Rabbi Greisman's Blog

A Jew from Antarctica

Life is full of twists and turns and unexpected events; some will cause a major change in one’s life –job, place of residence, relationships, etc. – while others will only have minimal impact and some will be no more than a nuisance. Some of these events are anticipated and planned and they make perfect sense, but most of the time they are engineered by Divine Providence and we don’t always get to know why they happened. It is a basic principle of Jewish faith to believe in the Hand of G-d that ordains the footsteps of man, and causes every event and move in our life, big or small.

We often use flight delays – which have got to be in the top five list of annoying unplanned events – as an example of events that happen to you for a purpose, regardless of whether you ever find out the reason. It is so rewarding, however, when you do find out the reason for flight delays and cancellations. I had such one example this week.

I had planned a short trip to Israel this week to participate in a family Simcha. I had scheduled the latest flight out on Monday, so I can clean up and reorganize everything after the Purim Party (which was amazing, by the way. Close to 100 Jews celebrating together, it was truly a sight to see. Thank you to the Spalter, Greene, Brown (Barry) and Nissenbaum families for your sponsorships).  My original route included just one stop in Newark, but late Sunday night, due to the impending snowstorm back east, I was rerouted to a Houston/Frankfurt/Tel Aviv flight, as the XNA-EWR flight was cancelled. I wasn’t happy having to leave five hours earlier than planned, but I was even less happy when I had to spend those five hours in XNA waiting for a lightbulb cover to be replaced on the wing of the plane, causing me to miss my flight to Germany and be placed on a later flight, and cut down the 31 hours I planned to be in Israel to 26.

Finally in Frankfurt on Tuesday afternoon, at the gate to the Israel flight, I asked some Jews waiting for the flight if they would like to put on Tefillin. After one of them was done he tells me: You know, I’m happy you asked me to put on Tefillin. Today is my mother’s Yohrtzeit, and by the time we land in Israel, it will be after sunset, so I won’t be able to say Kaddish for her; at least I did tefillin. ”A minyan for Kaddish?!”, I replied, “Well, guess what. I’m a pro at that; I do it all the time back home. Just wait here for a few minutes.”

Well, ten minutes later, a full minyan of ten Jews were praying Mincha together at the gate, and the soul of Shprintza bas Eliyahu, a holocaust survivor,  was relieved to have her son recite a Kaddish in her memory, in Germany…..

2017-03-14 07.50.13.jpgWalking to the gate with Gedalyeh, the son, I recalled how, upon leaving on Monday, my son Mordechai handed me a leftover Purim food gift bag, known as Shalach monos. “Tatty”, he tells me, “Maybe you will find a Jew on your flight that did not get a Purim shalach monos. Give this to him!” Turning to Gedalyeh, I ask, “Did you celebrate Purim this Sunday? Did you get a Purim shalach monos?”  His reply surprised me: I was in Antarctica on Purim eve, and took a boat Saturday evening to Argentina, and now I’m on my last leg, and will be ending up in Israel on Tuesday night. (You see, Arkansas is NOT the furthest place from Israel on earth, it takes much longer to get to Israel from Antarctica.) ”Tell Mordechai”, he tells me, ”that you gave his gift package to a Jew from Antarctica.”

And there you have it, my friends. Now I knew why I had to be on that specific flight….

I think “the Jew from Antarctica” is going to be my new line to calm me down when my flight gets delayed or cancelled next time.

Gut Shaboos,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman


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