20 Tamuz 5779 / Tuesday, July 23, 2019 | Torah Reading: mattot
 
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Flight Control    

Flight Control



What does Hashem leave to our own personal effort? Are the flight traffic controllers up in the tower really the ones who decide who takes off and who lands?

 



I recently visited Eretz Yisrael for a family simchah.  It was a wonderful week, but all too soon the time to leave the Holy Land came.  Flights leaving Israel tend to be early in the morning, and mine was no exception.  I awoke at 5AM, and was waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for my sherut (shared taxi) to pick me up outside of the hotel within 30 minutes.
 
During my time in Israel, I had been thinking a lot about the issue of hishtadlut – personal effort.  On the one hand, Hashem runs the world, and all success comes from Him only.  However, the Torah does not allow us to rely on miracles – we must do our personal effort – our hishtadlut - to bring about the result we desire.  The question becomes – what exactly are we supposed to do?  How hard are we supposed to work?
 
The answer to this question is far beyond the scope of this article, but as I stood outside, taking in my last few moments in the holy city of Jerusalem and watching the sun rise over the mountains, I suddenly understood one very important aspect of this issue.
 
Before, I had always told Hashem what I needed, and asked for help.  For example, in this case, I was going to the airport, I had a 9AM flight, and a connection in Frankfurt.  Hence, I would have asked Hashem that I should make it to the airport on time, make the flights and the connections easily, everything should be on time, etc.
 
This time, I realized that this way of praying included a tremendous assumption – not only was I asking for the end result, but I was specifying the means as well.  It’s not that I am going from Tel Aviv to America via these particular connections, and I need You, Hashem to make it work.  It’s that as far as I know, I'm supposed to return to America.  You can't get from one continent to another by just clicking your heels – so I had booked a return flight and paid for it.  That is the proper hishtadlut.  However, whether it’s really supposed to work that way or not – that is up to Hashem.
 
So instead, I asked Hashem to get me back to America, however that is supposed to happen, safe and sound.  As far as I know, my flight is 9AM through Frankfurt, so here I am, trying to get to the airport to make that flight.  I hope everything is on time, but You are the Ribbono Shel OlamYou are the Master of the World, You run everything, and if You don’t want me to return, then please make that clear too.
 
Lo and behold, the sherut showed up on time, and I was at the airport more than two hours before the flight.  I walked inside and got in line to put my bags through security, looked up at the board to check on my flight – AND – the flight to Frankfurt had been delayed more than three hours, which guaranteed that I would miss my connection.
 
Trying to maintain my composure – after all, now I had no clue how I was going to fly, how long the delay would be or what would happen, and I had never missed a connection before – I asked the security personnel what I should do.  I eventually got to the right ticket counter where El Al would re-book my flight, and as I stood in line, started praying again.  I said to myself:
 
You JUST learned that you are not in control of how things happen, obviously Hashem didn’t want you on the flight for whatever reason…maintain your composure, Hashem knows what He is doing…please Hashem, put into the agent’s mind whatever route You want, please let the delay not be by much, or help me because I have no shekels (Israeli currency) left, I can't even get back to the hotel right now…
 
Thankfully, I was re-booked on a very open flight through JFK airport in New York, leaving only 90 minutes after the original flight was supposed to leave.  As it turned out, the connecting flight ended up being a full 3 hours late, and the total delay was about 5 hours.  But make it home I did, and besides being even more exhausted than perhaps I would have been otherwise, none the worse for the wear.
 
I had learned this very important lesson: proper hishtadlut includes only doing the physical things that create vessels for Hashem to do what He wants.  You have to book a ticket and pay for it, you have to show up at the airport and walk to the gate – but how it all actually works out in the end is not up to you.
 
Even more, don’t try to force Hashem to do it the way you want – He has infinitely more options than you could even conceive of to get you from A to B (whether those are physical locations or otherwise).  It may be that the route you think will work the best really isn't the best option, so be open to that and only ask for the end result you desire.  Then sit back and let Hashem show you which route He really wants you to take. In my case, it looked like a delay, but in reality, I was exactly on time.
 
 
It’s not really those people sitting up in the tower - the air traffic controllers – that decide when flights will take off and land. If we had real spiritual eyes, we’d see that Flight Control is way up in the Heavens. Hashem is The One that’s maneuvering the little specs on the radar screen.
  
Author’s Note: Upon my return, I was placed in an even more serious situation where this insight has been of critical importance.  There are many life situations where we want a particular outcome, but the more we push for it, the farther off it seems.  Moreover, even if you constantly beg Hashem for help, it is virtually impossible to truly place all your trust in Hashem when you think that you are responsible for all the details.  Inevitably, daily life becomes fraught with tension, anxiety and stress.  To the extent that I have been able to implement this mode of thinking into my life, while the particular life situation remains, I have been able to go about my daily life with joy and relative relaxation, knowing Hashem is taking care of all the details of how this situation will work itself out.




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