“Gilad has been in the hands of the Hamas for five long years. For us it has been an eternity. Most of you went to university and started careers and some of you even got married and started families.”
Noam Shalit said these words at a rally that took place in April, six months before the eventual release of his son in exchange for Palestinian terrorists and prisoners held by Israel.
The delay in deciding to free Gilad Shalit, who was deprived of all of those possibilities and accomplishments listed by his father, was clearly because of a conflict between the Jewish heart and the Jewish mind. An entire nation yearned for his release, but the consensus view is that Israel paid too high a price in freeing terrorists who pledged to continue their murderous ways, opening the door to, G‑d forbid, even more Gilad Shalits.
But I would like to share a third perspective – that of the Jewish soul.
According to the Baal Shem Tov, since everything occurs by Divine Providence, it follows that everything that we hear and see contains a lesson for our spiritual growth.
Many of us would be hard-pressed to find anyone of Gilad’s generation that united the Jewish people in such a profound way.
We all suffered Gilad ben Aviva's captivity and we all rejoiced in his reunion with his family.
Why should it be so? How many of us even know him?
The answer is that it doesn't even matter. We all shared his fate because we all shared his Jewish identity.
It's not because it could have been any one of us; it's because it was every one of us that was in captivity with him.
Perhaps what we need to do now – both individually as well as collectively – is to develop and strengthen this newly refreshed awareness, to learn to express our differences in a way that strengthens our common identity and purpose, rather than in ways that ignore or weaken them.
There’s even more to learn from Gilad’s ordeal: Stop and think about the torture that he went through. Now concentrate on that for just five minutes. Can you imagine what it must have been like to actually be in his situation, and not just for five minutes, but for five years?
Now imagine the joyous feeling of freedom that comes after such pain?
If you had the choice between prolonging such captivity and hastening such freedom, what would you do?
Clearly, it’s a silly question, but in reality, each one of us has the ability to free prisoners under our care.
Every one of us has a Gilad inside of us. The G‑dly soul we carry within us finds itself far, far from its home above, captive in hostile territory.
But we also possess the keys with which to free that soul from its bondage. Every time we fulfill a biblical precept or study Torah, we open the door to its freedom.
What joy the soul experiences then!
A final thought, though, can be directed to G‑d Himself:
Your children were faced with the excruciating choice between following the dictates of the mind and those of the heart.
I am sure that you have your reasons to keep us in exile. Maybe, just maybe, it's time to take the cue from your children, created in your image, and let your compassion win.
Please send Moshiach now!