Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Eagle has landed

Today 40 years ago Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted into space en route to the Moon. Millions watched fixated as the massive Saturn V rocket propelled them into orbit within twelve minutes. At 2:56 on the morning of July 21st 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped where no human had stepped before.

Today, forty years later, the Apollo mission has recaptured the world’s attention. For the fortieth anniversary, you can even track the Moon mission in real time on a special website, replete with photos, video and audio clips from both the astronauts and Mission Control.

This week’s Torah portion, Masei, also recalls an unprecedented journey of discovery, forty years after its first small step was taken. It took 42 journeys, spanning forty years, to go from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Torah labels all forty two of them as “journeys out of Egypt”. To leave Egypt, the Jews only needed to cross the border. To escape the mind-set of Egypt, the sense of personal inadequacy, took another 41 journeys.

At each junction, they needed to accept that their new environment was not home and that they needed to keep moving. We all go through the same experience: We only reach spiritual objectives if we keep moving.

Like NASA, G-d supplies a huge booster rocket to propel us out of the gravitational pull of our habits and foibles. Each booster that He offers us must eventually fall away so that we can take control and achieve our objectives independently. Yet, even when we feel alone in a dark expanse, He remains at Mission Control, guiding and encouraging us.

Apollo 11 almost ran out of fuel, and just made it to the Moon. Had they not managed to land the Lunar Module, their incredible journey would have been a waste of time.

It took 42 journeys to get from Egypt to Israel. If the Jews had run out of steam after 41 journeys, we would still be in the desert.

Our personal challenge is to keep improving our spiritual game until we are the best we can be. Mission Control has invested heavily in us and is waiting with bated breath for us to report back that “the Eagle has landed”.

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