Redeeming Captives

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Resource Type: Shiur in: English
Age: 12-13
Group Size: 5-30
Estimated Time: 90 minutes

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Resource Goal

1. To learn about the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim

2. To think about the 8 Israeli MIAs

3. To consider what we can do to help the MIAs and fulfill the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim

Resource Contents

Redeeming Captives





As tempting as it is to look at the idea of Aliya in Parshat Lech Lecha, we are going to bypass it, and instead look at the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim - returning captives. In this weeks sidra we can see that campaigning for MIAs is not some random Bnei Akiva idea, but has a deep-rooted history, and is one of the most important things we can and must do!


The story so far…
Last week we saw the people united to build the
tower of Bavel, and as a consequence of their actions there was the first dispersion. After listing the 10 generations after Noach, we focus in on Avram. Hashem tells him to,
Lech lecha, go away from your land, your birthplace, and your father's house, to the land that I will show you." (12:1)

Avram (75) set off wit his wife, Sarai, nephew Lot and all their possessions. They travel around and arrive at Canaan. After a while famine hits Canaan and our heroes are forced to leave and go to Egypt. Pharoh took quite a liking to Sarai, (thinking she was Avram's sister) and had her brought to his palace. Soon after Hashem struck the palace with plagues and Pharoh realized something was up! He was a little annoyed that Avram hadn't been 100% truthful, and sent him, Sarai and Lot packing.

Off they set, but all was not well. The campsite just wasn't big enough for both Avram and Lot. Friction developed between their herdsmen, and as a result Avram (who was a top bloke,) suggested that rather than rucking maybe they should split up (but still be friends!!!). Lot chooses to live in Sodom and Avram and Sarai settle in Chevron.

Shortly after the house warming parties, five kings (of Sodom, Amorrah, Admah, Ts'voyim and Bela) prepared to do battle against the four kings (of Elam, Goyim, Shinar and Elasar). The four kings came out tops and captured everything and everyone they found in Sodom and Amorrah, including Lot.

14) When Avram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he called out all his 318 fighting men who had been born in his house. He hurried after [the invaders], catching up with them in Dan. 15) He divided [his forces] against them [and attacked] that night - he and his servants. He attacked and pursued [the invaders] as far as Chovah, which is to the left of Damascus. 16) And he [Avram] brought back all the property. He also brought back his kinsman Lot and all his goods, along with the women and the [other] people.

Bereishit 14: 14 - 16


- When did Avram go to find the captives?

 - Why do you think that Avram gathered a small army and went out of his way to help out, when he was not directly involved in this war?

 - Why did he bring back everyone and everything?

 - What do you think we can learn about and from Avram in this instance?


"The ransoming of captives has precedence over the feeding and clothing of the poor. Indeed there is no religious duty more meritorious than the ransoming of captives, for not only is the captive included in the category of the hungry, the thirsty and the naked, but his very life is in jeopardy… To sum up, there is no religious duty greater than the ransoming of captives."

Maimonides, "Gifts to the Poor" 8: 10


 - How is a captive included in the different categories?

 - Why do you think Maimonides says 'there is no religious duty greater than the ransoming/redeeming of captives'?
 - Throughout the years of our persecuted history, there have been many times where great rabbonim as well as men, women and children have been help captive; during blood libels, around the times of expulsions from many countries, and, even today…



M I A’s

A person that is Missing In Action is so much more than 3 small letters. They have families and friends, dreams, hopes and ambitions. They have a past, a present and hopefully a long future ahead of them.

Who are they?

In 1982 (11th June) Zacharia Baumel, Tzvi Feldman and Yehuda Katz were captured - that was almost 20 years ago!

In 1986 (16th October) Ron Arad was taken prisoner; at the time he had a baby girl - she is now 16 and has grown up without knowing her father.

On 7th October of last year Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omer Suad were kidnapped close to the Lebanese boarder and a few days later (15th October) Elchanan Tenenaum was captured whilst on a business trip in Switzerland.

None of these men have done anything wrong, yet they have been cruelly snatched from their families and friends.

