Attitude Of GrAtitudeCharles Plumb was a US Naval Academy graduate who flew jets in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, he was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Upon ejecting he parachuted into the jungle where the Viet Cong captured him and held him prisoner for six years in North Vietnam. After the war, Charles Plumb lectured on lessons learned from that experience.
One day, when he and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man came up to him and said, Youre Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!
How in the world did you know that? asked Plumb, the former pilot.
Well, because I packed your parachute! replied the stranger. Plumb gasped in surprise. The man pumped his hand and said, I guess it worked!
Plumb assured him that indeed it did. If your chute hadnt worked, I wouldnt be here today.
That night Plumb couldnt sleep. He kept thinking about the stranger. He wondered how many times he might have seen the guy before but would not speak to him, because he was a fighter pilot and the man who packed his chute was just a sailor.
Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent perched over the long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each parachute, each time, holding in his hands the fate of someone he didnt know.
Now, when Plumb lectures, he always asks his audience, Whos packing your parachute?
Upon entering a store, its not uncommon to find its first dollar prominently displayed on the front wall. The reason for this is to remind the proprietor of his early struggles. The owner does not wish to forget his difficult and humble beginnings; even should he later
become a millionaire.
In his memoirs, Rabbi Israel Lau, one of the youngest survivors of Buchenwald, describes how he arrived in the Holy Land after WWII bereft of father and mother, with all his worldly possessions stuffed into one tiny suitcase.
Rabbi Lau has come a long way since those painful and uncertain times. He studied in Yeshiva, raised a family and even became Israels Chief Rabbi, but he could never forget the tiny suitcase with which he arrived on Israels shore. It serves for him as a reminder of G-ds loving kindness and the many miracles by which his life has been blessed.
Rabbi Lau was not the first to preserve a piece of his past in order to keep the future in perspective. It is a rather familiar phenomenon in Jewish history.
The Midrash interprets the verse: And Davids name went forth in all the lands, to mean that His coins spread through the world. In describing King Davids coins, the Midrash asserts, that one side bore the insignia of His staff and sack, the other side, His tower.
Unlike other ancient kings wont to imprint their own image on the currency of their place of reign for his currency, King David chose a staff and sack on one side and his royal tower on the other. Having risen from a simple shepherd all the way to king, David sought to be reminded, even as he sat in the royal tower, of the days when he carried a staff and a sack as a simple shepherd.
The Midrash continues to note a parallel phenomenon regarding Mordechai, who apparently had coins bearing his own insignia of choice. These coins bore the symbol of sackcloth and ashes on one side, and a crown of gold on the other.
The familiar reason given for this was the desire for his generation to be reminded of the sackcloth and ashes that he had worn before he rose to the position of second in command. He did not want them to forget the threat of
extinction which the entire Jewish nation faced.
Like King David, the hero of the Purim story wanted to perpetually memorialize those dreadful days, lest they take the good days for granted. He wanted to remind everyone that things could have turned out much different, Heaven forbid, and that they should forever be grateful for G-ds kindness.
In the above light we could better understand the rituals of the Pesach Seder; why we eat
Matzah and Marror. The Haggadah tells us that we eat Matzah Because our ancestors dough didnt have time to rise . . . since they had been banished from Egypt. In other words, the Matzah symbolizes the good news our Exodus from Egypt.
But at the same Seder we are also required to eat Marror. The reason for this, states the Haggadah, is to be reminded that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors. We find herein the same pattern of contrast. We celebrate our freedom, and at the same time remember our bitter days of exile.
This then explains why we eat Matzah and Marror. However, as we know, the great Sage Hillel insisted that, in addition to the obligation of eating Matzah and Marror separate, one needs to also eat the Matzah and Marror together. The reason for the sandwich still remains to be understood.
Hillel, it appears, believed that the joy of exodus and the bitterness of exile must be part and parcel of the same sandwich that Matzah and Marror must serve the same purpose as the two-sided coins of King David and Mordechai. Just as they didnt use two separate coins to make their point so too, according to Hillel, it is with the Matzah and Marror. Only in the face of stark contrast can we truly appreciate our freedom and thank G-d for the miracle of our Exodus.
There is a relevant lesson in all this for us in our unique day and age. With the possible exception of the era of King Solomon, the Jewish nation has never had it this good in its entire history. No generation has enjoyed such peace, freedom, affluence and tranquility as does ours. Yet we so often forget how good we have it our freedom is taken for complete granted.
We ought to be in a continual state of song and gratitude to the Almighty for all the good He has bestowed upon this generation. Never in our history, as individuals or as a people, have we enjoyed such freedom and acceptance from our neighbors as we do nowadays in the United firstcoastchabad.blogspot.com
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Rabbi Yoseph KahanovChabad NE Florida Founder/Director
April 2012/nissAn 5772 | 3
States and other Western countries.
Never have we been allowed to practice our Judaism as freely in just about anywhere in the world. But its hard to appreciate just how good we have it, when we never experienced any lack.
Was there ever a better time to be alive than today? Was there ever a worse time in history to be alive then one generation ago? A measly 60 years separates our generation from the worse time of history and the best time ever. Do we really appreciate what this means?
While on Passover we celebrate our freedom, we must at the same time remember the stark contrasts of history. Such memories will spur us to even greater appreciation for all the blessings that G-d has given us in placing us in this unique point in history. The awareness of our unique and blessed generation will help us realize our true purpose and responsibility.
And there is still more to the Hillel sandwich. There are other, equally compelling, reasons for the need to remember the past while we celebrate the present. This is emphasized in the Yizkor ceremony, which is observed upon the conclusion of the holiday.
During this sacred time of memory our thoughts turn from the joy of family to thoughts of those who are not physically present. We turn to their memory; we recall how they nourished us. We remember how they influenced our lives and helped us become the persons we are today. We also remember others who have played a crucial part in shaping our lives, even if we do not know them or realize it. Indeed, we have all benefited from some form of a parachute.
Many who packed our parachutes are not from
this generation. Still, these people whom we do not personally know, are responsible for who we are. In fact, as Jews, we have benefited from every single generation of Jews that preceded us. To them we owe the ultimate recognition and debt of gratitude for guarding and preserving our precious heritage, often at the ultimate price, so that we may be its beneficiaries.
So as we recite Yizkor, it is fitting for us to memorialize those who have packed our parachutes, even though we may not know their names, or their stations in life, because they are the ones to whom we owe everything in our lives.
The Hillel Sandwich philosophy can perhaps explain one more Seder puzzle, namely: how the Days of the world to come have found their way in to our Passover narrative, and why, in fact, will it be necessary to recall the miracle of the Egyptian Exodus at a time, when all negativity will once and for all be eradicated from the world?
According to Hillels reasoning the answer becomes clear. The reason is so that we may fully appreciate the blissful state in which we shall find ourselves at the time. In fact the Midrash tells us that when Moshiach comes, all the sacrifices of the Temple will no longer be offeredexcept for the Thanksgiving Sacrifice, which will never cease.