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Parshas Shlach - Be Careful What You Wish For       27 Sivan 5780

06/19/20 11:09:14


What do airlines, electricity, teenagers, tumah (spiritual impurity) and self-esteem have in common? The answer is that in one form or another, the term “grounded” is used at some point in time with each of them. The meaning of the word “grounded” depends upon the context in which it is used. The examples above are a mix of good and bad, positive and negative. The terms grounded and grounding are very similar, but their meanings are quite different.

There are times when ‘grounded’ has a completely positive meaning. To be grounded means you are solid with whom you are. You are sure of yourself; you have confidence in your decisions… you trust yourself. To be grounded means you pay attention not only to yourself but to what is going on around you.

Electricity, which can be viewed as a form of fire, can be very helpful or extremely harmful. When using fire, we take as many precautions as possible, and we should do the same with electricity. Wiring is tricky; in any electrical circuit, two wires – the “hot wire” and the “neutral” or grounded wire - are needed to complete a circuit. The neutral, or grounded wire, is most correctly referred to as a "grounded neutral conductor”, but for simplicity’s sake it’s typically referred to as "the neutral" or "the ground wire". A "grounding" wire, on the other hand, is a safety wire that has intentionally been connected to earth. The grounding wire does not carry electricity under normal circuit operations. Its purpose is to carry electrical current only under short circuit or other conditions that would be potentially dangerous. Grounding wires serve as an alternate path for the current to flow back to the source, rather than go through someone touching a dangerous appliance or electrical box.

In terms of spiritual impurity known as ‘Tumah’, the only objects susceptible to becoming ritually impure are people, keilim (either clothing, utensils), liquids and foods. Items attached to the ground and the ground or the earth itself are not subject to Tumah. Tumah / spiritual impurity does not take effect when something is “grounded”. Perhaps the reason for this is that without something being grounded everything in the world would be susceptible to ritual impurity by virtue of the fact that everything is connected. The ground serves as some kind of ‘home base’ whereby it has immunity from the impurity.

Unfortunately, we are still in the midst of the pandemic and are enduring a grounding in the aviation sector. This comes at great cost financially, emotionally, and physically. Most recently, in March 2019, aviation authorities worldwide grounded the Boeing 737 MAX passenger airliner after 346 people died in two plane crashes - Lion Air Flight 610 on October 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10, 2019.

As travel restrictions continue amid the ongoing spread of coronavirus, a record number of planes have been grounded. At least 70 airlines around the world grounded themselves completely, according to Cowen Investment Bank. These included heavy hitting airlines such as Emirates and Etihad and low-cost behemoths like EasyJet. Other top carriers, including Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, and Singapore Airlines at one point canceled up to 95 percent of their flights. U.S. carriers were not far behind: American Airlines suspended 80 percent of its domestic flights and 90 percent of its international flights into May; Southwest parked 50 of its 750 jets; United cut its April domestic schedule by more than 60 percent and , like most U.S. airlines, cut most of its international flights, planning deeper cuts into June; Delta had at least 600 planes grounded at one point or another. Early on, at the peak of the virus, up to 80 percent of the world’s overall fleet could have been grounded as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions, Peter Harbison, chairman of the industry group Centre for Aviation, told the Financial Times. A unique story/incident regarding “grounding” happened to Ben Sliney, a former United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Operations Manager. His first day in this position was September 11, 2001, and he was responsible for ordering a National Ground Stop across United States airspace in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Regarding the home, grounding is a general discipline technique which is used with children and teenagers, in which one is forbidden to leave their place of residence (or sometimes their bedroom) except for required activities, which may include but are not limited to school, work, projects, essential medical care, and going to Shul. During this time period, any positive reinforcement is revoked, and certain privileges are taken away. These restrictions could include no computer (except for school work), no video games, no listening to music or watching television, losing allowance and driving privileges and not permitting opportunities to play or have fun with toys. Punishment may also include having to do extra chores. Grounding is used as an alternative to physical discipline. According to a 2000 review on child outcomes, "Grounding has been replicated as a more effective disciplinary alternative than spanking with teenagers. Grounding can backfire if the type and duration of restrictions is disproportionately severe for the behavior meant to be corrected, or if the restrictions are too difficult for the parent to enforce.” Therefore… “seichel” is required.

The negative impact regarding “being grounded” often leads to other problems. A plane's flight being canceled or a person being restricted can have adverse effects. In fact, we hear and read about the Jewish people in the desert complain about going into the land of Canaan after hearing the report of the spies. It led them to complain and sin. In effect, they expressed the desire to stay put , to be grounded in the desert rather than continue traveling to Canaan. This attitude led directly to the Jewish people’s disastrous end of wandering in the desert for forty years, dying in the desert and not entering into Eretz Yisrael.

The Torah in this week’s parsha Shlach states in Bamidbar 14:27 "עד מתי לעדה הרעה הזאת אשר המה מלינים עלי, את תלונות בני ישראל אשר המה מלינים עלי שמעתי" “How long shall this evil group exist, complaining against me? I have heard how the Israelites are complaining about me”. At the end of the very next verse Moshe tells them, “it is God’s solemn declaration that I will make your accusations against Me come true.”

I am going to take a great deal of literary license here by connecting two Hebrew words together that truly have different meanings but share the same letters. I would like to explain these words although they are not really the same but nevertheless share a strong connection. The word used in the above quote, ‘malinim’ translates to ‘complained’ while the letters inside that word are ‘lina’, which can mean rested or leftover. Because they complained, they ended up remaining in the desert, as Moshe stated, “Your accusations will come true.” In other words, since you complained you will be grounded here and remain outside of Israel.

Let us think of our own situations and be careful about what and how we express ourselves.. Heaven forbid, we do not want our words to ground us! Rather, our words should anchor us to be positive and strong in our Emunah/Faith.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Rabbi Bogopulsky’s book “Developing A Torah Personality” is available for purchase directly from him.

Mon, January 25 2021 12 Shevat 5781