In the wake of the news about how Chabad of Halifax helped the stranded passengers of EL AL flight 26, Rabbi Shimon Posner shares his thoughts.
It’s a script already: an El Al nonstop-direct gets diverted and lands in a place none of the passengers have ever been nor ever planned to be – and all this a few hours before Shabbos. How will we keep Shabbos, what will we eat? Chabad, seemingly anywhere on the map you throw a dart, scrambles together food and arranges lodging. The passengers are overwhelmed by the kindness and stunned to realize that they have come to appreciate Shabbos – and their fellow travelers – more than they would have ever normally appreciated them.
Life is straightforward, life is uncomplicated and life is wholesome. And then you’re born and nothing is the way it seems; from where you come and wither you go are now esoteric mysteries. Your very identity is fractured and problematic. The good things in life are taken for granted.
It is into this milieu that the Rebbe sought to touch every soul. To reach out to each other when we are stranded and to provide comfort and the familiar which will uplift.
Only a diverted life is more convoluted than a diverted airliner. For one thing, on the diverted airliner everyone has a clear sense of where they wanted to be and more importantly, they have a clear sense of displacement of where they now are and very much don’t want to be. No matter, pleads the Rebbe, give them a cup of soup to warm them up and calm them down. Give them a mitzvah to lift them up and set them straight. The creed of Chabad. The creed of Father Abraham.
And from this journey (an accidental one in our perspective) we emerge not only unscathed but enriched. Shabbos is all but routine and those passengers that we pigeon-holed with identities that are not ours we now recognize as seamlessly bound, they with us, us with them and all of us with our heritage. As we come to recognize this truth as self-evident we reach out again to others with an energy born of a focus restored.
By this time, the plane is ready to take off and to bring us to our final, prescribed and promised destination.
We take off from this hinterland with an appreciation for our mitzvah and an appreciation for those fellow passengers we have now come to love in a way we did not think possible. On the wings of eagles. Happy travels and happy landing.