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Parshas Ki Sisa - What's in a Cup?      20 Adar 1, 5784

02/29/2024 08:25:46 AM


So, is airline loyalty worth it? The question has been around for decades, but these days the value is more dependent on your travel habits than anything else. The amount you fly most often correlates to the loyalty benefits you can earn and, equally important, just how much value you’ll find in those perks. Travel perks such as free upgrades, airport lounge access, priority check-in, waived fees, and VIP treatment are enticing — and enviable. Considerations regarding convenience – or inconvenience – of transfer locations and points of available destinations are important.  But these incentives often come at a cost, like picking a flight that is more expensive or more inconvenient than a better flight with another airline.

Aside from travel frequency, there are other factors to consider. With today’s turbulent airline industry, it makes more sense than ever to evaluate the costs and benefits of sticking with one airline. And then there’s the fact that the barrier to entry is quite low with any frequent flier program, as there are no sign-up costs involved with starting an airline account. Anyone can take advantage of airline loyalty programs, and you can begin accumulating points even if you don’t fly with one airline exclusively. Even just a few international flights can start you at the airline’s minimum status. As with most things in life, there are pros and cons. We all need to consider all the factors before arriving at a final choice of airline.

Ultimately, whether you choose to pursue airline loyalty or not will depend on what you value most when you travel; the decision of booking with a single airline for all your travel is very personal. Until recently, the strongest case for airline loyalty has come down to travel frequency. For those who are always on the go, it made sense to choose an airline that works best for your schedule needs and reap the rewards of loyalty. The advantages of your airline’s status consistently far outweighed any disadvantages. But if finding the lowest price or most convenient flight every time you book is most important, loyalty won’t be as valuable to you. For those who are in between, it’s a good idea to sign up for free with the airlines that you fly most frequently and start earning points and benefits slowly but surely. These points still hold true...except the current situation of booking a flight into and out of Israel.

My family adopted the loyalty route, trying to stick with one airline. We have primarily flown United even to Israel, choosing it over El Al. It was not an easy decision, nevertheless we did. Until recently. Due to the war, all airlines canceled their Israel destination. I needed to book a second ticket to my recent trip to Israel on El Al. Not only is El Al flying when all other airlines are not; they are more than competitive regarding pricing and upgrading. Furthermore, there are many advantages to flying the national Jewish airline in general, but there was one innovative thing I experienced on El Al that you won’t find on any other airline. Inside each restroom there is a small, two-handled mini washing cup attached to the wall. This could be used for washing one’s hands upon waking from a long sleep or to wash Netilas Yadayim for bread. I do not know how long ago this was instituted, but people made do for many years without it. So, although it is an upgrade, it also happens to be the best halachik way to wash hands. Even though one can figure out an alternative without it, it nevertheless is best to be used when available. It was such a defining moment and another official statement that this is the national Jewish airline of the Jewish people.

Jewish ritual is replete with items we use in our daily activities, Shabbos, and holidays. A washing cup is found in every Jewish home in the kitchen, bathrooms and even by some at bedsides. The importance of many of the utensils and furniture we use throughout our lives comes directly from the Mishkan and the Beis HaMikdash - the Tabernacle and the Temple. Washing was an integral part of the Temple service, albeit without an actual cup, as we see in the following description.  

In this week’s Parsha Ki Sisa the Torah states in Shmos 30:18:  "ועשית כיור נחשת וכנו נחשת לרחצה ונתת אתו בין אהל מועד ובין המזבח ונתת שמה מים"  - “Make a copper washstand along with a copper base for it. Place it between the altar and the Communion Tent and fill it with water for washing and place the water there”. Reb Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, in his commentary Meshech Chochmah, presents a challenge. The wording should have been “and place the water in it”  rather than writing “put it there”. Reb Meir Simcha explains that every ministering vessel used in the Mishkan/Tabernacle was fit to sanctify (by washing) the hands and feet. This did not necessarily require the washing to be done from the water in the Laver. The Gemara in Zevachim 21b states; “The priests may sanctify their hands and feet from all vessels, whether they can hold a quarter-log of water 22a  בין שאין בהן רביעית ובלבד שיהו כלי שרת or they cannot hold a quarter-log of water, provided that they are service vessels.” Apparently, the basin need not hold so much water. Rav Adda bar Acḥa explains: The braisa is referring to a case where one drills a hole in the basin and places a much smaller vessel at the hole as a conduit for the water. Even if that vessel is very small, the priest may sanctify his hands and feet from it, provided there is enough water in the basin for four priests. The Gemara asks: But doesn’t the Merciful One state that the priests must wash their hands and feet “from it,” i.e., from the basin and not from another vessel? The Gemara responds: The following verse repeats the phrase “they should wash,” to include any service vessel. The Gemara concludes that the requirement isn’t to have the washing from a vessel, rather the washing must take place in that space between the Tent of Meeting and the altar. That is why the verse specifically states that the water had to be placed there.  The essential part is the place; even if there was no water in the Kiyor/Laver itself, the water had to be put there!

When it comes to airlines and perks, they are generally all the same, apart from El Al. Yes, it may cost a few more dollars, true they may not have as many convenient flights as others, but there are perks and advantages that El Al provides exclusively for the Jewish passenger. Furthermore, throughout Israel’s war against Hamas and the growing tensions to the north against Hezbollah, El Al continues to fly, often carrying massive amounts of needed supplies for the soldiers and refugees who have had to flee from both the south and the north of Israel.  And carries full plane loads of these vital supplies at no cost. It says in Pirkei Avos, ”Do not look at the jug but rather look what is inside”. The Kiyor is important, but it’s the water inside that purifies. A plane is a means of transportation; the most significant part of the trip is not what airline we are flying, but who we are flying with!

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784