On Monday night, Jonathan Pollard, recently released from a US prison, dedicated a Torah scroll in a ceremony at the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem (Nablus). The action was deep with spiritual significance with rabbis noting the connection between Pollard’s release, Biblical Jospeh, and the final Redemption of Israel.
Believing in God, believing in the land of Israel
“I feel a very personal connection to this place and to the righteous Joseph who is buried in it and everything he went through,” Pollard said at the event. “I am bringing this Torah scroll to Joseph’s Tomb; a Torah scroll written from prison specifically for Joseph’s Tomb, so that in this way, if it is not possible physically then spiritually and mentally we will settle all of our land.”
“When I was in jail, the officers and guards would routinely goad me and humiliate me by asking did I think I would ever go home to Esther, my wife, and be in this land. And I always answered in the same way: I would ask them, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And most of them would say ‘yes.’ And then I would ask ‘Do you believe God can perform miracles?’ And they would say ‘clearly’. Well, here we are.”
“The same story applies to this Sefer Torah. Do you believe this Sefer Torah will ever permanently be used here? So you ask the person, ‘Do you believe in God?’And I hope they’ll say yes. And you ask, ‘Do you believe God can perform miracles?’ And he better say ‘yes.’ And then you say, ‘Then, yes, this Sefer Torah will be used not only by us but by our future generations as well.”
“We must all make the same promise to this Sefer Torah that our ancestors made to Yosef HaTzaddik (Jospeh the righteous) so long ago. They promised to bring him back to the land as both a spiritual ascent and as a commitment to this God-given land. And with God’s help, they did. We must make the same declaration to this living Torah; that we promise to bring it back permanently to KeverYosef and to see it used every single day, in honor and dignity, by our people, in our God-given land. Amen.”
Pollard had commissioned and paid for the Torah scroll 12 years ago while in prison. Writing a Torah scroll is a Mitzvah (Torah commandment) and paying for or commissioning a Torah scroll, an expensive proposition, is considered as if the person actually wrote the scroll. As is customary, Pollard completed the Mitzvah on-site by personally writing the last letter to complete the Torah.
Pollard: the “Joseph of our generation”
His choosing the site was intentional as Pollard has a personal connection to Biblical Joseph. During his imprisonment, Pollard developed relationships with several well-known religious figures. One of these leaders was the late Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Israel, who was very close to Pollard and always referred to him as “Joseph the Tzaddik (righteous) of our generation.” One obvious reason for this reference is due to his belief that Pollard’s imprisonment sentence was unjust, similar to the imprisonment of the Biblical Joseph. However, his reason for referring to Pollard in this manner goes much deeper.
Rabbi Eliyahu requested that Pollard add the letter “hay” (ה) to his Hebrew name, changing it from “Yonatan” (יונתן) to “Yehonatan” (יהונתן). In Jewish tradition, changing a name is a significant act that can alter a person’s fate.
In 2010, in honor of Pollard’s birthday, his wife Esther wrote a long and impassioned letter to her husband. In the letter she explained Rabbi Eliyahu’s insistence on connecting Pollard to Biblical Joseph.
“If the Rav (Rabbi) repeatedly said that you are the Yosef HaTzadik of our generation it was not intended as a compliment, nor a balm for your tired soul. It was meant as a statement of truth, as a fact. It was meant for you to understand the degree to which you are participating in Jewish history. It was meant for others to understand how critical your redemption is to the redemption of the Jewish people as a whole,” she wrote.
Joseph’s Tomb refuting Biden’s “Occupied territory” policy
Pollard’s speech underscored a Jewish tradition that there are three sites in Israel that are specifically described in the Bible as being purchased and, therefore, are indisputably Jewish. Rabbi Yosef Berger, the Rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, explained this:
“The sages say in the Talmud that there are three places in the land of Israel that the Bible specifically describes as being purchased by the Jews: the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and Shechem,” Rabbi Berger said.
“These places can never be claimed to have been stolen,” Rabbi Berger said. “It is most noteworthy that these are the specific cities the Palestinians claim as their native homeland.”
The rabbi noted that Pollard’s Sefer Torah dedication at Joseph’s Tomb comes just a few weeks after the Biden State Department declared Judea and Samaria to be “occupied territory.”
Messiah from Joseph
Rabbi Berger noted that Joseph’s Tomb is a site that is essentially connected to Jewish redemption. He explained that Jewish tradition holds that there will be two messiahs, each with their own important role in the redemptive process. The Messiah from the House of Joseph will prepare the way for the Messiah from the House of David.
