I was not alive when a man landed on the moon, but I can now tell you where I was when Israel arrived in space. Yesterday afternoon, as twenty of us gathered to study Torah in a Century City conference room, we were initially all glued to our phones, waiting for word that Beresheet, the rocket from Israel, made a safe landing. And yet, after weeks in orbit, the moment did not go as planned. There was a crash, and the experiment was done.
Where was I when Israel arrived in space? I was studying aspects of the Haggadah with my community. We learn, matchil begenut umsayem bshevach, you should start by recounting the troubles, but end with words of praise. Yes, there was trouble in that moment of the crash landing, but the Israeli leaders immediately stood in front of the media and said, “If you first do not succeed, try again.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains that there is no Hebrew word for tragedy. It is simply translated into Hebrew as tragedia. That is not a mistake, for while we as Jews have suffered calamities and misfortunes throughout our history, our story is not based on the word tragedy, but on the word freedom- freedom to have another opportunity to try again, freedom to choose differently next time, freedom to get back up after falling down. How appropriate that it was the text of freedom that we were studying as this occurred. Each one of us knew that yes, the outcome was not what we expected, but tomorrow, we the Jewish people, the people of Israel, will try again. And for that, we are grateful.