Going to the WALL for Pollard

Rabbi Pesach Lerner - Executive Vice President, National Council of Young Israel

Special to IMRA - May 27, 2003 B"H

May Be Reprinted*

Why did His Eminence HaRav Mordecai Eliyahu choose June 4th as a day of special prayers for Jonathan Pollard? And why did the Rav mandate a massive prayer Assembly at the Kotel? These are the questions that have been asked recently. Jonathan and Esther Pollard have asked me to respond. They hope that the answers will encourage every single person to participate in this great Assembly.

Our tradition has always taught that as a nation every individual is indispensable and the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially true in the world of Jewish prayer. According to the Zohar, Judaism's esoteric text, the power of prayer increases exponentially, as the number of people who join together to pray increases. A Jerusalem sage, HaRav HaGaon Mustafi, teaches that according to a formula derived from the Zohar:

  • 1 person who says Tehillim alone has the power of 1;
  • 2 people saying Tehillim together have the power equivalent to 21 individuals
  • 3 people saying Tehillim together have the power of 321 individuals
  • 4 people saying Tehillim together have the power of 4321 individuals
  • 5 people saying Tehillim together have the power of 54,321 individuals
  • 6 people saying Tehillim together have the power of 654,321 individuals
and so on... With each individual that joins the group the power of the group continues to multiply exponentially so according to this formula, if there are 10 people in a group they have the prayer power equivalent to 10,987,654,321 individuals saying Tehillim on their own!

According to the Ben Ish Chai ztl, Israel succeeds in prayer only when the nation is united, not only in their prayer, but also in their kavanah (intent.) Of all the issues in the Jewish world today, there is no issue that unites us more than the heartfelt desire to see Jonathan Pollard released from prison and speedily returned home to Israel. Just imagine thousands or hundreds of thousands of people together at the Kotel, on the same day, at the same time, all fulfilling one of the foremost mitzvahs of the Torah -the redemption of a captive - by praying with one heart for the immediate release of Jonathan Pollard. The spiritual strength of such a unified Jewish Assembly is staggering to contemplate!

That is why on June 4th at 3:00 P.M. Jonathan's rav, HaRav Eliyahu, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, will lead a massive prayer Assembly for Jonathan at the Kotel [the Western Wall]. Every single person that participates in the Assembly has an exponential value that far exceeds his or her individual worth, were he or she to stay away and pray for Jonathan on their own.

As for the timing of the event, when Jonathan and Esther asked HaRav Eliyahu why he chose this date to call the nation to battle stations for Jonathan before the Almighty, there were a number of reasons. I would like to share one with you.

June 4th, the 4th day of the Hebrew month Sivan, is the eve of the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot, which the Jewish People celebrate to commemorate receiving of the Torah at Har Sinai. The Torah and its 613 mitzvoth is what distinguishes the Jewish People as a nation. On Shavuot, we not only celebrate the precious gift of Torah and mitzvoth with great joy and thanksgiving, we also do everything we can to honor the Torah and the Almighty.

By performing an important mitzvah together as a nation, we honor the Borei HaOlam and His Torah. The Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim, the redemption of a captive, is one of the foremost mitzvahs of the Torah. It is such an important mitzvah that we are permitted to desecrate the holy Sabbath, if necessary, in order to fulfill it. We are even permitted to sell a Torah Scroll, if necessary. What greater praise to the Almighty, and what greater merit for the Nation, than to inaugurate the holiday of Mattan Torah, by performing such an awesome mitzvah from the Torah! This is one of the important reasons that HaRav Eliyahu chose June 4th, the eve of Shavuot, to assemble the Jewish People at the Kotel in prayer to the Almighty. May this Assembly be pleasing in the eyes of the Almighty and in the merit of the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim may Jonathan be speedily redeemed.

Jonathan has given 18 years of his life and freedom in prison for passing information to save Israel from enemies who were plotting to destroy her. HaRav Eliyahu is asking every person to give one day (June 4th) and one hour (3:00 P.M.) for Jonathan Pollard - to come to the Kotel, to stand united before HaShem as a nation, and to fulfill the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim. We should all, every single one of us, do our utmost to honor the Rav's request.

But what if you do not live in Jerusalem, you ask.? What if a person is too ill to come to Jerusalem, or too old? What if a person has severe problems or extenuating circumstances and cannot make it to the Kotel? What if a person lives abroad ? What about our non-Jewish friends and supporters? Can they share in this mitzvah too? The answer to all the preceding is a resounding YES!

Heaven does not expect more from any one person than he/she is able to do. Each must do according to his own ability. There are different levels of participation in this mitzvah. Every level has its reward and every level is important to Heaven. Remember the greater the effort one puts into participating, the greater the value of the mitzvah in Heaven, and the greater the blessings are that will accrue both personally and nationally. Here is what you can do:

  1. If you are in Israel, commit to attend the Jerusalem Assembly on June 4th.

    The blessings start from the moment that you make the commitment. Remember your presence is not just one more body; your presence increases the power of the prayers exponentially.

  2. Every friend call a friend.

    Call at least 2 other people and tell them about the prayer Assembly for Jonathan Pollard at the Kotel on June 4th at 3:00. Ask them to commit to attend. Just by making those calls, you will have a share in the mitzvah of pidyan shvuyim. Call now.

  3. If you are in another part of the country

    and have to travel to Jerusalem to attend the Assembly, keep in mind that you are traveling to fulfill the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim. In that way, every moment that you are on the road will count as part of the mitzvah.

  4. Bring at least one other person with you

    to the Kotel on June 4th. The more people you bring, the more you and yours will be blessed, the more powerful our prayers will be as a group, and the greater the potential for redemption will be for both Jonathan and for the nation.

  5. Be mizakeh eht ha'rabim

    . Share the mitzvah by involving others and the blessing and strength that accrue will increase exponentially. How to do this: Organize your community, school or organization, to attend as a group. Contact local schools and have them organize buses to bring the students to Jerusalem. When one causes an entire group or community to fulfill a mitzvah, the blessing is immeasurable!

  6. If you are not in Israel on June 4th

    , call a friend or relative in Israel now, this minute, and ask them to be your representative at the prayer Assembly on June 4th. Both of you will receive the blessings and our strength will be increased. The more people you call, the more representatives in Heaven you will have, and the greater your share in the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim.

  7. Ask every person that you call to call at least two other people

    to encourage them to attend the Assembly. You and yours will receive blessing from Heaven for each person that makes a phone call and for each person that ends up attending the Assembly as a result of your initial phone calls, even if you are unaware of them! Again, the potential for blessing is exponential, as long as each person who receives a call then makes two more phone calls.

  8. Spread this message as far and wide as you can

    by phone, fax, email and print. Get your synagogue involved. Get your friends and family to do something for this mitzvah, even if it is only to make a simple phone call. This is our opportunity as a nation, to all be occupied in the mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim at the same time, in unity and in strength. In doing so we will be paying the greatest honor to G-d and to the Holy Torah He gave us at Har Sinai.

None of us has the ability to free Jonathan Pollard. Only the Almighty does. When all Israel is united in thought and deed and intent, we are partners with Him. All He asks of us, His beloved Nation, is to stand before Him in unity, as we did at Har Sinai. If we do that, He will do the rest.

In the merit of our unified participation in the Mitzvah of Pidyan Shvuyim at the WALL on June 4, may Israel be saved from this time of sorrow and distress and may Jonathan Pollard be speedily returned home to his wife in Israel to celebrate Shavuot along with all of the Nation of Israel.

*[A condensed revised version of this OpEd for US and foreign publications is available from Justice for Jonathan Pollard upon request. Email [email protected]]