Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
First let me begin by expressing my deepest admiration for your work. You have been the pioneer in so many crucial Torah concerns of our generation. I pray that you receive this e-mail and give it serious consideration since much thought and background went into the contents.
Around one year ago, February 9, 2003, I sent a letter to the Ramon family. This letter was written in the aftermath of 9/11 and the disintegration of the space shuttle. I too made references to the significance of the connection between the loss of the Columbia Space Shuttle and the death of Ilan Ramon and Shabbat.
Tonight, after reading your article in The Jewish Press I was amazed at the unbelievable recovery and restoration of Ilan Ramon’s diary and its references to Shabbat. In addition to the connection of Shabbat to Ilan Ramon, there seems to be a connection between the Land of Israel and Ilan Ramon. Ilan means tree, and Ramon is similar to Rimon – a pomegranate, one of the seven holy fruits of Israel. The pomegranate has 613 seeds corresponding to the 613 mitzvos of the Torah. How wonderful that the Rebbetzin should write this letter specifically this Shabbat, the Shabbat of Tu B’Shevat.
I believe that there is yet another dimension to this Shabbos connection, and that is the observance of shmita – the Sabbatical year. We have been told that the 70 years of exile following the Churban – the destruction of the First Temple, corresponds to the 70 years of not keeping the Shemita (the Sabbatical year) as we should. Our history repeats itself. We are still not observing the Shemita laws properly. I believe with all my heart and soul that if we would keep Shemita as the Torah specifies, we would have the key through which we could bring Moshiach. I believe that the disintegration of the space shuttle with its seven crew members over the seven counties of Palestine, Texas, on the seventh day – the holy Sabbath, is no coincidence.
Before Ilan’s death, he did many mitzvot tosanctify G-d’s Name and the Torah. He showed how important the Torah was to the world and to the Jewish people by taking with him:
A miniature sefer Torah from Bergen Belsen.
A credit size microfiche of the Bible from President Katzav.
He instructed the rabbi to read from the pasuk (passage) in Chumash (Devarim 4:33) “Has a people ever heard the voice of G-d speaking from the midst of the fire as you have heard, and survived?”
He showed how he valued the mitzvot by:
Taking a mezuzah with him.
Saying Tefilat HaDerech (the travelers’ prayer).
Keeping kosher in flight.
Asking questions about keeping Shabbos and trying to observe Shabbos up in space. (Although in one of his e-mails, Ramon wrote that he deeply regretted that he became so involved in his scientific experiments that he forgot when Shabbos came.)
Bringing a kiddush cup for Shabbos.
Saying Shema over Yerushalayim.
And I am sure there are many more as well.
Ilan was an astronaut. His journey into space gave him firsthand knowledge of the vastness of the Heavens and of G-d’s universe. He saw how fabulous and immense his journey to the heights was from man’s perspective, while at the same time he recognized, as a believing Jew, how minuscule it must appear from G-d’s perspective. G-d is the Master of the earth, the heavens and the stars. If man’s journey was so great up to the heavens, imagine G-d’s journey, so to speak, descending down to earth on the lowly mountain of Mount Sinai in order to present His revelation, the Torah, to the Jewish people. That realization was voiced by Ilan when he said the Shema over Jerusalem.
Yes, it made us proud to see the little Torah up in space. If we think about it, however, the Torah is not meant for space: “Lo Bashamayim Hi.
Shabbos cannot be kept in space. Neither can Mitzvot Teluyot B’aretz – commandments that must be observed in the land of Israel, such as Shemita, be observed in space. It is we, here on earth, who must cherish and uphold G-d’s commandments.
Dear Rebbetzin Jungreis:
I was fascinated by your article on the discovery of Ilan Ramon’s diary. I read the papers daily, but somehow, I missed this story and I am certain that many other people missed it as well. This reference to Shabbos is amazing, and I agree that it cannot be mere coincidence. If memory serves me correctly, you wrote an article at the time of Desert Storm and commented on the 39 Scuds that Iraq launched against Israel which miraculously took no lives. (The three deaths that were reported were due to illness – heart attacks). At that time, you pointed out that the number 39 corresponds to the 39 melachos – categories of labor that are forbidden on Shabbos. It is obvious that Hashem keeps sending us messages regarding Shabbos, but we don’t seem to get it. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of your readers. May we all answer His wake up call and intensify our commitment to Shabbos.