Do you have an easy time falling asleep while flying?
I believe that there are two kinds of people in the world. Some cannot close an eye the entire duration of the flights; others fall asleep without much effort.
Don’t ask me why, but not only can I quickly fall asleep on a plane, I actually enjoy it! Perhaps the constant movement, coupled with the humming engine in the background, makes it easier to sleep.
It all changes when we hit air turbulence. The shaking airplane makes me feel very uneasy. Yes, I know that planes have an excellent safety record. Still, it’s not fun being stuck inside a metal tube shaking in the wind.
And I can’t imagine how it feels to be sleeping on a boat during a storm. Being in the middle of the ocean alone, riding up and down the monster-size waves, with darkness everywhere… It must be terrifying!
Looking at the tumbling stock market, I guess that many investors feel like they are stuck on a boat in the middle of a storm. It seems like an endless stream of terrible economic news with no end in sight.
Non-investors are just as worried. The high gas prices, the ever-increasing cost of food, cars, and basically everything else makes us wonder: what’s next? Will it get worse? How will it impact my life?
As we are about to celebrate Lag Baomer, I turned to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (“Rashbi”) for some insights on the current situation. I found two beautiful teachings by Rabbi Shimon. When we combine them, we get a two-step solution to help us navigate the unknown waters of a turbulent world.
The first one is from the Talmud (Megillah 29, translated by Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz):
“Rabbi Shimon ben Yocḥai says: Come and see how beloved the Jewish people are before the Holy One, Blessed be He! In every place they were exiled, the Divine Presence went with them.
“They were exiled to Egypt, and the Divine Presence went with them… They were exiled to Babylonia, and the Divine Presence went with them… So too, when they will be redeemed in the future, the Divine Presence will be with them…
“The Holy One, Blessed be He, will return together from among the various exiles.”
So first, Rabbi Shimon is teaching us that we are not alone.
G-d doesn’t let us ride the monstrous storm by ourselves while He is watching from above.
When there is an “exile” – a challenging moment in our lives – G-d is there. He is with us, feeling our pain and holding our hands every step of the way.
Knowing that can alleviate much stress in our lives, enabling us to serve G-d with joy.
The second teaching goes a further. Not only is G-d with us in any situation, but we can also change the situation. Here is the story from the Midrash (Shemot Rabba 52):
“Once, a student of Rashbi immigrated out of the country and became wealthy. The other students envied him and wanted to follow his lead.
“When Rabbi Shimon noticed the feelings of his students, he gathered them by the Meiron Valley. He then prayed and said: valley, valley! May you be filled with golden dinars!
“The valley was then filled up with golden coins. Rabbi Shimon said to them: if you desire gold, here is gold before you. Just beware that taking gold now will deduct your portion in the world to come”.
What a miraculous story.
But Rabbi Shimon was not doing it to demonstrate to his students his extraordinary powers. Instead, he was trying to teach them an essential lesson about miracles.
Miracles are G-d’s way of saying: I created the world, I made the law of nature, but the world is not bound by these laws.
Connecting with G-d, enables us to transcend the law of nature and live miraculously.
Rabbi Shimon was a great Torah scholar, a righteous and holy man. We might not be able to fill a valley with golden coins. But, when we increase our Torah study and deepen our connection with G-d, we will have the ability to tap into miracles in our lives, too.
May G-d bless us all with Gezunt, Parnassa, and Nachas (health, abundance, and inner happiness); May this “storm” be soon replaced with the calming water of the coming of Moshiach very soon!