Who Frees the Bound

Baruch Atah Adonai Elohienu Melech Ha’Olam, Matir Asurim

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Source of Life, who Frees the Bound 

This is one of the several morning blessings, often called Nisim B’chol Yom or “Daily Miracles,” recited by many Jews upon waking each day. These blessings have a special place in my heart. I always appreciate that Jewish tradition offers us the chance to reflect upon the things for which we are grateful, first thing in the morning. The list of blessings calls our attention to the very foundations of our lives: For the ability to distinguish between day and night, for freedom, for being made in God’s image, and for having strength when we are weary, just to name a few. 

Each year around Thanksgiving—a day when the American calendar and our Jewish tradition align so beautifully—I like to teach about these morning blessings as a way to reflect on all of the gifts of our lives. 

I always understood this blessing, Matir Asurim, a prayer about “freeing the bound” to be a metaphor. Perhaps, in this prayer, we give thanks for being freed from sleep and regaining consciousness each morning. Perhaps it is about gratitude for being freed, or working toward freedom, from emotional patterns and behaviors that keep us stuck. 

But sadly, since October 7, this prayer is literal: We fervently hope and pray for the release of all those who were taken captive during Hamas’ brutal attack. 

As I write this, there is talk of a deal to pause the fighting and release many of the hostages. Last week, I was at the home of a JCP community member who hosted family members of five Israeli hostages. Their bravery was nothing short of awe-inspiring as they told their stories of trauma, loss, and fear for the safety of their loved ones who are in captivity, whose ages range from 3 to 80 years old. The hope that their family members will be released from captivity to return home is what is keeping them going and motivating them to speak to anyone who will listen to their plea, including politicians, faith leaders, and journalists. As one said: “There will be no victory in this war without the safe return of hostages.” 

This year, while we reflect on the blessings in our lives, the gratitude and joy of our Thanksgiving tables is diminished as so many of our Israeli siblings are being held in captivity. 

May our prayers and demands for their return very soon be answered. 

Shabbat shalom, and Happy Thanksgiving,