“The first stage of the Messiah comes from the House of Joseph,” Rabbi Berger told Israel365 News. “By preventing Jews from praying at the site, the Arabs are delaying the completion of that aspect of the Messianic process, which is the practical settling of the land of Israel.”
He noted that the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt was initiated by the gathering of Joseph’s bones and culminated in Shechem with the fulfillment of the promise to bury him in the land in precisely the place where Pollard dedicated the Sefer Torah, a place the Bible-faithful refer to as Samaria and not “occupied.”
Joe versus Joseph
It is interesting to note that Biden, who has publicly rejected his given Biblically-sourced name of Joseph in favor of the oddly informal ‘Joe’, blocked an attempt to pardon Pollard, who clearly identifies with Biblical Joseph. The New York Times reported in 2012 that Biden bragged that he had personally convinced President Obama to reject a plea to release Pollard.
Rabbi Nachman Kahana noted that both Pollard and Biblical Joseph bear a message that is especially relevant to American Jews today.
“Both Joseph and Pollard were punished after serving a foreign government,” Rabbi Kahana said. ‘Joseph was entirely innocent but imprisoned. The only reason Pollard was treated so severely, more so than any other ally who spied on the US, was anti-Semitism. The Biden administration is full of Jews but only those who have rejected Israel. Any Jew who has any love of Israel will be treated like Pollard. It is past time. Jews need to return home.”
Biden: Anti-Joseph-style sexual purity
“Joseph was the epitome of sexual purity,” Rabbi Sudri told Israel365 News. “This was demonstrated by his restraint with the wife of Potiphar.”
“It was his control of his sexual desire that gave him the ability to rule over all of Egypt,” Rabbi Sudri said. “It is an essential trait for a leader but we see this trait as being particularly problematic among leaders today.”
Rabbi Sudri also noted an aspect of the location that is of particular interest in current events.
“Shechem was the place where Dina was raped,” Rabbi Sudri noted.
Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, chief of the country, saw her, and took her and lay with her by force. Being strongly drawn to Dina daughter of Yaakov, and in love with the maiden, he spoke to the maiden tenderly. Genesis 34:2-3
“That is why Joseph was buried here: to fix the power of sexuality for the entire world,” Rabbi Sudri said. He noted that the site is the target of near-constant vandalism including incidents of arson that severely damaged the site.
Rabbi Sudri noted that the Biden administration is setting out on an extreme agenda that attacks sexual purity and advocates for abortion on demand. Biden also appointed Rachel Levine, a transgender who was born male, as his assistant secretary for health. Biden is advancing legislation that will allow pre-adolescents and adolescents to undergo gender transition treatments that could leave them sterile and scarred for life. They are also advocating for men to compete in sports against women as transgenders. In addition, President Biden has been the target of many accusations of sexual impropriety that have gone uninvestigated.
Unusually harsh treatment for the Jewish spy
Pollard was working as an analyst for the US Navy in 1985 when he was caught transferring classified information. He pled guilty but the judge chose to sentence him to life in prison, Pollard is the only American who has received a life sentence for passing classified information to an ally of the US.
It was later revealed that at least some of the accusations against Pollard can be traced to Aldrich Ames, a CIA agent who, as a double agent working for the Russian KGB who was convicted in 1994. At the time of his arrest, Ames had compromised more highly classified CIA assets than any other officer in history. Ames allegedly caused a shift to “blame Mr. Pollard for exposing the American agents to clear himself of suspicion.” The same source “said that Mr. Pollard never exposed American agents in the Soviet Union or elsewhere.”
Pollard was released from prison on November 20, 2015. The Justice Department decided last month to let the parole term’s five-year travel ban go unrenewed as a parting gift to Israel by the Trump administration.
Pollard declared that he committed espionage only because “the American intelligence establishment collectively endangered Israel’s security by withholding crucial information”. Over the course of his imprisonment, Israel made repeated unsuccessful attempts through both official and unofficial channels to secure his release. He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1995.
Joseph’s Tomb is a point of particularly hot contention between Israel and the Palestinians; located in Samaria, a region conquered by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Although the city came under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction as a result of the Oslo Accords in 1995, the religious site remained under Israeli control to ensure access for all religions. Following multiple incidents of Palestinian violence, the IDF abandoned the site in 2000 and Jews were prohibited from visiting it. Since 2002, Jewish worshipers have only been permitted to visit the site once each month, and only under strict IDF supervision. In 2011, a young Jewish man was shot and killed by a Palestinian policeman when he attempted to visit the site without prior IDF permission.