Rabbinic Reflection: Rabbi Jordan Helfman
Danny Fenster is coming home.
You may not know the name in the Canadian press, but Danny grew up not far from where I was born, is friends with some of my university classmates, and is a member of the Reform Jewish community around Detroit, Michigan.
Working as a journalist, he was amongst many arrested when the Myanmar military deposed the Aung San Suu Kyi – a Nobel laureate.
For six months, he sat in captivity while “Free Fenster” was a political anthem in Detroit. Thanks to U.S. Representative Andy Levin and others, enough political pressure meant that days after receiving an 11-year jail sentence, he was released into the hands of the former US ambassador.
The mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyim פִּדְיוֹן שְׁבוּיִים Redeeming the Captive last made news when Gilad Shavit was held captive in Gaza. Thankfully this latest case didn’t require anything more than political sacrifices. According to Maimonides, “The redeeming of captives takes precedence over supporting the poor or clothing them. There is no greater mitzvah than redeeming captives for the problems of the captive include being hungry, thirsty, unclothed, and they are in danger of their lives too.”
While there are other journalists and political prisoners being held in Myanmar and around the world, it is a sigh of relief for the Jewish community around the world, knowing that Danny Fenster has been freed.
This Shabbat, let us give thanks for this moment of freedom and appreciate what it means to be free. And after Shabbat – let’s work to bring more light and freedom to others through the mitzvot. While this is thankfully a rare mitzvah, there are others that you can engage in on an ongoing basis. Check out this upcoming webinar to see how some members of our community have been involved in helping others move from a narrow place to one of freedom: https://holyblossom.org/event/from-refugee-to-citizen-sharing-stories-about-resettlement-in-canada/
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