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July 24, 2014 / 26 Tammuz, 5774
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Free To Move, Free To Thank

        This past week, millions of Americans took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday to pick themselves up and, alone or with family, get into a car, bus, train or airplane to visit relatives or friends or have a mini-vacation. Members of our community, whether or not they celebrate this secular holiday, no doubt took advantage of the long weekend that began Wednesday afternoon to reconnect or relax.

 

         Most did not think twice about planning their trip and implementing it. If there was anything on their minds, it was very likely the worrisome weather conditions and the overcrowding on the highways and airports.

 

         I doubt too many took a moment to acknowledge their ability to freely go and do what they wanted. Very few took pause to reflect on just how fortunate they were to be able to come and go as they pleased. As such, they likely were not consciously thankful on this national holiday of thanks.

 

         Because the miracle of good health is the norm for the majority of people and because the United States and Canada are democracies that allow its citizens total freedom of movement if they wish to travel from city to city or state to state or province to province, we take for granted the God-given blessing of unrestricted movement.

 

         For example, we eat what we want when we want – whether at home or at a restaurant. We go to a movie or a lecture or attend a shiur. In other words, we have the ability to live our lives; and for the most part, we don’t even spend a moment appreciating this brachah.

 

         There are many men, women and children who would be eternally grateful if they could experience this freedom – even if only for a day. Sadly, there are many individuals, young and old, who cannot come and go as they please – in most cases because they are physically or mentally unable to do so. For some, this is how they were born. For others, their loss of mobility was sudden – a car crash, a fall, a terrorist attack, a stroke. For many, their life is one of dependency and a life of others making choices for them, a state of existence that the human being strives to escape from – starting in infancy.

 

         And then there are the miskeinim - the tragic ones whoare sound of body and mind but whosefreedom of choice and mobility has been cruelly ripped from them because they are imprisoned. They are being denied their right to live freely because of false justice or the illegal acts of evil regimes. Many are enclosed in dank, dark cells, isolated from everything familiar and beloved – with no choice, no free will and no self-determination.

 

         In particular, I refer to the captured Israeli soldiers; some recently kidnapped and cut off from their world of sunshine, and those who (if they still are alive) have spent their young adulthood in miserable captivity.

 

         For us it is the most natural thing in the world to get up in the morning and plan our day – what to wear to work or to shul, to go out for pizza or Chinese, to exercise by walking with a friend, to phone a relative. These are such everyday, very common activities that we don’t even give them the slightest thought.

 

         But we should. These daily occurrences are what we should be grateful for; not the extraordinary events like winning the custom sheitels at the Chinese auction. Our gratitude should not be reserved just for special occasions – like a good shidduch that came through – but for the daily ones.

 

         We should, as much as possible, be constantly aware of and cognizant of the Divine chesed that is showered on us every minute of our ordinary lives.

 

         And when we light our Shabbat candles, we should thank Hashem for His chesed in giving us the ability to come and go pretty much as we please. And despite minor setbacks or annoyances or even chesronos in our lives, we should try rejoicing because with freedom one can at least attempt to reach one’s goals.

 

         At the same time we must pray to Hashem (as the men do during the morning benedictions) that He is matir asurim (free the captives) and heals the sick. And that He has rachamim and performs miracles so that those whose movements are restricted – either by illness or captivity – will have these restrictions removed and have the liberty to choose the “where” and “how” and “when” in their lives.

 

         Then they too, as well as their loved ones who suffer with them, will at long last have the unfettered ability to obey Hashem’s mitzvah and be b’simcha.

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