Last Friday night, at a massive Hillel Purim/Shabbat table at Congregation Lubavitch-Long Beach the Purim spirit was intense. We had been singing since 5 o’clock, and after many hours, the room was ringing with our joyous songs. We were pounding the tables and the floors were getting treacherous. Delicious shnitzels, BBQ chicken wings, and other dishes were piled on huge platters, and kept coming out of the kitchen. Ice-cold pitchers of Heineken and many other drinks, going fast and furiously. The party was so holy and so beautiful. I got up to make toasts and L’Chaims. I had been in the same place for several hours.
I gave a roaring toast to the assembled students, alumni, members of the community starting with LChaim, tovim, u’sholom, she yibane beis ha mikdash bimheira v’yameinu, u sen chelkeinu v’torasecha…. and so on for several minutes. Then my wife Rachel yelled in my ear “Don.”
I yelled out “And Let Don Seigleman be with us for Next Shabbos!” Only some in the room understood what I was talking aboutâ€”former Alabama Govenor Don Siegleman has been unjustly imprisoned for nine months in a work camp, denied being free on bail during his appeal, and featured recently on 60-minutes, MSNBC, and in congressional hearingsâ€”but it didn’t because it was Purim and everyone gave a resounding, a gigantic “L’Chaim,” and the singing commensed again. At the table was Dana, Don’s only daughter, who works with us at Beach Hillel. Dana, Rachel and I prayed that Purim would be a yeshua, a redemption for Dana’s dad.
The phone rang this morning and Dana told us the amazing news. Her father was set free just moments before, and she reminded us of the story at Purim, and how she remembered what I had said about “next Shabbos” and how impossible that felt. Thousands of his supporters have been fighting for his release from day one, and it was improbable that anything would change too fast. Then yesterday, the news came that he was wanted for testimony on his case on Capital Hill, and the entire wheel started turning:
OAKDALE, La. — Former Gov. Don Siegelman rolled through the gates of the Oakdale Federal Detention Center at 11:10 a.m. [Friday], released pending an appeal after eight months behind bars.
“I may have lost my freedom for a while,” Siegelman said. “But I never lost faith.”
Siegelman stepped out of a black Chevrolet SUV to speak to reporters. He was wearing a torn gray sweatshirt over a T-shirt.
He said he would have more to say tonight in Birmingham.
“Now, I’m sure you understand this, I want to be with my family for a few days,” he said.
At his house in Birmingham, a red, white and blue balloon floated above the mail box this afternoon and more yellow and silver ones were attached near the front door to welcome the former governor home.
That is Purim – everything can and does change in the blink of an eye. Mazel Tov to all the Siegelman’s and their supporters, Baruch Hashem and Shabbat Shalom!