Words of praise and thanks to Hashem
“Were our mouth as full of song as the sea, and our tongue as full of joyous song as its multitude of waves, and our lips as full of praise as the breadth of the heavens, and our eyes as brilliant as the sun and the moon, and our hands as outspread as the eagles of the sky and our feet as swift as hinds — we still could not thank You sufficiently, Hashem our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, and to bless Your Name for even one of the thousand thousand, thousands of thousands and myriad myriads of favors, miracles and wonders that you performed for our ancestors and for us” (Tefillas Nishmas).
These words from the Nishmat Kol Chai prayer express precisely how my husband, Jonathan Pollard, and I understand the last 35 years of our life. These words also reflect the amazement and gratitude to Hashem Yitbarach that we feel as we look back now with wonder and profound, heartfelt appreciation for the latest “of the thousand thousand, thousands of thousands and myriad myriads of favors, miracles and wonders that [Hakadosh Baruch Hu] performed … for us.”
Contrary to what so many people believe, there was nothing natural, normal or routine about the recent termination of Jonathan’s parole and the lifting of the draconian restrictions that kept him under virtual house arrest for the last five years after he had served 30 years of hard time in prison.
Indeed there is nothing natural or normal or routine in that Jonathan survived those 30 years of incarceration both physically and mentally, especially after the first seven years in solitary confinement. His body was sorely damaged during that time because of merciless beatings he received at the hands of his captors when initially interrogating him. But they never succeeded in breaking his spirit or his mind. And despite intensive efforts to corrupt his soul in prison, Jonathan miraculously clung to Hashem all of those years and never let go.
Similarly, there was nothing natural or normal or routine when, after 30 years in some of the harshest prisons in the U.S., Jonathan was released on parole in 2015.
Each of the above seemingly normal, natural, routine events was, for anyone with eyes to see, an absolute, unmitigated miracle. And not just one miracle, but each event was an utterly perfect Divine orchestration of the “thousand, thousand, thousands of thousands and myriad myriads of favors, miracles,” that fit hand-in-glove, both simultaneously and consecutively over many, many years to bring about the ultimate miracle of redemption and completion we are witness to today.
Even a brief glimpse shows us how the hidden Hand of Hashem carried Jonathan, bruised, battered and bloody, safely through the worst of times and places in prison, and also once he was released on parole.
From the outset, the wicked schemers of “flesh and blood” made it plain that Jonathan was never supposed to survive in prison. He was initially “archived” at USP Marion, Illinois, in solitary confinement in K Unit, the harshest unit of the harshest prison in the U.S. penal system. For seven years, he sat in solitary confinement, three stories underground, behind 13 locks and keys, and never saw the sun, or a tree or a blade of grass.
The warden who greeted Jonathan when he arrived at USP Marion on his first day informed him that the only way he would ever leave the prison would be “feet first in a body bag.” When Jonathan responded, “You are wrong. G-d runs the world, not you!” the warden had Jonathan tasered with a cattle prod, which left Jonathan writhing on the ground totally incapacitated, and he charged Jonathan with “incitement to riot.”
This message, that Jonathan would never leave Marion alive, was routinely repeated to him day in, day out, throughout his stay there. But despite their best efforts to realize this dastardly plan, miracle upon miracle upon miracle, the Shechinah remained with Jonathan day in, day out, in gehinnom, and miraculously Jonathan left Marion alive years later.
Jonathan was not expected to survive the next 23 years he spent incarcerated at FCI Butner, North Carolina. Only Hashem’s nissim v’niflaot brought him through constant life-threatening experiences including: death threats, health crises, inmate violence, malnutrition, rioting, and more. Many times he was literally on death’s doorstep and at the very last second another miracle would occur, a shaliach would appear from out of nowhere and Jonathan would once again be given his life back b’matanah.
