6 Teves 5779 / Friday, December 14, 2018 | Torah Reading: Vayigash
 
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TSA



Well in his nineties already, Rabbi Leib Shteinman undertook the difficult challenge of travelling to the USA, including a trying encounter with US airport security...

 



Several years ago, the venerable Rabbi Leib Shteinman, the spiritual head of the Yeshiva world in Israel, made an important trip to the United States on behalf of the yeshivas in the Land of Israel. Already in his nineties, the trip was no simple undertaking. Rabbi Shteinman's assistants did their utmost to assure his comfort, yet certain challenges along the way were unavoidable, one of which was security clearance at the airport.

 

Before one of his domestic flights in the USA, Rabbi Shteinman encountered the TSA. Before the TSA eased screening regulations for elderly travelers over the age of 75 in 2012, Rabbi Shteinman was forced to endure the long line and the extended waiting period just like the young travelers. When he finally reached the conveyer belt that would pass his belongings through the x-ray machine, he was given several plastic trays and instructed to remove his shoes, hat, overcoat, belt and vest. One of his aides protested to the TSA officer in charge, saying, "Sir, this is one of Israel's leading rabbis and spiritual guides! He is over the age of ninety as you see in his passport. Can't you ease regulations for him? This is an affront to the dignity of such a holy man to undress in public. I assure you…"

 

The TSA officer, a burly powerhouse who looked like a former linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, politely but firmly said, "Sir, your assurances mean nothing here. With all due respect to your rabbi, I have my rules and regulations. Sorry, I can't allow any easing of the rules." Slowly and deliberately, Rabbi Shteinman removed his hat, coat, vest and shoes in placed them in two trays. He checked his pockets for coins and placed them on the tray too. He was instructed to walk through the body screening cubicle; as he did, the buzzer sounded and the red lights flashed.

 

Apparently, the Rabbi had forgotten to remove his watch. He did so and was instructed to return and reenter the body-screening cubicle. He did. Once again, the buzzer sounded and the red lights flashed. Another officer came over and frisked the elderly rabbi from head to toe. This was more than the one of his aides could tolerate. Protesting, he said to the officer, "Must you so violate the rabbi's dignity? You're treating him like a terrorist suspect!"

 

The officer warned the aide in no uncertain terms, "Sir, any interference in our duties is a federal offense. One more word and we'll have to detain you for questioning."

 

Rabbi Shteinman went through the body screener for a second and third time, yet the buzzer still sounded and the red lights flashed once more. One of the senior TSA officers came over to the rabbi's lane to see what was going on, and the junior officers explained that the elderly rabbi is carrying some type of metal on his body that they haven't identified. "Rabbi, did you ever undergo any operation for broken bones or bone replacement?" asked the senior officer.

 

Rabbi Shteinman answered, "Yes, in fact I did. I have metal posts in my hip." Finally, the Rabbi was allowed through security. His aides gathered his belongings and accompanied him to a nearby bench where he put on his shoes and his over-clothes. The rabbi had tears streaming down his wrinkled face.

 

The young rabbis who accompanied Rabbi Shteinman were shocked. "Honorable Rabbi," they said, trying to console him, "we are so sorry that you had to undergo this unspeakable humiliation with no consideration of who you are at all…"

 

"That's not why I'm crying," Rabbi Shteinman said with a brush of the hand. It's not the TSA who put me through this ordeal – it's Hashem! Hashem is telling me an important message. The day will come when I'll leave the physical world and my soul will have to go through the spiritual screener before I'm allowed in the World to Come. What, do you think it's easy up there? There's no favoritism. The screener sees everything on one's soul – every thought, utterance and deed from every moment of a person's entire life. There too is no easement of regulations. They'll too chastise me and say, "Aharon Yehuda Leib, you still have forbidden obstructions on your soul! You can't enter here!" They too will send me back to go through the screening process once more. Woe to the anguish! Who knows how many times I'll have to go back for rescreening? That's why I'm crying – do you think the Heavenly screening is a joke? This security check on earth is Hashem's loving way of telling me that I must wake up and do teshuva while I still can!"

 

* * *

 

If the spiritual leader of our generation fears the inevitable Day of Judgment, what can we say? We'd be well advised to remember a three-word rule of thumb: Teshuva Saves Anguish – that's the real TSA. With teshuva, we'll get through all the barriers, in this world and in the next, amen!

 

 

* * *

We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams.





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  This is what I love about our True Rabbis
Dassie11/10/2015 9:40:05 PM
     
 

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