the US defense department, was under no earthly obligation to act, to furnish Israel with important intelligence. He could have taken the easy path — the path undoubtedly taken by many others, to just do his job, without giving a thought to his people. He would have been free man, not incarcerated for nearly 30 years — but where would Israel be??
Pollard was not under any earthly superior’s orders to provide the dire intelligence which Israel needed to protect herself from what was then an Iraqi nuclear and chemical warfare (wmd: weapons of mass destruction) threat.
The point this author is about to make seems needed to heard, understood and internalized by Rabbanim involved in chinuch (teaching of observant youth in Yeshiva katanah – religious elementary schools) with such subject matter taught to young minds more impactfully and with sensitivity:
Just as Ruth heard/felt a Divine Imperative, the full extent of which she probably didn’t near fully comprehend — the lineage of Jewish Kingship, so too Jonathan Pollard, although guilty of spying against his nation, his employer, acted on internal impetus and initiative in service of a Divine Imperative which overrode any possible allegiance to his employer and to his nation of birth — the security and wellbeing of HIS people. Yes, Jonathan Pollard spied on behalf of an Ally — but he provided Israel with information regarding Iraq and Sada’am Hussein’s capacity for chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction — information which the US was bound by it’s Strategic Co-operation agreement with Israel to provide her. That Strategic Co-operation agreement between the US and Israel was violated and abrogated by the United States with Jonathan Pollard’s apprehension, American violation of its plea bargain with Jonathan and in the 29 plus years of Jonathan’s incarceration. Jonathon’s term of imprisonment is documented by numerous sources, including these, as excessively far more than even that meted out to spies who cost American lives and assets by the information they provided to hostile and/or enemy nations. One further note: It is thanks to Jonathan Pollard that Israel has sealed rooms in all homes and buildings constructed for well over 25 years.
And so, as we re-read and re-learn the Megillat Ruth and its impact upon Am Yisrael — Am Yehudi, and upon all mankind for all time, of Ruth’s cleaving to Na’omi, of her brief union with Bo’az and their offspring from whom descended David HaMelech, we must also consider the parallel between Ruth actions and impact upon Am Yisrael and Jonathan Pollard’s selfless actions on behalf of Israel and their impact upon Am Yisrael and upon mankind. We must contemplate how his actions and the information provided Israel have added to Israel’s security and have saved countless hundreds or thousands of Jewish lives.
In the spirit of Matan Torah, of Am Yehudi, of Megillat Ruth, of Malchut Shemayim we must daven fervently beseech Shemayim, and scream out letting our voices be heard by Israel’s leaders to push the United States on behalf of our fellow Jew in distress — Yehonaton ben Malka. May we merit that Hashem see fit to bring about Jonathan’s speedy release, liberation and return to his Eretz Yisrael in spite of a mean-spirited, adversarial American president and his predeccesors.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Chag Kosher V’Same’ach!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.