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Home » Miscellaneous

The Loss of llan Ramon: Lessons from A Tragedy

Submitted by on February 22, 2006 – 2:50 amNo Comment | 2,514 views

As we approach the Yhartzeit
(anniversary of passing) of Ilan Ramon, the Israeli Astronaut who died
in the explosion of the Columbia Space Shuttle, we present the
following thoughts.

Grieving the True Loss

The explosion of the
Columbia Space Shuttle shook the world. The loss of Ilan Ramon, the
first Israeli astronaut in Space, brought the Jewish world to a state
of mourning and shock. We do not grieve the loss of the billion-dollar
shuttle or the loss of irreplaceable scientific data but the loss of
human and Jewish life. This is a breath of fresh air.

To Learn to Cry Again

The endless parade of
Jewish victims across our television screams, over the last few years,
have eroded our ability to appreciate the sanctity of life and made us
immune to the horror of its loss. It would seem that Ilan, in his
tragic death, has restored our collective humanity.

Pearls of Goodness

From a Jewish perspective
the response must be to glean whatever pearls of goodness that can be
salvaged from this terrible loss. I will share some of the ideas that I
have come across over the course of the last few days.
  1. The damage seems to have
    been caused by the erosion of a single piece of foam insulation. This
    underscores the crucial significance of every detail in its
    contribution to the overall success. A billion-dollar space shuttle
    with back up systems upon back up systems was inept without this single
    twenty-dollar piece of insulation. A single vulnerable detail can have
    tremendous affect upon our life – G-d is in the detail.
  2. In a similar vein we can
    see the tremendous positive power that can be unleashed by a single
    person, in this case Ilan Ramon. Ilan demonstrated that a single
    individual is able to accomplish what armies and governments can not,
    instill within our nation a strong sense of Jewish pride. Pride, unity
    and accomplishment. From the ultra religious to the ultra secular, Jews
    the world over were proud of their fellow member who publicly and
    unabashedly represented them on this unexpected world front. He sent
    rabbis scurrying to determine the Halachic manner of observing Shabbat
    in orbit. He sent NASA on a mission to procure kosher food for his
    space flight. He commanded our attention by bringing along with him a
    small torah rescued from Bergen-Belsen. He captured our imagination by
    bringing along with him a stirring portrait of the moon, drawn by a
    young artist who returned his soul to G-d in the flames of Buchenwald.
    Ilan, a single individual, stirred our conscience and made a difference
    – You can too.
  3. Man is not invincible.
    Science has built billion dollar machines to probe G-d’s macro and
    micro secrets of nature. We have had many successes and understand our
    universe in ways we never have before. The more we understand it the
    more we are humbled. Yet we must remember our humility as we continue
    our exploration. The human is flawed by definition and must depend upon
    G-d for perfection. This devastating explosion has reinforced this
    natural trait for we cannot always provide for every eventuality and at
    some point we must turn to G-d for help – Such humility is a blessing.
  4. Finally, the unpredictable
    character of life. Ilan Ramon was at the peak of his life, at his
    pinnacle of success, when life was suddenly and unexpectedly snatched
    from him. He left our world bathed in the glory of his recent Kiddush
    Hashem, sanctification of G-d’s name. He was a true Jew among Jews and
    his behavior during his last mission proved this to be true. I would
    love to be in that state when I return my soul to my maker. But how can
    I know when that day will come? I can never know for sure. The
    solution? I must endeavor every day to reach the highest spiritual and
    Jewish state that I possibly can – Always be prepared.