The Important Seat We Occupy
By Rabbi Label Lam
You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among
the Children of Israel; I am HASHEM Who sanctifies you, Who took you out of
the Land of Egypt to be a G-d unto you ; I am HASHEM. (Vayikra 22:32-33)
How hard or easy is it to make a Kiddush HASHEM? It just may come with the
An elder colleague, Rabbi Chaim Kahn, told us a story from the days when he
was heading a Yeshiva in Denver. He had spent a week raising funds in L.A
and was on his way home Friday afternoon. While approaching the Denver
airport the plane began to experience difficulty with its landing gear, and
without the wheels it looked like they had to prepare to make a risky
attempt to land. For safety measures they circled the airport for a few
hours depleting the explosive fuel reserve and also to allow the emergency
crews on the ground to ready the runway with a non-flammable foam lubricant.
On the plane, the crew was occupied with readying the passengers with all
kind of scary contingency plans while trying to remain calm and give an aura
of confidence in what was a life and death situation. Rabbi Kahn had
accessed his Siddur and as on Yom Kippur he launched into a teary
confessional, wondering within what type or father, friend, husband, and
servant of HASHEM he had been. The more he contemplated these things, the
more he readied himself to surrender his soul to his Creator.
When the plane landed it was bumpy indeed but everyone was safe and there
was a huge sigh of relief. The emergency crew immediately opened the cabin
door, attached a ladder and started to quickly exit the passengers. As
people hurried off the plane they paused for a moment and thanked the
stewardesses and pilots for demonstrating such grace under pressure. Rabbi
Kahn stood last to disembark and glancing at his watch he realized that he
had a half hour till Shabbos.
He began to scurry off the plane and he too paused by the crew and thanked
them heartily for a job well done. Just then the head stewardess said with
tears, “Rabbi, everyone who left this plane thanked us for what we did to
keep the calm. They were all looking to us for guidance, but Rabbi, we were
all looking to you!”
I was on my way to Seattle Washington from New York and along the way I
needed to change planes in St. Louis. On the second half of the flight there
was a whole new crowd of people. Now in my new seat I was engrossed in
reading through and highlighting a Hebrew Tanach and I was minding my own
business diligently. A seat away from me a middle aged woman was shooting
glances in my direction and I knew what was about to happen.
She asked with extra caution, “Can I ask you a question?” I told her
plainly, “You just did!” She begged again, “Can I ask you another question?”
I told her, “You just did again!” Then she blurted, “OK. I just want to ask
you something. Are you Amish?” I told her blankly, “No! Amish people don’t
fly on planes.” To which she immediately said, “I’m sorry!” I told her
nicely, “You don’t have to apologize to me. Apologize to all the Amish
people.” After that encounter she withdrew to her book and I to mine but I
knew she wasn’t through. Twenty minutes later she asked the magic question,
“What are you?” I told her proudly,“I am a Jew!” After a thoughtful pause,
she asked sincerely, “What do you believe?” I squared off now in her
direction. This required a serious response.
I replied dramatically, “Believe? What do we believe?! We are the children
of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were taken from Egypt and who heard The
Almighty speak to them on Mt. Sinai some 3300 years ago!” The rest of the
flight was respectfully silent, as I too began to appreciate more the
important seat we occupy.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.