Like many other Jews, Israelis, and space enthusiasts all around the world, we have been enthusiastically following the journey of #Beresheet, Israel’s SpaceIL lunar lander’s space journey with excitement and anticipation. Our kids school has been learning along with it, even winning second prize for a video contest called “Fly Me To The Moon” (see the Maimonides 2-minute video here). But alas, the exciting journey ended with disappointment as it unfortunately crashed when landing on the moon and ended its journey before it could begin its experimentation and projects on the moon’s dark side. Of course, it is a lesson about failure, resilience, not giving up.
When I first heard of #Beresheet’s lunar crash, the first thing that came to mind was Rashi’s commentary on the Haazinu verse (Deut 32:11) על גוזליו ירחף (hovering over its young). An eagle is a very strong and powerful bird that pumps its brakes and comes in for a soft landing so it comes down easy on its nest and eggs. My father, Rabbi Yisroel Rubin, uses this teaching to explain the famous Mishna Avot expression קל כנשר light as an eagle, not about how it soars, but how gently and softly it comes down on its nest.
So, at first I thought the Israeli lunar module crashed because it came down too hard on the moon. But then I heard that it was about loss of communication that led to the crash landing.
This second thought about loss of communication reflects a different verse in Haazinu, a few verses later (Deut 32:18) where it says: ותשכח א-ל מחוללך that seems to have been the culprit that crashed #Beresheet. That verse is about “forgetting G-d, our origin/source, that gave birth to us”. Like the lunar lander 238,000 miles away from home “forgot” and lost communication with its home-base on earth.
In fact, interestingly, the unusual word this verse for source/origin מחוללך shares the same root as the modern Hebrew word for outer space חלל and space craft חללית !
As this happens before Passover, there’s an important lesson here. Often we are overly concerned with soft landings and miss the critical importance of maintaining connection with our roots and source. Passover is a key time for that intergenerational focus on our heritage and origins. Keep that connection strong!