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Parshas Matos/Maasei - Departures & Arrivals    29 Tammuz 5779

07/31/19 12:41:03


Well it’s back to the skies again, taking a different look from the tube. You may recall some of my past observations: “It’s all About God” in March, 2015, “The Dreaded Middle Seat” in December, 2017, “Traveling Light” in June, 2019, and another oldie from May, 2016, about “Davening on Planes”. Most of those discussions centered on things other than the passengers accompanying me on the flight. From time to time, I do engage in conversation with a fellow passenger, Jew and non-Jew alike, on various topics from “Are you from San Diego?” to the obvious inquiries about Israel and Judaism. I try to be polite, answering all the queries, depending upon how tired I am and also, in truth, upon how engaging the other person is. The route from San Diego to New York will invariably have people who are either living in New York and visiting San Diego or visiting New York and living in San Diego. Since I’ve lived half my life in each city, I make suggestions to those who are coming and going from coast to coast.

A study from British Bank HSBC in 2018, reveals that over half of the airplane passengers have struck up a conversation with a stranger while on a plane. The findings suggest that one in seven fliers makes a lasting friendship while flying, while 16% add a new business connection to their network. Now that many airlines are testing out inflight Wi-Fi, the opportunities for making connections aren't limited to shooting the breeze with your immediate neighbors. The airplane app Inflighto has a chat function which allows communication between pilot and passenger, while also promoting conversations between travelers on board. Naturally, airborne connections aren’t always ‘plane sailing’. About 48% of surveyed passengers were freaked out if fellow passengers removed their shoes; 65% are put off if another traveler displayed rudeness to a flight attendant and, of course, drinking too much is another no-no, with 46% listing it as a complaint. If you want to impress your seat buddy, respecting their personal space is -- of course -- integral. Some 37% of people hate it when passengers take up too much space in the overhead locker and 32% get overtly upset if someone uses the arm rest. Falling asleep on someone's shoulder (30%) and snoring (26%) also tend to be buzz kills. So, if you're considerate and respectful, perhaps a connection is out there just waiting on a plane you are about to board. It's just a matter of figuring out which of the 107,000 daily scheduled flights they happen to be on.

As progress through the three weeks, about to approach Rosh Chodesh Ave and the beginning of the Nine Days, we all try to do our best in the mitzvos Bein Adam LaChaveiro, the commandments between man and man. Following a flight to the East Coast only a week ago, I was struck about how many ways people find to interact with total strangers while on a plane. For the most part people on a plane are so courteous to each other. Utterances of please, thank you, excuse me, can I help you with that, and so forth are only a few of the comments I am accustomed to hearing during travel. It is also interesting to consider that the chance of every seeing those individuals again are highly unlikely, while our friends - and particularly family members who are closest to us - we tend at times to be obnoxious and rude to. I’ve sometimes wondered what happened to “that person” I was talking to on the airplane,: did they get the job, have a good visit with those they were headed to spend time with, did their trip meet their expectations or not? Is the interaction on planes limited to short, brief comments? Is there a determining factor regarding whether or not it is strictly an on-the-plane situation or beyond? The answers to this and all situations are found in the Torah.

In this week’s Parshios Mattos/Maasei the Torah states in 33:1 אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאתם ביד משה ואהרן “These are the journeys of the Israelites, who had left Egypt in organized groups under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon”. Why does the Torah need to say they left Egypt under the leadership of the two leaders? Who else would have been led them? The Midrash addresses this issue saying since the redemption of from Egypt came about through the hands of men of flesh and blood, it could not lead to an eternal state of Geulah/redemption. In other words, it is inevitable that another exile will follow this one - even after the redemption. What will make the difference between one exile and the next is determined by who is exercising it. If human beings are in charge, then it’s not permanent and a follow-up exile will occur. In contrast, when Hashem, with His honor and dignity, takes His people out of exile, it will be the last time. That final redemption will be final and eternal.

This idea is based upon the principle that man is finite and that which we do is not permanent or forever; it is subject to change from time to time and from situation to situation. In differentiating man and God, Hashem’s existence is infinite and eternal. Therefore, when Hashem does something it remains forever perfect, because He is perfect and complete. There is no need for something else to occur. When Hashem does it it is done. This is hinted to in the very first verse of the parsha: “These are the Journeys of the Israelites” noting many journeys, even after this one- departing from Egypt. These journeys and redemptions were performed by Moshe and Aaron, mere mortals who are limited by lifetimes and cannot be defined as eternal.

In a beautiful and keen Remez/hint the Roshei Teivos esplains: The first letter of each of the first four words of the parsha stand for the different exiles to come. The first letter of each of the first four words of Masei are ‘aleph, mem, beis, and yud’. Rabbi Ari Nachum Lubetski in his sefer Nachal Kedumim explains that the ‘aleph’ is for Edom, the ‘mem’ is for Madai, the ‘Beis’ is for Bavel and the ‘yud’ is for Yavan. These are the four exiles post the Egyptian story: Babyloniyan, Persian, Greek and the current Roman exile.

*Reb Yisroel Friedman, the Rebbi from Rhuzin, comments on a more philosophical angle regarding these exiles: Anytime the Torah says V’Eileh, it adds and connects to what was said previously. Here the word is Eileh - without the vav - disconnects and nullifies that which came before it. These travels of the Jewish people represent each person’s travels throughout his lifetime. When a person is on the wrong path, he needs to change direction and cut himself off from his previous actions. We are constantly traveling; we need to realize when to change course or maintain the course we are on. This three-week period is a time of re-setting our moral and halachik compass of life. This is a time we each need to focus on changing the way we treat others and making sure all future travel looks back at the mistakes of the past and the bright ultimate redemption in the near future.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky


*Ruzhin is the name of a Hasidic dynasty founded by Rabbi Yisroel Friedman (1796–1850) in the town of Ruzhyn, Ukraine. Friedman was the first and only Ruzhiner Rebbe. However, his sons and grandsons founded their own dynasties which are collectively known as the "House of Ruzhin". These dynasties, which follow many of the traditions of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, are Bohush, Boyan, Chortkov, Husiatyn, Sadigura, and Shtefanesht. The dynasties of Vizhnitz and Vasloi are related to the Ruzhiner Rebbe through his daughters.

Sun, July 12 2020 20 Tammuz 5780