missed flight

Friday, 23 February, 2024 - 4:09 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Last week I shared an incredulous story of Divine Providence where a young mans life was saved in three miraculous ways.

Where can I go from that?

Something more stupendous?

Counterintuitively, I want to tell a story of Divine Providence at the opposite spectrum, in the most mundane details of life.

You see, many see the hand of G-d in the big items of life. I recall a person who missed the Silk Air flight that crashed in 1997.

I dug up the letter I wrote back then to the person who miraculously was saved.

December 1997

Dear G,

I thank you so much for sharing with me the story of your personal miracle last week in which you missed the ill-fated flight on Silk Air (because of being stuck in the traffic) and thereby saved your life. THANK G-D.

As we discussed briefly no one walks away from such an experience unchanged and certainly being presented by G-d with a special gift of life begs at least a revaluation.

While giving charity is certainly appropriate at this time, I think that this is not yet sufficient to put the feelings of gratitude into their proper perspective. My humble suggestion is that you add in some of G-d’s commandments as in the Shabbat (the night the event occurred) first of all to try avoiding travelling on the Shabbat at all costs (certainly not by plane) and to light candles (before the Shabbat comes in – Friday before sunset) and make Kidush. I also suggested the putting on of Tefillin (if not every morning, then) at least once a week and preferably on a day when the kids are home and can see you doing this (i.e. Sunday).

While this may seem somewhat difficult at first I am sure you will agree that the tremendous tragedy that was averted deserves some kind of focus on the “real things of life” those that don’t get affected by currency devaluation's recessions  etc. the doing of good deeds - Mitzvot

I hope you accept this letter in the good spirit it was written as a friend who is genuinely happy for you all and wishes for your physical and spiritual well-being. May we merit speedily the coming of Mashiach when disasters will be a thing of the past, Amen.





Ever since that event, when someone tells me that they missed a flight, I ask them the rhetorical question ‘if you were to hear that the flight had an accident, would you still be upset that you missed your flight?

After they say ‘no, of course not. If I knew there would be trouble with the plane, I would be happy that I missed the flight’. I then continue ‘so please have mercy and pity on the other passengers who did make it on the flight and pray that they arrive at their destination safely, and still be happy that you missed the flight’.

The really ‘big moments’ of life are few and far between. Many people are open to seeing the Divine input in those seminal events.

It is the daily ‘grind’ and ‘routine’ of life in which we would do well to infuse and inject with meaning.

Finding Divine Providence in the mundane and ordinary is transformational. It is a recipe for injecting meaning and joy into every aspect of our daily lives.

This week I had a wonderful Divine Providence that involved something as mundane as the timing of hearing a joke.

Yep, you heard it, a joke. A good friend in our local community supplies me with (kosher) jokes and on Monday morning just as I was preparing to give a short class via Zoom, a new joke came to my inbox. One of them grabbed my attention and in honor of the month of Adar in which we are instructed to be joyous, I decided to open my class with this joke. Albeit feeling a little bit strange to start a Torah class with an unrelated joke, cute as it may be.

Here is the joke I shared.

Sarah was recently married and called her mother one evening in tears. "Mom, I tried to make Bubbie’s brisket for dinner tonight, and it's just awful! I followed the recipe exactly, and I know I have the recipe right because it's the one you gave me. But it just didn't come out right, and I'm so upset. I wanted this to be so special for Chaim because he loves brisket. What could have gone wrong?"

Sarah’s mother replied soothingly, "Well, Sarah, let's go through the recipe. You read it out loud and tell me exactly what you did at each step, and together we'll figure it out."

"OK," Sarah sniffled. "Well, it starts out, 'Take two dollars’ worth of brisket' ..."

(In the grandmother’s era, two dollars of brisket was a sizeable chunk, today it is a thimbleful if even that).

As I was telling the joke, wondering why I had this urge to share this joke at this class, I realized that it was perfectly aligned with the lesson I was giving (a repetition of the post shacharit daily Chumash class at Synagogue which I had given just moments earlier).

