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Emergency Landing!

Blog.JPGA few weeks ago I received a phone call from Boaz*—who joined our Belev Echad program after being severely sounded in Gaza a few years back. I was thrilled to hear he was visiting New York with a friend, and I began to plan some exciting activities for them.  

I called my good friend Robert Keleti, a pilot with over 40 years experience who has never yet turned down my requests to treat our wounded soldiers to private plane rides over New York City. As predicted, this truly kindhearted pilot readily and graciously agreed to take Boaz and his friend up for a spin. 

I asked Robert about the danger involved, and he said "Yes, it's very dangerous and I mean the ride from the city to the airport!"

With my well-known fear of heights, it would take a lot—and I mean a lot!—to get me up in one of those tiny planes, and I always cringe when sending our soldiers up. Will they be ok? What if something happens? But I remind myself that Robert is one of the best pilots out there and he was even awarded Best Flight Instructor of Republican Airport in Farmingdale, Long Island. That, and a prayer, and I bite my nails until they return. 

As it went, this time something did happen. The front wheel jammed and the only option was a belly landing which carries risk of damage to the aircraft possibly resulting in a fire or even a complete 180 flip of the aircraft. 

My worst fears were realized but fortunately Robert quickly tapped into his immense knowledge and experience and landed the plane nose down with ease. Everybody emerged from the aircraft safe and sound having had the experience of a lifetime! 

Later, I asked Robert if he had been afraid. "I've trained for this so many times," he explained. "There are precise protocols and procedures in place, and it is vital to remain calm and composed to execute a safe landing."

In this week's Torah portion, we read about Avraham who found himself in a precarious situation with all odds stacked against him. He was 100 years old and physically incapable to having children. But he maintained his faith in G-d, followed the "protocol" laid out by G-d Himself, and ultimately was blessed with a miracle son. 

We all face upheaval and challenges in our lives. Maintaining our belief in G-d can help get us through the hard times. 

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Let go Zalman!

1xy2zh.gifA few weeks ago I took my kids to a play center called Jozi Eggs, where my fearless six-year-old insisted he wanted to attempt the very tall monkey bars. He climbed the ladder and swung from the first bar to the second effortlessly, but then he looked down and it hit him just how high up he was.

He froze.

Then he started crying.

I tried to help him, but he was too high up to be reachable from the ground, too far in to be reached from the ladder. The ground, however, was very well padded, so I encouraged him to let go and drop. For two minutes I tried, to no avail. He hung there miserably until he lost his grip and fell safely onto the cushioned floor.

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It reminded me of the well known joke:

Jack was walking along a steep cliff when he got too close to the edge and began to plummet. On the way down he managed to grab hold of a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down, and saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet.

He couldn't hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb back up the steep wall, so he began yelling for help, hoping that some passerby by would hear and lower a rope or something.

"HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? HELP!"

He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice.

"Jack! Jack! Can you hear me?"

"Yes, yes! I hear you. I'm down here!"

"I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?"

"Yes, but not for much longer! Who are you? Where are you? I can't see you."

"I am G-d. I'm everywhere."

"G-d, please help me! I promise if you get me outta here I'll stop sinning. I'll be a really good person. I'll serve You for the rest of my life."

"Easy on the promises, Jack. Let's get you down, then we can talk. Now, here's what I want you to do. Listen carefully."

"I'll do anything, G-d. Just tell me what to do."

"Okay. Let go of the branch."

"What?"

"I said, let go of the branch. Just trust Me. Let go."

There was a long silence. Finally Jack yelled, "HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?"

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Our lives are like the hectic flood waters we read about in this week's Torah portion. They toss us around from place to place, meeting to meeting, from Facebook to Instagram, to Whatsapp to Snapchat.

 We all have rising waters to contend with: The stresses of daily life, business deals gone sour, arguments with family members, work and social pressures... The tumultuous whirlpools of these daily pressures threaten to engulf us and take us down.

And that is when G-d offers us a lifeline. Enter the Ark, he says. I've created a sanctuary for you: There's Torah, there's Shabbat. Come inside. Give it a try. Turn off your smartphone, your computer, your TV, escape the hecticness for 25 hours. It is the greatest gift you can bestow upon yourself. Let go and leap, says G-d. Don't worry, I'll catch you. 

The Hebrew word for ark is "teiva" which can also mean "word," or more specifically, words of Torah. Just as Noach saved himself and his family by entering that structure, we can save ourselves by entering the haven that Torah creates in our life. 

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