At the end of 30 years of incarceration, Jonathan was eligible for mandatory parole. Only a fool could believe that his release on parole was just a consequence of having served the mandatory minimum 30 years of a 45-year life sentence. Nonsense! The Department of Justice had absolutely no intention of releasing him on parole. Not then. Not ever. We saw the documents that they had intended to use to keep him in prison, which were later used by the government in court hearings regarding his parole restrictions.
But Hashem thwarted their plan to keep him in prison forever by making Jonathan’s release on parole part of a political gambit by then-President Barack Obama, designed to distract media attention away from Obama’s disastrous deal with Iran. It’s a long story, but it worked, and Jonathan was miraculously released.
In vengeance, the Department of Justice slammed Jonathan with multiple onerous parole restrictions which served no purpose other than to embitter his life. In an ensuing court case, the U.S. government indicated that these restrictions and the remaining 15 years of Jonathan’s life sentence would be reviewed in five years. Just to put everyone to sleep for five years, there was a hint of a promise that the five-year review might effectively end the parole entirely.
Fast forward five years.
On Friday, November 20, at 12 noon, we rendezvoused on the phone once again with our attorneys and with the local parole people to find out if there had been any word from Washington. Would Jonathan go free today? Or would we be back in court again on Monday with our attorneys filing a writ of mandamus to force the Department of Justice to render a decision. Was the parole over?
The attorneys had heard nothing from the Parole Commission and the local parole people were similarly in the dark. Even though notice is usually given months or weeks in advance of the five-year ending time to allow a prisoner time to plan for his future, in Jonathan’s case, right up to the last moment he, his attorneys and the local parole people were kept totally in the dark about the Parole Commission’s intentions. This total lack of direction from the Commission was even more inexplicable since, as a model parolee, Jonathan legally met and exceeded all of the criteria for termination of parole.
Why was no decision forthcoming even up to and including the very last day? Because only a miracle would force the Parole Commission to release Jonathan. They had no intention of ending his parole. He was still far too useful to many in the Deep State as a symbol of a Jewish impotence to part with him, in spite of their legal obligation to do so.
Between approximately 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Friday, November 20, the Sitra Achara fought with all its might, right down to the last moment, to hold onto Jonathan in chains. There was a fierce struggle, right down to the wire, and it was truly touch and go!
Finally, b’chasdei Shamayim, the Sitra Achara was wrestled to the ground and pinned there until victory for Hashem was declared. In what can only be described as “miracle of miracles,” at 1:30 p.m., November 20, hours before the close of exactly five years on parole, the call came through from Jonathan’s local parole officer:
“Mr. Pollard, I have good news for you! The Parole Commission has just informed me that you are a free man!”
And the first words out of Jonathan’s mouth were a resounding: “BARUCH HASHEM!!!”
We ask all of Am Yisrael to join us in celebrating this miracle by reciting Nishmat Kol Chai privately to praise and thank Hashem for this, just one of the latest “myriad myriads of favors, miracles and wonders that [Hashem] performed for our ancestors and for us.”
When social conditions permit again, we hope, bli neder, to invite everyone to come together in Israel at the Kotel, and at the kivrei tzaddikim where we used to go to daven for Jonathan, to join us in saying Nishmat Kol Chai, b’rov am (en masse) in order “to thank, laud, praise, glorify, exalt, adore, render triumphant, bless, raise high, and sing praises [to Hashem Yitborach] — even beyond all expressions of the songs and praises of David, the son of Jesse, Your servant, Your anointed”! Amen! Selah!
We end with a special note of thanks to Hamodia Publications, and especially to Publisher, Mrs. Ruth Lichtenstein and Editor Rabbi Avraham Heschel, for consistently pursuing the truth in the Pollard case and fearlessly publishing it. They are indeed Hashem’s shluchim in the world of the printed word. We are grateful for the opportunity to share this invitation to say Nishmat Kol Chai with us now, which Hamodia has graciously provided. Baruch Hashem!
Copies of the Nishmat Kol Chai Prayer in Hebrew and English are available on the Justice for Jonathan Pollard website, https://www.jonathanpollard.org/2003/071103.htm.