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Parshas Pekudai - El Al Part III                            5 Adar II, 5784

03/14/2024 10:16:00 PM


The seventeenth of Adar will be the seventh yahrzeit of my mother a”h. There is a halachik dispute regarding which Adar a person observes the Yahrzeit when someone passed in a year when there is only one Adar. Most poskim/halachik decisors hold it to be in the first Adar, with a minority opinion arguing to hold it in the second Adar. Nevertheless, there are those who observe both dates of Adar I and Adar II. Although there are some differences, I choose to observe both, but, as mentioned above, most poskim regard the first Adar as the primary choice and therefore I went to Israel at that time. Some of you may remember reading the actions I took when returning from Israel during the Shiva for my mother a”h, securing a minyan to daven with and not to miss a kaddish. I was extra careful not to miss a kaddish as the only son able to say kaddish for our parents. I flew United Airlines through San Francisco, grabbed my luggage, left the airport, caught an Uber to Chabad and caught a bare minyan, turned around, zipped back to the airport, and caught a commuter flight to San Diego.  Davening with a minyan and saying kaddish during Shiva was a must. All this was necessary because I was a frequent United Airlines flier and not El Al. If I had flown on El Al I’m sure I wouldn’t have had to go through so many hoops.

Fast forward seven years. I am now flying on El Al to Israel for my mother’s a”h yahrzeit. Truth be told, my tickets were booked on United prior to October 7th We waited until January to determine if United would resume its scheduled flights to Israel. They did not.  We cancelled United and booked on El Al.  Part III focuses on another major distinction between airlines. As a Rabbi, I’m never ashamed or embarrassed to call out loud to an area full of Jews: ”Mincha, mincha”, or”Maariv, maariv” at the gate of the terminal . In the ten years flying out of San Francisco, I was only able to secure one minyan. All other times I davened by myself and asked a nephew to recite kaddish for his grandparent during the tefilla/service I missed. This recent trip flying on El Al out of JFK I found myself in waiting to board in a room filled with religious Jews.  The epiphany I had at that moment, arriving late, quickly surveying the room to find a minyan was as follows: On the United flight from San Francisco there was always a room full of Jews. I always asked for anyone who had not davened Maariv to join me. No one davened Maariv and no one seemed to want to daven Maariv. Here, at the El Al area of JFK, I was in a room filled with Jews. I knew that everyone who was sitting and relaxing had already davened Maariv.. The most fortunate end to searching for a minyan as it got closer to boarding was that there was always one more minyan to be held at the very last moment! Perhaps three articles in a row discussing the reasons to fly El Al gives me a Chazaka to sign up for the El Al Matmid (frequent flyer) program.

One of the most unique features of a flying, especially when it is a long flight, is that despite differences of backgrounds, religious observance, and individual levels of learning, everyone is on the journey together. With that said, flying on ordinary airline passengers are all stuck together, but on El Al the majority of the passengers are primarily a bunch of Jews all stuck together. We are all in a sanctuary, flying together - one people, the children of Hashem. This idea is strengthened in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshas Pekudei the Torah states in Shmos 40:34 "ויכס הענן את אהל מועד, וכבוד ה' מלא את המשכן"   “The cloud covered the Communion Tent, and God’s glory filled the Tabernacle”. The Ramban explains this as a feeling of holiness, while the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim writes God’s glory formed an actual physical glow in the Mishkan. The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim 1:19 writes that God’s presence was evident in the Mishkan. The Admo”r Rebbi Yaakov Aryeh from Rahdzyman, explains why the Mishkan had this holiness or light: it was self-evident that God’s presence was present. What was the key element that brought down the Shechina, God’s essence and presence into the Mishkan? The rebbe explains that the entire Mishkan was full of Ahavas Yisroel, a peak love that the Jewish people had for each other which was the silver lining for Hashem. The Mishkan, with all its materials, and the contents, the keilim/utensils, all came through the Jews giving faithfully and without compulsion to the construction of the Mishkan. It was the bold strength and relentless desire of every single Jew to contribute as much as he or she personally could. When these conditions are met, coming together specifically to give, the only possible result would be that Hashem’s presence would come to rest on the Tabernacle. When there is no dissension, when there is only giving from a pure heart, this reveals itself to be the recipe God yearns for all of us to attain. Once the Jewish people give up on any of the things that merely occupy space -  infighting, exhibiting lack of respect, lack of concern for one another, the powerful, positive feeling of unity is lost. This, in turn, causes no ‘room’ or space for Hashem to be.   Once that space is opened, the flow of the Shechina flows into the Mishkan. Therefore, the honor of Hashem filled the Mishkan.

At the conclusion of each of the five Books of Moshe, we call out “Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik”. These words deliver a powerful message to the Jewish people. There is a reason why we conclude each sefer of the Torah with this phrase. During the past six months, the Jewish people have come together.  We have witnessed Hashem’s presence in formidable, miraculous ways. When we see and feel this achdus and unity, we get to see the physical presence of God. Declaring these words for all of Klal Yisroel to hear gives all of us a depth of strength and reinforcement. Perhaps next time we take off on an El Al flight, we should rise and say, “Chazak Chazak V’Nischazeik!”

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784