We know nothing of their whereabouts or well-being - we do not even know if they are still alive. All we can do is hope and pray…

Ron Arad - born 5 April 1958 captured 16 October 1986 aged 28. Ron Arad's family felt immense pride, when he became a captain in the Israeli Air Force. However, pride turned to despair after Ron's Phantom jet crashed over Southern Lebanon in October 1986. Ron was taken captive by Amal, an Iranian backed terrorist group. His family received a glimmer of hope a year later, when they received a photo and letter from him. Since then however there has been no word. His family has grown, as Ron's younger brothers, have both since married and had children. Meanwhile, his own daughter, Yuval has grown from a 15-month-old baby into a blossoming teenager. However, Ron knows nothing of his nephews and nieces and can only imagine the progress of his daughter. His wife and mother also await his return.

Zachary Baumel - born 17 November 1960, captured June 11 1982 aged 21. It was June 1982 when Yona and Miriam Baumel received a postcard from their son Zachary, which read, 'Everything is OK, it looks like I won't be home for a while…' It was soon after this chilling prophecy that they learnt that Zachary had fallen captive in the Battle of Sultan Yakoub. Zachary was raised in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where his father recalls he was 'born with a basketball in his hand'. These days, Zachary's parents search for any scrap of information about his whereabouts. Their hopes were raised in December 1993, when Yasser Arafat handed over half of Zachary's army dog tag, claiming to also have additional information. However, this has not materialised, and Yona and Miriam Baumel are left hoping and campaigning for the return of their son.

Benny Avraham - born 1 January 1980, captured 7 October 2000 aged 20. Just before last Yom Kippur, Hizbullah terrorists, in a clear cut violation of International law, crossed the Lebanese border into Israel and abducted three Israeli soldiers. The soldiers are being held in Lebanon. To this date, neither the Red Cross nor representatives of the international community have been allowed to meet with them. One of these is Beni. Beni was named after his uncle who fell in the Yom Kippur War. A combat soldier in an engineering battalion, Beni was also a madrich in his youth movement. After finishing army service he plans to study at the Technion but for now Beni's parents comment. 'The days go by and the anxiety for the fate of our son and his friends pierces our every thought.'

Yehuda Katz - born 18 July 1959 captured June 11 1982 aged 22. Yehuda Katz was another victim of the battle of Sultan Yakoub in June 1982. He was only 22 years old at the time. In any other country, Yehuda would have been coming towards the end of his university degree, but since that day, the youngest son of Yosef and Sara Katz has been held captive. The Katz family is a religious one and it is their faith that helps Sara Katz to say with conviction, 'We are sure in our hearts that he is alive.' Indeed, they were given encouragement, shortly after Yehuda's capture, when CBS television broadcast pictures of a captured Israeli tank, possibly that of their son, being paraded through the village of Ayta, near Damascus. Still, it is surely time after almost 19 long years, that Yosef and Sara Katz were given information of their son's fate.

Omar Souad - 28 March 1973, captured October 7 2000 aged 27. Omar's commitment to the defence of Israel is very special indeed. Omar is a loyal Bedouin citizen who has dedicated himself to service in the army and the defence of Israel. However, he too paid the price for his priorities as he was kidnapped by Hezbullah in October, in the Har Dov region of Northern Israel. Omar's wife Nofa and his two children are awaiting news. Being Bedouins, Omar's family are worried that his captors will treat him especially harshly, viewing him as a traitor. The Israeli Prime Minister has urged that the families speak out at every opportunity and anywhere they can.

Elchanan Tannenbaum - captured October 15 2000 aged 54. The kidnapping of Elchanan Tannenbaum on October 15th 2000 has been clouded in mystery. The 54 year old was on business in Switzerland when the terrorist group Hezbollah took him captive, reportedly taking him back to their base in Lebanon. Although Elchanan is a reserve colonel in the Israeli army, there appears to be little reason why he in particular should be a target for a terrorist group.

Tzvi Feldman - born 19 December 1956, captured June 11 1982 aged 25. Zvi was described by his parents, Avraham and Pnina as an 'idealistic patriot' in a Jerusalem Post interview. However, Zvi paid the price for the love of his country when he was captured by a Syrian army commando unit during the battle of Sultan Yakoub in Lebanon. Later that day, a Time Magazine reporter witnessed 3 Israeli soldiers on display in a 'victory' parade in Damascus. Despite this and other reported sightings of the 3 soldiers, their unknown captors have refused to let it be known whether the three men are dead or alive. For Pnina and Avraham Feldman, last Pesach was the 19th Pesach without Zvi.

