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Coming In for a Landing

by Rabbi Yeruchom Eilfort


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On a recent excursion into Los Angeles I was mesmerized by a stunning sight in the nighttime sky. (Fortunately, I was not the driver!) There were about a dozen airplanes on final approach to LAX, strung like a string of lighted pearls against the velvety black night. Although this was not a particularly unique sight, there was something special that struck me about it on that particular evening.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that one should endeavor to apply everything encountered to one's service of G-d. This message flashed through my mind, and so I attempted to find a lesson for what I was witnessing. It did not take me long to realize that there is much to learn from an airplane on "final approach".

In most instances, for the duration of a flight the aircraft is in "auto pilot," during which time the crew does little, except to baby-sit the flight computer. An occasional glance at a gauge or dial, check of the charts and maps, and maybe a passing pleasantry with an air traffic controller whose airspace is being traversed, is practically the extent of the crew's role. With the exception of some bad weather, mechanical malfunction, or some other unforeseen circumstance, the routine is relatively simple.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that one should endeavor to apply everything encountered to one's service of G-d.
However, the final approach is a different story. Airspeed, altitude, and alignment are meticulously checked and rechecked. At that critical juncture, nothing is taken for granted, and the crew's full concentration is necessary.

We, the Jewish People, are on a "final approach" of sorts. This long, tiresome exile is finally coming to a close, as the Era of Redemption looms ever larger on the horizon. This being the case, it's time to reestablish manual control of the airplane as we embark on the final approach to our destiny. There are many steps which must be taken to prepare for our imminent arrival.

For the 3,300-plus years of the Jewish national existence, our course has been clearly plotted. Along the way, we Jews have experienced quite a bit of turbulence; however, the course has remained ever constant. Individually and collectively, we must now consciously confirm that we are properly aligned. We must be careful, as there are powerful cross winds at work -- negative forces and various forms of resistance that complicate our safe arrival. Now is the time to ensure that the entire airplane is in a state of "All Systems Go!"

Although there is extra effort involved with a manual operation of the airplane, everyone will agree that it is well worth the extra effort to ensure a safe arrival. We are, after all, speaking of the Messianic Era. A time of universal peace and brotherhood. A time of complete emancipation for Jews the world over. A time when all of our material needs will be met without worry and aggravation. Disease will be eradicated, as will poverty and other evils. We will finally be able to focus all of our attention on what is really important. A time when, in the words of the prophet (Isaiah 11:9), "the earth will be filled of knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea."

The long journey is at its end. Now is the time to lower the landing gear. Please remember to keep your seat belt fastened until the pilot has turned off the "Fasten Seat belt" sign. Check around your place for your personal items (mitzvahs), and thank you for choosing Judaism (or did Judaism choose you?) for the journey of a lifetime!


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Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.