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What's the future of travel industry?

Friday, 26 June, 2020 - 5:13 am

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Will be people resume traveling after the virus is brought under control like they did before the virus?

The entire travel industry worldwide is wondering the same thing.

I don’t think anyone really knows the answer.

How about working in offices. Will people continue working remotely or will they resume commuting to offices. 

Lots of opinions about this.

Real estate values in cities like New York is very dependent on office rentals. Nobody knows whether that will come back or not.

How about parties and celebrations?

Now that many weddings have taken place in backyards under very basic and modest conditions, will big, large-attendance weddings come back?

There are many similar uncertainties about what our lives will look like after this big disruption. 

Here is another one. A more spiritual one, but perhaps it will help shed light on the subject.

From times yore, it has been a tradition to seek out wisdom by journeying to the great Jewish sages and leaders. Just like Moses was sought out for advice by the Jewish people as they journeyed for forty years through the desert. 

In a nutshell, the Jewish people is analogous to one body, each of us representing and different part of the body. The Tzadik is the ‘head’ of this collective Jewish ‘body’. In recent centuries it became a well-entrenched Chasidic tradition to visit the Rebbe, the ‘collective head’ (also known as the ‘collective soul’) to get spiritually reinvigorated and to realign and fortify their connection with Almighty G-d.

Besides for the wisdom and Torah knowledge that is gained by visiting one’s Rebbe, there is also a vital ‘accountability’ and ‘realignment’ that visiting the Rebbe engenders.  

It is so easy to lose sight of our spiritual goals and missions. We all have egos. Our impulses are vulnerable to the pulls and attractions of materialism and indulgence. It need not even be a vast divergence from the course. It takes but a slight deviation from ones intended route, to eventually become an (almost) irreparable great gap. 

The function of a Moses-like Jewish leader, is to remain steadfast and unwavering in their commitment to G-d and Torah. Thus, the leader serves as an inspiration and lighthouse empowering and enabling the people to stay committed and inspired to the best of their ability. 

Since the Rebbe lives in the same contemporary physical world as his students and is aware of the contemporary challenges posed by material life and its myriad temptations, the student knows that his masters hopes for him are achievable. They are not unrealistic and beyond the scope of reality. 

True connections are built around love. It’s a two-way street.

You become attached and connected to those you love. 

You love those to whom you are attached and connected.

When there is no connection and love, when you don’t care about that other person, living up to their expectations of you is quite unimportant.

It’s the reverse when you respect and love someone. You don’t want to let them down. Even if it means working hard and putting your own self-interest somewhat to the side.

This, says Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch in a Chasidic text on the subject, is one of the reasons for traveling to a Rebbe. Seeing one’s spiritual master awakens the love. It fosters a recommitment by the visitor to employ the means needed to live up to the lofty expectations of his teacher from him. 

When the teacher passes away, this is achieved by visiting the physical resting space.

Continues the text, ‘what if the person is unsure whether he truly feels that love for his Rebbe any more’? 

The answer to that is ‘since he had a desire to travel to the resting place of the Tzadik and he acted on that desire, this is a sign that the love is still there, at last in a minimal way’. If he no longer cared, he wouldn’t inconvenience himself to make the journey.

It is a custom to visit the resting place of a Tzadik and pray there on the auspicious day of passing.

For twenty-five years I have been blessed to be able to fulfil that tradition and it has always been a very special, meaningful and spiritual journey. 

In reflecting on what visiting the Ohel usually means to me, I realized that indeed coming to the Rebbe’s Ohel on his yahrtzeit was always an opportunity to fortify my connection and reassess how well I was living up to the Rebbe’s expectations of me in terms of my commitment to Hashem and His Torah. 

Every year I ask myself the following question. 

Am I still sensitive to the relationship of love with the soul of my Rebbe? Has the passage of time diminished my connection? 

Perhaps...

However, one thing is for certain. The feeling of love and connection is still there. The Chasidic treatise says it clearly. If you cared enough to travel to your Rebbe, you obviously still have a connection.

Yesterday was the Yartzeit, the 26th anniversary of passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory. As the ‘Shepherd’ of the Jewish people, the great ascent that his righteous soul enjoys at this anniversary, translates to great blessings for all of the beloved flock, the People of Israel.

This year I couldn’t go to NY to visit his Ohel.

Of course I was disappointed that I could not physically travel but I was also forced to give the matter deep thought.

It was not at all an indication of whether my connection was still strong. The disruption of this virus has changed life for everyone. I wanted to go. I just couldn’t go. Thank G-d, I still had a very meaningful observance of the Rebbe’s yahrtzeit this year.

In a certain way, because of the inability to participate in the usual way, I felt the yearning and connection even more.

In our age of technology, I can even have my notes printed out and placed on the Rebbe’s resting place. Indeed, so can you via www.ohelchabad.org (there are guidelines in several languages on this site).

But if next year the borders are open and I am able to travel, what will I do?

I don’t know. Hopefully Mashiach will have come long before and the question will be irrelevant.

Clearly though, making an effort to travel and be present at an important destination or event is a sign that you care.

Will people really tell their relatives and friends, ‘I won’t be attending the wedding of your child because I learned from the Corona that the world won’t fall apart even if I stay home’?

Will the human desire to escape normal life and travel to exotic vacations really change because of these few months that it was not possible to travel?

Will we really not do in-person meetings because we have learned about zoom?

Only time will tell.

However, if expending effort for something shows the endearment and cultivates it will we really do away with making efforts in building interpersonal relationships?

This is a deeper look at challenges in general. When things something go awry and Hashem seems more distant from us, it is that Hashem intends to push us away. G-d forbid. Rather, it is in order for us to be even more thirsty for Him and thus generate even greater efforts by us to overcome the apparent distance.

Is it not entirely possible, that the great thirst being built up for human interaction because of the extended lockdowns will cause to an even greater rebound after the full reopening?

I for one, hope to cherish and relish the in-person interactions with people once they are returned to me.

A handshake. A communal meal. Brotherly backslapping. And yes, the ability to get onto a plane to travel for something that is very meaningful to me.

All of the above are not just things I like. Or you like. 

G-d Almighty likes us to do them. He has told us in His Torah that He cherishes the efforts we make for togetherness. 

The Torah is all about Shalom, peace. There is nothing more peace enhancing than camaraderie. Zoom helps when there is no choice. But once we are able to safely fully reopen, I think the Torah mandates us to resume social NEARNESS!!!!

I cannot wait!!!!! 

And once we are talking about not being able to wait… I can’t wait to have G-d’s nearness. We can’t wait for Mashiach to come. Then we will finally be totally at one with G-d. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor




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