Fighting for Our Brother Jonathan; Saving Ourselves

HaRav Shlomo Aviner - B'Ahava V'Emunah - [Parshat Emor] - May 12, 2004

[Translated from Hebrew by J4JP - May be reprinted with attribution]

When the head of the Committee for Jonathan Pollard stood at one of the demonstrations, a policeman came over and asked him cordially, "Do you know Jonathan Pollard?" The man answered, "Yes, he is my brother." The policeman's demeanor immediately changed and he asked respectfully, "Is he really your brother?" and the man answered, "Yes. And you are my brother too." If we all understood that Jonathan is our brother and behaved towards him accordingly, he would already have long been here among us.

Both the First and Second Temple were destroyed because we did not know what a brother was. Nor does the entire human race really understand what a brother is. Cain killed Abel. He did not know what a brother was. After that there were countless "Cains" killing "Abels," all involving a lack of understanding of what a brother is.

Finally the supreme spiritual giant Avraham arose. He knew the meaning of brotherhood. When he was informed that his nephew, Lot, had been taken captive, he did not hesitate. Instead, he immediately drafted all of his students and went to war. Is it not insanity to go to war with just 318 students, against 4 mighty kings and their armies? No need for concern. Avraham possessed supreme wisdom (See Olat Re'iyah on the words Elokei Avraham at the start of the Shmoneh Esrei). But above all else he had a heart. He felt the suffering of Lot who was his nephew, and we don't abandon nephews. So he therefore risked himself for Lot and ultimately succeeded.

And if we risk ourselves for a nephew, all the more so for a brother. If we demonstrate self-sacrifice for someone as corrupt as Lot, then all the more so for a fine, deserving person like Jonathan Pollard. And if we risk ourselves for someone who took advantage of Avraham, then all the more so for someone by whose efforts we were all saved.

Later on there emerged Avraham's great disciple, Moses. He was a prominent person, the crown prince of Pharaoh, slated to become king of Egypt - obviously on condition that he behave as was expected of a prominent Egyptian. Yet "he went our amongst his brothers" (Exodus 2:11). Prince or not, the fact that they were his brothers came first.

"He saw an Egyptian man smiting one of his Jewish brethren." (Ibid.) He did not hesitate. Rather, he saved his brother. Although he knew that from that moment on he would forfeit the throne, and the full Egyptian police apparatus would pursue him to kill him, he did not take any of this into account. Just as Avraham's model liberated all of mankind from preoccupation with strict profit and loss, Moses' model liberated Israel from preoccupation with convenience over principle.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchok Kook calls the suffering that results from the preoccupation with convenience over principle, "the stifling of the Messianic King" (Orot, Yisrael U'Techiyato 14). The Messiah's spirit is aroused above, but people stifle him, by not allowing him to be exalted. Rather they block his path with petty calculations.

Our fight to on behalf of Jonathan Pollard belongs to the paradigm of "He set out to teach him, but ended up learning from him" (Pesachim 25b). In other words, we are setting out to save Jonathan Pollard, but in doing so we are saving ourselves. We are saving ourselves from egotism, ingratitude, cruelty and irresponsibility. We are also saving ourselves from abandoning portions of our Holy Land. The fight for Jonathan Pollard and the fight for the Land is one and the same. The question is this: are we faithful to our People and faithful to our Land?

By fighting on his behalf, we are fighting on behalf of the purity, idealism, morality and brotherhood of the Jewish People. Thank G-d, there is much brotherhood, but we need much more.

The fight on behalf of our brother Jonathan is the fight for Brotherhood.

May we be strong and of good courage on behalf of our brother and on behalf of our People.

Bio Note:

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is the Rosh Yeshiva of Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva of the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Rabbi of Bet-El.
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