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I’m Scared (Terrified!) of Heights

blogvigler.jpegI flew to Montreal on Sunday, to visit my son in camp. You may not know, but I have an intense fear of heights. I stay away from mountains and cliffs, and although I do fly frequently, every time I board a plane I am gripped with fear. Add in a smaller-than-usual aircraft and the fear increases exponentially. 

There is a prayer to say when travelling—Tefillat Haderech, and boy do I concentrate on saying it with the proper intention as the plane leaves the ground...

This time, I was traveling with my 8-year-old son. Thankfully, he has not inherited my fear of heights and requested a window seat so he could have a clear view—something I would never do!

He could not contain his excitement. “Tatty, look how small the cars are! Look at the clouds! See how little those buildings look!” I certainly don’t want to pass my fear on to him, so I forced myself to look and enthuse, all the while silently praying that we don’t crash. 

All I could think was, “What happens if we crash?” As we began our descent, I was busy calculating, “Would this be a safe distance to fall?” until the plane finally touched down and I breathed a sigh of relief. Safe at last. 

So how do I cope? It’s not like I can just avoid flying—I’ve traveled internationally three times in the last two months! I try to lay eyes on the pilot as I board, and I tell myself I have to trust the pilot’s training and experience. I tell myself that it’s safer to fly than to drive, and I try to relax as much as is possible. I don’t think I’ll ever be a calm flier, but I’m managing.

In this week’s haftarah, the prophet Micha describes the Jews as people who don’t rely on man. We rely only on G-d. All of us are on a journey, and we all have fears—health, livelihood, child-rearing...there is no lack of challenges.  

Although, of course, we are expected to make an effort, it’s important to recognize that it is G-d, our pilot, Who provides us with our needs. Yes, we need to go out and work, but ultimately the work doesn’t generate the income—G-d does. Yes, we need to take care of our bodies, see doctors, engage in healthy behaviors, but health is a gift from G-d. It is not a direct result of our efforts.  

No matter what life throws at us, the only one Who can help us is G-d. He is the one we have to turn to—in times of distress, and also in times of plenty. It is our responsibility to have utmost faith that He will take care of us, no matter what challenges come our way.  

So relax on your flight, G-d is the greatest pilot!

Can You Guarantee Our AC Will Work?

A few weeks ago our Chabad house air conditioning needed repair. New York City summers are notoriously hot and sticky, so it was quite urgent. Thank G-d, our congregants were patient and continued coming to shul in the meantime!

I had a technician come down, take a look, and give us an estimate. For some reason it required two trips, but he assessed that the unit was installed in the ‘70s and would cost $69,995 to fix.
I thanked him for his time. There’s a lot we can do with $70,000, but we’re certainly not going to spend that to fix the AC.

I called a second technician who also came multiple times before sending us an estimate of $4832. My initial reaction was glee. We would save $65,000 with this guy! But the discrepancy seemed too extreme. How could they be charging such vastly different prices for the same job? Something didn’t sit right.

I emailed him back, “I’ll pay the $4832 if you can guarantee me that the AC will work when you’re done. After I see that it’s running properly, I’ll pay you.” Unsurprisingly, he never responded.
The third technician came down and sent an estimate of $13,500, but noted that he cannot guarantee it will work even after that, because the unit is so old. He suggested we install an entirely new system which will cost around $18,000.
And that’s what we did. Thank G-d, our AC is now working and shul is once more a cool and pleasant place to be.  
But the truth is, there are no guarantees in life. The one and only thing we can rely on is G-d.
We read in the Torah, “If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them, I will give your rains in their time, the Land will yield its produce, and the tree of the field will give forth its fruit.”

And our sages teach, “G-d never remains in debt.”

It couldn’t be clearer. If we follow the Torah, He guarantees us goodness in return. When we do a mitzvah, He will pay us back. It’s the only thing we can rely on with 100% assurance.

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