While we all wait for the moment when we can firmly say, “Shehecheyanu” –and thank God for reaching this day, I want to tell you how special it was to be in Israel when the news was announced that Gilad Shalit would be released. I was in the airport waiting for my flight home when suddenly the place was buzzing with excitement. My first thought, I must confess, was the hope that this was for real since we have been led down this path before, but when news of the deal became more detailed and promising, I felt a great sense of relief.
For me, perhaps more than any other mitzvah, the commandment of pidyon shivuim – redeeming captives – touches my heart. No doubt, it has a lot to do with my own history but it also reflects, in my mind, our profound commitment as a people to life and the life of each and every member of our community. The mitzvah also speaks to peoplehood. We are not one unless we take care of everyone, unless we feel the pain of even one Jewish person in harm’s way. Gilad represents the enduring hope we all have that we will ultimately survive and thrive because of our compassion and our actions.
I am well aware of the moral complexities of this case, and I do not want to dismiss them, even if there are no easy and ready answers. But for right now, I want to live in the moment of redemption, to try to imagine the feeling of what Gilad’s family will experience when they hug their son for the first time in five years. I want to feel those tears and be carried by that powerful love.
A joyous Sukkot to you all – which is now even more joyous.
Dr. Misha Galperin is President & CEO of the Jewish Agency International