For the week ending 29 October 2011 / 30 Tishri 5772

Where Credit Is Due

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Reflections on the Return of Gilad Shalit
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“Welcome home, Gilad!”

The joy with which the Israeli public welcomed the safe return of Gilad Shalit after five years of captivity can certainly be seen as an expression of the profound concern of all Jews for the well being of a Jew suffering in captivity. Without taking a side in the great debate over whether it was worth the price of releasing so many terrorists with blood on their hands, we must view the widespread concern for this soldier as an echo of the concern shown for Lot by his uncle Avraham when he learned of his captivity. Our Patriarch immediately went to war against four mighty kings in order to liberate him.

As in all other matters, Avraham instilled in the genes of his descendants a concern for a captive and a determination to liberate him.

Along with the concern comes credit.

While some claim credit for making an extremely difficult decision, others criticize them for doing so under media pressure or for ulterior motives. Perhaps these critics should learn a lesson from the credit which our great teacher Moshe gave to the man who initiated the rescue of Lot by informing Avraham of his captivity. When approaching a war with Og, King of Bashan, Moshe needed special reassurance from G-d that he would be victorious because he feared that the merit of informing Avraham would make Og invincible. Og, our Sages teach us, had the ulterior motive of enticing Avraham into a war in which he would be slain, thus enabling him to marry Sarah -- a powerful lesson that credit is due even where the motive is not as pure as the act.

One sad note about the return of Gilad is that no one, neither the family nor the officials, gave any credit to the ultimate “Liberator of captives” by offering a simple thanks to G-d.

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