This past Friday night, we rejoiced when we heard the news about Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, who was finally released from having spent 214 days in a horrible Mexican prison.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this story, Tahmooressi was arrested on March 31 after he made a wrong turn in Mexico. Although he was aware he had entered Mexico with these weapons, he could not make a U-Turn because the flow of traffic did not allow him to do so, since the only turn was located in the farthest lane from where he was driving. Unfortunately for him, he was carrying three weapons in his truck and this goes against Mexican law.
Little did he realize that he was entering the strange and peculiar reality known as “The Mexican Zone.”
U.S. Marine reservist Sgt. Andrew Paul Tahmooressi was arrested March 31 after Mexican customs agents in the border city of Tijuana found three weapons in his truck. It is illegal to bring guns into Mexico.
The Mexican government treated him as if he deliberately set out to commit a crime, a crime that would have cost him 21 years in a very dangerous prison. Thanks to FOX news analyst Greta Van Susteren, she and several other people finally convinced a Mexican judge to let him out on humanitarian reasons because he suffered from PTSD.
While he languished in prison, Tahmooressi told his friend Mark Podlaski that he had been severely abused in the Mexican prison. Inmates beat him with a bat and dislocated his jaw. In addition, he was often stripped naked and chained or tightly handcuffed to a bed. As if that were not enough, by the time they finally released him at the end of a four week ordeal, “he couldn’t even walk, he was crippled from such bad muscle dystrophy and joint pain and not being able to fire the muscles in his body.”
And throughout it all, the President did nothing to rescue this brave and decorated soldier, who spent several tours of duty in Afghanistan. Podlaski and others who knew Tahmooressi, described him as a “Marine’s Marine.”
According to Jewish ethics, redeeming captives from prison is one of the most important mitzvoth of the Torah. The entire story of the Exodus out of Egypt is based upon this principle. When people face degradation because of their captivity, there is a moral response that every human being is commanded to participate: redeeming captives.
Several months ago, President Obama broke American law and traded several high-ranking members of the Taliban A-Team in order to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan. As a justification, the President explained his rationale:
- Sergeant Bergdahl has missed birthdays, and holidays and simple moments with family and friends which all of us take for granted. But while Bowe was gone, he was never forgotten”— not by his family or his hometown in Idaho, or the military. “And he wasn’t forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind..
Any person with a modicum of humanity ought to wonder why the President didn’t ask our friendly neighbor, Mexico, to release Tahmooressi immediately after he was arrested. Yet, this never happened.
The immorality of our President’s behavior ought to fill all of us with disgust and disdain. Although the President met several times with the Mexican President and demand his release.
The Talmud expounded the verse, “You shall not stand by the blood of your neighbor” (Lev. 19:16). The Sages teach us:
From where do we know that if a man sees his fellow drowning, mauled by beasts, or attacked by robbers, he is bound to save him? From the verse, “You shall not stand by the blood of your neighbor” (Lev. 19:16). 
When it comes to living an ethical life, we must make courageous decisions to get involved. Ignoring someone else’s suffering makes the observer morally guilty of murder. There can be no moral hedging on this matter. It is a pity that our President does not seem to have a moral compass guiding him to do the right and ethical thing.
As Americans and as Jews, we have a moral duty to speak out and tell our leadership that we will never tolerate immoral and evil behavior. If our President is unwilling to act like a mentsch, then the time has come for him to step down and let someone else more competent and just to preside as the leader of the free world.
Notes BT Sanhedrin 73a