Send forth men and let them spy out the land... (Numbers 13:2)

The man with a bushy beard sat in his armchair; his businesswoman wife to his right, his eldest son to his left. My parents and I sat on the sofa. He was reading from his notes.

Write everything down. Everything. You'll think you'll remember things, but you won't. So write things down. Make some kind of a code for yourselves to keep notes with: nothing complicated and nothing that the police would look at suspiciously. Once you are out of there - meaning when you land in London — immediately translate your notes into something that anyone can understand.

He gave brief descriptions of the people who my parents would be meeting and what their needs were. Who needed to have a marriage performed, who needed tefillin, which families needed Jewish toys and candies.

This was twenty years ago and my parents were going to the Soviet Union. It wasn't a secret, but the less said before they got back the better.

They were traveling as tourists; to see the sites of Russia. The Hermitage, the Kremlin, the Volga, the this, the that. The anything that was in the tourist books.

They were going to see the refuseniks: Jews who had lost their jobs and standing for trying to keep Shabbat and who wanted to go to freedom, preferably Israel.

My parents would each be taking three pairs of tefillin, numerous mezuzot (but not too many to look suspicious) some thirty bars of kosher Swiss chocolate (which made me wonder how bad life could be in Soviet Russia) books, kosher salamis, and every kind of Judaica tchotchke you could imagine.

The man's wife told us of how she wouldn't let the customs agent take away her American money to be counted. "You don't trust me, I don't trust you." The son told of his father's response to the Soviet request that he subject himself to a strip search ("You first!"). The man gave tips on sniffing out the snitches. He also gave a lot of advice on how not to play cloak and dagger. "They know why you are coming, just don't make it obvious."

They showed us a pre-home-video, 8mm film of their trip. People asking the Rebbe for a blessing to be able to leave "because here it is very hard to be a Jew." Another asking for a blessing that his study of Torah not be impeded by "distracting situations." They had filmed a group of toddlers singing and dancing to traditional Jewish songs. There was little of that last scene that couldn't have been filmed in Nebraska or Argentina except for the American woman's voice in the background, "Unbelievable! Unbelievable!"

My parents went for two weeks. Nearly twenty years later in Israel I met a man who remembered them from that visit. "Zalman Posner's son?!" he asked incredulously, his eyes wide and holding my arm to see that I was real.

Others also went. American rabbis going to see Russian Jews at a time when Soviet authorities insisted that no one in the worker's paradise was interested in seeing them.

This was in the early eighties. I remember it being said that with the new man in the White House the embassy was acting differently than they previously had. That when one of the visiting rabbis was placed under house arrest in his hotel the embassy sent someone over and "clarified things." That when another rabbi had his passport stolen by a "hooligan" who started fighting with him as he left Moscow's synagogue, his passport was immediately replaced.

The rabbis felt the difference, the refuseniks felt the difference. Empirically, there was now a president who knew right from evil — and who helped heroes live.

I want to thank that man for letting freedom ring all the way to the other shores of sea and shining sea. He knew that wars can seem cold only if you are perched in the cool luxury of an ivory tower.

And thank you to the woman who helped him be the man he became. And when he no longer was the person he had always been, she never left him.

The freedom of brave men and women is his memory. His legacy. May it also be her comfort.