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Re-Usable Rockets


Jeff Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin has just successfully landed a used rocket in order to reuse it at a later date.  This is truly a monumental moment in space travel history.  The prospect (or now, reality) of reusing a rocket will save millions (billions?) of dollars and allow for more and better space exploration, travel, etc.

Like anything, such a “giant leap for mankind” must have a lesson for our lives.

There is a mitzvah in the Torah that enjoins us not to waste – bal tashchit.  It is actually forbidden to allow things to go to waste if there’s a way to prevent it.  This is the complete opposite idea of our microwave, cellophane package, throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one culture.  That certainly has it’s place in getting cheaper products, but when something is as expensive as a space rocket, you might want to rethink that policy.

But there is a deeper message that relates to this weeks Torah portion.  Parshat Tazriah focuses on ritual purity and the mikvah.  The idea is that when something or someone becomes ritually impure, it goes through a purification process, many times culminating in the mikvah (ritual bath) and becomes pure again.  One may think that once it’s become “tainted” with impurity, there’s no use anymore and you may as well give up.  But the Torah says “No way!”  Just follow these steps and you’ll be good as new!

Likewise, there are times in our life when we feel used up and want to throw in the towel.  But we have to remember that there is always a new day ahead of us.  With time and effort we can go from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the world.  We only need to “shoot for the moon.” 😉

This reminds me of a great story of the famous Rabbi Meir of Premishlan:

The mikvah in Rabbi Meir’s neighborhood stood at the foot of a steep mountain. When the slippery weather came, everyone had to walk all the way around for fear of slipping on the mountain path and breaking their bones—everyone, that is, apart from Rabbi Meir, who walked down that path whatever the weather, and never slipped.

One icy day, Rabbi Meir set out as usual to take the direct route to the mikvah. Two guests were staying in the area. These two young men did not believe in supernatural achievements, and when they saw Rabbi Meir striding downhill with sure steps as if he were on a solidly paved highway, they wanted to demonstrate that they too could negotiate the hazardous path. As soon as Rabbi Meir entered the mikvah building, they took to the road. After only a few steps they stumbled and slipped, and needed medical treatment for their injuries.

Now one of them was the son of one of Rabbi Meir’s close chassidim, and when he was fully healed he mustered the courage to approach the tzaddik with his question: “Why was it that no man could cope with that treacherous path, yet the Rebbe never stumbled?

Replied Rabbi Meir: “If a man is bound up on high, he doesn’t fall down below. Meir’l is bound up on high, and that is why he can go up and down, even on a slippery hill.” (Story from Likkutei Dibburim, a collection of transcribed talks by the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, translated by Uri Kaploun and published by Kehot Publications.)

~Rabbi Yossi

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