During Yom Tov, the great majority of Jews are surrounded by family, friends and neighbors. Whether in shul or at the table, we share the holiness and festivities that define our holidays with the ones we love and are connected to. The hours fly as we daven, and later feast on a succulent variety of fish and meat dishes, kugels, salads and desserts. The day is full of warmth, color and noise as adult banter mingles with children’s chatter.
But there are some who literally have not had a yom tov, a good day, for years .For some, there is no difference between day and night as they languish in dark cells, isolated and alone; the only noise shattering the suffocating silence, their own sobs
Then there are those who are fortunate to have freedom of movement – they are not physically confined – but they are “locked up” nonetheless. They too are isolated and alone, even when there are people all around them. They seem to be invisible even to those who are sitting or standing right next to them. People talk past them, rarely to them.
There are also those who have not been imprisoned by an external enemy, yet they are tragic captives. They have imprisoned themselves, and are caged in a black hole of their own creation, slaves to out of control vices and habits.
Our prayers are replete with references to yitziyat Mitzriyim, our redemption from Egypt; our much longed for emancipation from a brutal, soul and body shattering captivity. So many forlorn and broken wait for their own yitziyat Mitzriyim.
The following poem is a plea to Hashem to release His sons and daughters from their personal prisons, both forced on them or self-inflicted.
After all, Hashem is known to be matir asurim. He frees the incarcerated.
Our Father who is Everywhere, our lives are known to You,
You ask that we live b’simcha – but for some it’s impossible to do,
For they are hapless captives, cruelly cut off from the light,
They languish in the darkness, alone and out of sight.
Please remember our missing soldiers, hidden away for years,
Listen to their loved ones’ cries; be moved by their tormented fears,
Please end the unbearable separation, stop their relentless grief,
For the sake of your holy nation – grant them full relief
Let their cell doors be opened, and the “dead” return to life.
Let them feel, once again, the hug of a parent, of a wife.
May they regain a healthy body and become sound in mind,
May they know once again, hands that are soft and kind.
May their eyes again see the sunlight,
And their ears hear chirping crickets at night,
And their skin be caressed by an ocean breeze,
And their souls healed, and at ease.
Please remember the bitter hopelessness that is the agunah’s lot,
Let all be free to find the fulfillment, they have long sought.
Open the closed hearts of their husbands, give wisdom to all involved.
So this tragedy that poisons our society will forever be resolved.
Please remember those who languish, unfairly and much too long,
Incarcerated and forgotten, both the innocent and those who did wrong.
Remember our tzaddik Yoseph, cruelly thrown into a cell,
Let true justice find the blameless, and those who are guilty as well.
Remember your sons and daughters who suffer from self-affliction,
Slaves to toxic habits, ensnared by numbing addiction.
Give strength to their spirits; help them reclaim their lost souls,
So they may return to the sunlight, free from their bottomless holes.
Whatever the cause of bondage – we look to You for release,
Emancipate all from their “chains” – let all heartbreak cease.
Bless all Your children with freedom, so that they can start their lives anew,
All will see Your loving mercy, and pour loving praise on You.