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Trust Your Pilot?!

pilot.jpgThis week the world was shocked when a large aircraft crashed in the remote French Alps, instantaneously killing all 150 people on board. Based on the available information, the airline has declared the accident deliberate—the copilot took 150 lives along with his own.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims as they mourn their loss. It is a tragedy beyond words.

Admittedly, I’m afraid of heights, and have been ever since I can remember. When my wife and I married, we honeymooned in Cape Town, famous for its Table Mountain. When I saw how excited my wife was to go up the mountain in a cable car, I didn’t want to dash her hopes so I went along, but every minute was torturous.

I often need to travel, either for family events or to perform weddings for congregants. Every time I get on a plane, I force myself to calm my fears. I tell myself that the pilot is in control and he is surely qualified and experienced. I recite a chapter of Psalms and try to relax. In fact, on my last trip to Florida we hit a long patch of turbulence, but I forced myself to remember that someone else is in control. Although it’s well documented that flying is safer than driving, I still prefer to drive. In my car, I feel in control, whereas on the plane I need to put my full trust in someone I don’t even know.

The tragedy of this week’s plane crash is that the passengers and the airline placed their trust in someone who ultimately let them down. Surely, the lesson airlines will take from this tragedy is the need for ongoing evaluations to ensure the pilots are emotionally sound and trustworthy.

We all encounter turbulence in our everyday lives. Perhaps we have familial discord or financial worries. On a global level, Iran’s nuclear program concerns us all.

The same way we need to relax and trust the pilot when we fly (and 99.9% of the time, we do arrive at our destination without incident), as we go through life we need to relax and realize that there IS someone in the cockpit we can trust. The world has a Boss. He is in control, and although we may not see Him, we know that He is there. We need to do whatever we can on our end to overcome our problems, and trust that He will do the rest.

We are about to celebrate the festival of Passover, when we mark the birth of our nation. We know we have somebody we can trust—our dear Father in Heaven.

So relax. G-d’s driving.

Who Really Won the Election?

This week Jews around the world watched the Israeli election with bated breath. When the results came in, my Facebook feed exploded. Some of my friends furious and devastated that their party lost the election. It was as if the world had fallen apart. My other friends, however, were jubilant, because despite all odds their party won.

And I asked myself—who really won the election? 

* * *

As a small child, Reb Zalman Aharon (the “Raza”), the older brother of Rebbe Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch (the “Rashab”), often complained that he was noticeably shorter than his younger brother.

One day, the Raza snuck up behind his brother and pushed him lightly into a small ditch. As the Rashab stood up in surprise, the Raza seized the moment and pointed out that now he was taller.

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (the "Maharash"), the father of the two boys, observed the entire episode. The Rebbe asked for a chair, ordered the Raza to stand on it, and asked him, “Tell me, who’s taller now?”

The Raza answered excitedly that yet again he was taller.

 “Aha!” said Rabbi Shmuel. “There you are! To be bigger than your friend, there is no need to pull him down. Simply elevate yourself!”

* * *

When it comes to our nation, we Jews all ultimately want the same things—peace, security, comfort. And when election time comes, we argue and debate endlessly about which path will bring us to that shared goal.

But all too often we get caught up in the debate, and make the mistake of degrading and belittling those who feel differently. Instead of lifting ourselves up, we push the other person down. We all have faults, and it's easier to point out the other person's faults than to elevate and fix our own.

So, in that sense, we all lost the election.

Now we are finally post election and can begin the healing process. We need to rekindle the love we feel for each other, the love that may have become hidden over the last few months because we were so busy debating our election choices.

But we are about to mark the festival of Passover, where we celebrate our nation's freedom. After 210 years of slavery, hardship and suffering, we were finally able to become a nation. Our nation has been through a lot. But despite the strife, at the end of the day we know how to be there for one another. We know how to unite and use our collective strength to reach tremendous goals.  

Let's use this Passover season to strengthen our unity, and then we will have all won the election together.

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