Earlier this week, I met with a 60-something man who spent 10 years in jail for armed robbery. “That was the old me, now I’m different,” he told me. This week, I also came across a letter the Rebbe wrote to Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzchak Rabin, dated Erev Pesach 1976 (April 14), which I found fascinating.
My free translation of an excerpt of the letter follows.
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The Hon. Yitzchak Rabin
I am taking this opportunity on Erev Pesach, Zman Cheiruseinu [the Time of Our Freedom], to acknowledge your letter, and specifically the spirit in which it was written.
It is likewise my pleasant privilege to express my deep satisfaction with regard to the opportunity and assistance that was given to Chabad representatives to visit IDF army bases etc., for Purim and Pesach celebrations.
Specific thanks are due for your assistance with regards to visiting prisoners. This is specifically meaningful with regards to Zman Cheiruseinu, when the visits grant the prisoners encouragement and hope that they will experience [true] freedom. After all, the purpose of incarceration is not to punish for the sake of punishment, but rather, to bring the criminal to a stage at which he will reflect on his situation, ultimately coming to regret his past and make a firm resolve to correct his conduct for the future. In other words, while still in prison, he should become emancipated from the characteristics and causes that led him to be in this situation, and be able — when his period of incarceration is completed — to return to a normal path of life, and to live a life of true freedom, which is spiritual freedom.
….Every person, whatever their situation in life may be — even those who have committed the severest of sins — was formed in the image of G-d. As the Torah states, “Man was created in the image of G-d.”
May it be the Almighty’s will that Zman Cheiruseinu will be a time of goodness and blessings for all of us. May it bring each one of us, together with all our fellow Jews, to achieve true freedom from everything negative and confusing, whether from within ourselves or from the outside — both materially and spiritually.
With respect, and with blessings for a kosher and happy Pesach and for good news,
<the Rebbe’s signature>