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Sunday, September 24, 2023 - 9 Tishrei 5784
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Everyone Can Fly
On September 8, 1903, Samuel Pierpont Langley attempted the first manned aircraft flight. Langley was an experienced engineer and designer of “flying machines,” a secretary at the renowned Smithsonian Institution and funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. If there was anyone who should have been successful in this endeavor, it was he. But to his great chagrin, his aircraft, the aerodrome, crashed a few minutes after takeoff, its pieces landing in the Potomac River.

Only nine days later, two bicycle repairmen from Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright, succeeded in flying a gasoline-powered aircraft a distance of 260 meters over the dunes of North Carolina – and changed the world. They built their airplane with their own hands, with no professional help or sponsorship from anyone. Even after their spectacular success, the experts still did not acknowledge their achievement. However, this did not stop the Wright brothers. They saw the potential in their new invention and pressed forward, despite all naysayers.

This would not be the first time in history that ordinary individuals transformed the world. Many have done and are doing it without any fanfare or publicity. In the database of the King of all kings, the stars are mainly the simple people whose quiet, unheralded deeds have an effect no less – if not more – than those more powerful or famous. For example, a famous Chassidic tale features a simple shepherd boy who grew up far from a Jewish community. He knew that Jews pray on Yom Kippur but did not know any prayers. He entered the synagogue and, wanting to give voice to his devotion, let loose with the call of a chicken – “koo-ka—ree—koo!” His simple prayer rent the heavens and averted an evil decree.

Another simple couple, wanting to bring an offering to G-d, would bake two challah loaves each week and place them in the Ark in the synagogue. When this was discovered, the congregants jeered – but the famous kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Luria said that their gift to G-d brought Him more pleasure than anything since the Holy Temple was destroyed. Many such stories are told in Chassidic lore, of simple Jews whose great deeds saved a generation.
G-d’s ways are wondrous, and none of us can know who will perform the act that will finally tip the scale and bring Redemption to the world. Nor can we know exactly what that deed will be. One thing we do know – it is in the hands of each one of us. We can’t rely on “experts.” We must all do what we can to the best of our ability – even if there is nobody else to encourage you or support you, even if nobody else believes in you. G-d desires our effort, He desires our caring and above all, He wants our actions. Soon the cumulative effects of all our good deeds will be revealed, and we will see the true effect of our seemingly insignificant lives.


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