The topic of the lesson was the diminishment of prophecy and ‘holy spirit’ (ruach hakodesh) after the first Bet Hamikdash times.

The Parsha relates as follows (Kehot interpolated translation)

Into the  fold of the Breastplate of Judgment you shall place  a parchment inscribed with God’s Name. This parchment shall be known as ‘the urim and tumim,’  since it makes the Breastplate into a shining [or ] and precise [ tamim ] oracle: it will cause the letters of the tribal names inscribed on the stones set in the Breastplate to light up in sequence, spelling out the answer to questions of national importance posed by the king or leader. Placed inside the fold of the Breastplate, the urim  and tumim shall be over Aaron’s heart whenever he comes before God , i.e.,into the Sanctuary.  Thus attired, Aaron shall carry the instrument of judgment for the Israelites over his heart at all times  he enters the Sanctuary and stands before God.  The Breastplate serves as an oracle only by virtue of the urim  and tumim . Nonetheless, they are not an integral component of the Breastplate; if they are missing, the high priest is still considered fully and properly attired despite the fact that the Breastplate cannot function as an oracle.

Click here for more on this topic.

In talking about the diminishment of the levels of holiness as the world gets spiritually darker the joke about the diminishing value of money fits right in.

This theme of increasing darkness is mentioned in the Talmud Sota 49a ‘Rava says, each and every day is more cursed than the previous one’.

On the surface it sounds very negative.

The Torah is a book of ‘life’ and ‘light’, Why would the Talmud, a book of the Torah, proclaim something that seems so bleak?

The Rebbe explained this as being a call to action. Not G-d forbid a just ‘for your information’ morbid statement of fact. When there is a purpose in sharing ‘bad news’ to do something practical to rectify it, then the ‘kid gloves are taken off’ and the facts, as unpleasant as they may seem, are shared in the clearest way possible.

There is a tendency for us humans to be comfortable in a particular zone and with a particular level of energy output. Comes the Talmud and tells us in vivid language that our energetic efforts of doing goodness and kindness and shedding light that were enough for yesterday, are no longer enough for today.

The world today is darker than yesterday.

And since the world is getting even darker, the efforts of today will not suffice to brighten the world tomorrow.

We can not rest. We need to constantly advance, even if just to keep the status quo.

When trying to climb up an escalator going the wrong way, energy is needed merely not to fall lower.

This is an urgent call to action. A wake-up call for those who may be tempted to slumber or stagnate or just coast along on ‘cruise control’.

Forward march.

Upward climb.

More good deeds.

More Torah.

More shining altruistic behaviors.

No, we cannot just look at what worked in the past and continue the status quo saying all the while that ‘I am doing enough already’.

The Talmud gives us the clarity to know that today the world is more challenging and requires more positive input than ever before.

Two dollars’ worth of brisket was a small meal in the earlier parts of the 1900’s. In the 2000’s it is hardly a smidgen.

The Talmud tells us that in the spiritual world too, there is a decline. We need to do better to get the same results.

And we are blessed by modernity with all its amenities to have more time at our disposal.

) The huge entertainment industries of Hollywood and it’s like are testimony to the ‘disposable’ time available to a large swath of the population).

We also have more access to knowledge and information.

This means that we are able to do deepen our knowledge, and dedicate more time to do much more good activity and thus light up the world with G-d’s light of deeds of goodness and kindness – mitzvot.

Prayers for our brethren all over the world and especially for security and peace in Israel, for the safe return of the hostages, healing of the wounded and for the safety of our soldiers and most importantly for Mashiach to come and usher in Shalom speedily in our days.

With blessings for a joyous and happy ‘Purim Katan’ - ‘minor’ Purim.

Today would be Purim if not for the extra month of the Jewish leap year this year. click here for more info.

Save the date for ‘major’ Purim on Saturday night/Sunday March 23/24.

Shabbat Shalom with much joy.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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