The Yom Kippur Flight

Establishing our destination will keep us on board for the duration of this Yom Kippur flight.

By Rabbi Yehoshua (Shui) Rosenblum

Do you ever get bored on a long flight? Start looking through the seat pocket to see if there is anything interesting to read? Checking if there is anything on your iPod that you haven’t heard yet? Counting the amount of rows there are on the plane to see just how much the airlines is profiting on this flight? I could recall an exaggerated version of this feeling of desperation when I flew for the first time to Australia. The flight from Los Angeles to Sydney was over sixteen hours long. They must have showed five movies, served countless meals, yet I thought that I was going to go insane!

But one thing is certain, most levelheaded people would never think of getting off the plane on the way, not only for the danger that it represents– flying from thirty some thousand feet in the air–but primarily because they are headed somewhere. There is a destination in mind and therefore regardless of the boredom involved in getting there, they know that they will eventually arrive and accomplish their goal. Yom Kippur could be seen in the same light, we take off at Kol Nidrei and we are headed somewhere, it is a real destination so we should brace ourselves mentally to remain on board until the end of the flight. The question is: Where is it that we are headed? What is our destination? What are we trying to achieve? If we could establish this, maybe we could keep more people on board for the duration of this Yom Kipur flight.

Taking a personal poll, I asked several people from different age groups what does Yom Kippur mean, and one hundred percent of the people answered that it is the day of forgiveness. However, it’s much more than forgiveness, because to achieve forgiveness, it is essentially a team effort: the one who is being forgiven must demonstrate that he is worthy of it.

A story says it best! At the end of the Second World War when the American army entered into the concentration camps they encountered a sight that left many soldiers traumatized for years to come. They were literally witnessing walking skeletons.

There is a Jewish army captain who relates that before he and his troops entered Auschwitz their commander told them that although the horror that they would see would provoke the need within them to hand out the chocolates that they carried in their pockets, as a symbol of friendship to the recently freed people, under no circumstances were they to hand them out due to the fact that they could cause them serious health issues.

When he entered and saw the little children’s faces, eyes full of fright, completely undernourished, and the obvious starvation that they were experiencing, he was extremely tempted to give them the chocolates, but remembering the orders, he held himself back from doing so. But he had to do something, so he walked over to the first child and gave him a hug. All of the sudden a line formed behind this child, each child just longing and waiting to get their hug.

In a sense, Yom Kippur G-d hugs each one of us! We might be spiritually undernourished and maybe have not prepared for this special moment. Possibly we didn’t do the proper repentance. Nevertheless, G-d gives us the opportunity to achieve what we could never achieve during the whole year, absolute closeness initiated by Him. On this day G-d opens up the skies and showers us with such great love, a love that originates from such a deep place that no sin has ever reached there. This is not our achievement; it is G-d’s gift to us on this day, like a child to his father.

But the question we need to ask ourselves is: what is our response to this great love. Do we arrive like a beggar extending out our hand or are we ready to remain aboard the flight until landing, so that we can receive the fullest possible blessing and cleansing. So please remain seated until the fasten-seatbelt signs have been turned off, with the sounding of the shofar, at which time it is safe to move about the cabin. Of course, please take care when removing your luggage from the overhead compartments as we hope that your inner luggage has shifted during the flight.

Thanks for flying with us! Ktiva Vejatima Tova. May you be sealed for a good sweet year.