Adi Avitan - born 27 December 1978, captured October 7 2000 aged 21. Sergeant Adi Avitan, the third of four brothers from Tiberias, served as a combat soldier in an engineering battalion like one of his elder brothers. He was captured at Har Dov by Hizboallah terrorists posing as UN soldiers. Adi recently completed an accounting course at the Amal School and was finishing his second tour on the Lebanon border. His life was much like that of any Israeli teenager, enjoying life to the full with his family, friends and his girlfriend. At Rosh Hashana he told his family of his plans to visit the Golan with his girlfriend. Just a few hours before his kidnapping, Adi told his family in a phone conversation that all was quiet.

The most important thing we must stress in this meeting is that these men have done nothing wrong; yet have been kidnapped by terrorist movements. Especially in light of the events on 11th September in America, the world has suddenly woken up and realized that terrorists and terrorist acts are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The USA has declared a war on terrorism, and is building a world coalition to join in their fight. However, the most recent country to 'join up' is Iran. This is totally ridiculous, as Iran is known to be the financial supporters of several terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizbolla. Iran, Syria and Lebanon cannot fight a war on terrorism when they are the ones harbouring terrorists in their countries and supporting them in every way possible! As Roni Milo (Tel Aviv Mayor) said speaking at the 23rd Sept Rally, "There is no rationality in bringing into a coalition against terror, those who host terrorists. It is unbelievable."


So what can we do?


1)The first thing to do is to actually learn about the mitzvah of Pidyon shevuyim and educate ourselves about the MIAs and their plight. For more info on the 8 men check out or


2) Whenever siblings or parents of MIAs speak, they always ask us to do anything, we can as we can help. In life, we never know how every little thing we do or say leads to a whole chain of reactions. In the same way, however small, we need to act, in the hope that something will lead to their release and safe and speedy return.


3)Write letters, to MPs, or the following people:
- Jack Straw at the Foreign Office asking the Minister to use all his contacts in the govt. of Iran, Lebanon and Syria in order to help the cause of the MIAs: The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs & the Commonwealth, The Foreign Office, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AH.
- Write to the International Red Cross in order to ask that they work to gain access to the missing Israelis in order to ensure their health and safety: Mr. Jacob Kellenberger, President, International Committee of the Red Cross, 19 Avenue de la paix, CH 1202 Geneve, Switzerland.
- Urge the UN Secretary to do his utmost for the release of the soldiers: The Honourable Kofi Anan, Secretary General of the United Nations, New York, N.Y. 10017, USA

4) Wear a blue ribbon. The blue ribbon campaign is rapidly spreading, and even the staff at John Lewis in Brent Cross now know all about the MIAs as we had long chats as I was buying the ribbon and pins. When you wear it, wear it proudly and explain to people what it represents!

5) Organize a petition for you community. Clearly explain about the MIAs and get everyone in you sviva, including the parents, Rabbi etc to sign it. Send it to me, and I will post one phat petition to my mate Tony at 10 Downing Street. (I need something to give him as I haven't replied to his last letter yet - 100% serious!)

6) Spread the word in schools. Explain what it's all about, and get them to write letters and sign your petition!




1. To learn about the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim
· Prisoners/Tick tack toe - taking people prisoner and trying to get them released.
· Learn / act out the story of Avraham
· Prioritize a list of mitzvot e.g. feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and then show how the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim encompasses all of them.


2. To think about the 8 Israeli MIAs
· Read about each of the missing Israelis and do a presentation on each one - this emphasizes the fact that they are all individuals, and real people. This can be done by each kvutsah is designated one missing Israeli, and the presentations are done in mifkad as part of a tekes (ceremony).


3. To consider what we can do to help the MIAs and fulfill the mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim
· Explain the ideas suggested in the choveret and put them into practice. Perhaps your kvutsah can meet during the week and e.g. write letters together.
· Write out in big, "Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Bazeh" "All of Israel (the Jewish people) are responsible for each other" - what does that mean to us, and what can we do? Teach your chanichim the song!


Related Resources can be found under:

» All > Torah > Parshat Shavua > Breishit > Lech Lecha

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