In the air…

As I write this, I am six hours away from landing in Israel, cruising at 604 mph ground speed, 37,000 feet above sea level over the North Atlantic. There are wispy high clouds and the ephemeral glow of the twilight that is as dark as it gets at northern latitudes in the summer. Of course, we’ll be long in Israel by the time this gets posted to the blog…the technology isn’t quite there yet to allow me to post to the blog from my seat, at least not in a widespread way…but it’s coming!

It’s hard to believe it’s really here. A year and a half of to-do lists, paperwork, movers, more paperwork, and quite a few expenses all leading up to this moment. After we got settled on the plane, Lauri mentioned that – she didn’t want the moment to get away without our taking a moment to catch our breath and reflect on the fact that we really here, on the plane, on our way to our new home in Israel.

So far it hasn’t been a real emotional experience … I suppose we’re tired, and mostly feeling relieved that we’re finally on our way. I suspect the emotions will be a little different once we land.

There are 210 people on this airplane making aliyah, as well as a bunch of Nefesh b’Nefesh staff people, including both co-founders, a few El Al VIPs, and Jackie Saltz, representing the Conservative Movement. Lauri already hired someone on the flight to do some editing work for her company. Lizzy is cat sitting, watching a cat named Oreo for a lady travelling with two cats. The kids each got a letter that was written, probably as a day school project or something, from other kids wishing them mazal tov on their aliyah. By the strangest coincidence, Lizzy, whose Hebrew name is Aliza, got a letter from a kid named “Aliza L.” – as if she had written herself!

It’s a very interesting group on the flight. Nefesh b’Nefesh arranged the seating demographically – older people sitting, a large section (the largest) of young people in their 20s; many single, some couples, a mix of religious and secular, and in the “back of the bus,” those of us with young children. There aren’t as many families as I was expecting, but I suppose it makes a lot of sense that it’s easier to make aliyah either before children, or as a retirement project. The oldest person on our flight making aliyah is 86!

A couple of hours ago I joined a group of guys for Mincha (the afternoon prayers) at the back of the plane. But I sat out one part of the service. They went ahead and recited the whole standard service, including tachanun. Tachanun is a set of supplications, largely going on about how unworthy we are and praying for God to save us. We do not recite tachanun on days that are happy occasions, like holidays – or if someone celebrating a wedding is around. If the day you are making aliyah is not an occasion to skip tachanun, what would be? You’re on an airplane on your way to live in Israel, to fulfill the dreams of 2000 years of Jews, and you pray to God to be saved? What more proof do you need of God’s love and salvation than the simple fact that you’re on the airplane? Davenning tachanun at such a time would seem somehow ungrateful to me! Instead we should be saying Hallel, psalms of praise, thanking God for this wondrous day!

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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