Sunday, November 20, 2005
Jail.

Once I saw a documentary on prison systems in different countries. In China, the inmates had Chinese calligraphy classes, qi gong sessions, and had to "mow" the lawn with their hands. In Turkey, they were basically in a pit. In America, inmates complained when they couldn't watch explicit movies, and the violence was unbelievable.

I saw a movie once called "The Shawshank Redemption." I was probably 18 or 19 when I saw it, not frum yet. That movie scared the hell out of me. I had terrible thoughts for a year or two afterwards about being falsely imprisoned, and I know I wasn't the only one.

I read a couple of books by Russian authors about gulag experiences. One was called "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch," written by Aleksandr Solzhynitsyn. It was an excellent book, and a seminal experience for me in Russian literature.

The other - "Subbota" - was written by a man who called himself "Avraham Netzach" (netzach meaning "endurance"). This is an autobiographical account of a religious Jew who spent 20 years in Stalin's prisons. Not that all of Soviet Russia wasn't a giant prison in those days. What that man went through, G-d in heaven! No one should ever suffer like that. He eventually made it to Israel.

I think about jail sometimes. Not in the frightened way I did after seeing "Shawshank," Baruch Hashem. Bob Marley sang; "Emanciapte yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds." I think that's true. I may not be in a physical jail, but oftentimes I'm imprisoned by my thoughts and feelings.

L'chaim to all of us who are searching and struggling within ourselves. May we each have the strength to walk free.




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