2009-02-06 / Letters

Resonance Between Exodus And Flight 1549

Dear Editor,

The recent crash landing of U S Airways flight #1549 into the freezing waters of the Hudson River was no coincidence. But it was co-incident with the portion of the Bible read throughout synagogues in that very same week. Parshas Shemos, the first portion of the second book of Exodus, deals with Pharaoh's command that every male baby of the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile and drowned. Advised by his astrologers that a Hebrew savior would soon be born, Pharaoh hoped to prevent this by his drastic decree. Of course, when Moses was born his mother realized the danger and sought to remove him from harm's way by placing him in a covered reed basket and floating it down the Nile, trusting in Providence to protect her child from the bitter fate awaiting him.

As the infant Moses floated down the river, sheltered in the floating basket, the daughter of Pharaoh went down to the Nile to bathe herself and there discovered the floating basket. She had it brought to her and, upon opening it, found the young Moses tucked inside. Her first inclination was to save the child's life and she sent for someone to nurse and raise him. In this way, she unknowingly rescued the child from the very waters her father had intended to be the cause of his death.

It's not coincidental that the events that recently transpired on the Hudson River, when the U.S. Airways plane crash-landed, reminds us of this story. The loss of the plane's engines endangered the lives of one hundred and fifty-five passengers by sending them hurtling down into the icy waters of the river below. Almost miraculously, and due in no small part to the skill and expertise of pilot Chelsey Sullenberger who crashlanded the stricken plane into the Hudson, not a single life was actually lost as the plane floated precariously on the river's surface and its passengers scrambled to safety.

The very same waters that had threatened their destruction served, instead, as a kind of cushion to mitigate the impact of the deadly crash, thereby saving their lives. Just as the River Nile was both the doom hanging over the head of the infant Moses and his means of salvation, so the Hudson both threatened doom and saved the passengers of that airplane. However, the downed plane could not remain a secure haven for its occupants forever, with all the elements of nature working against them and the chill Hudson waters rapidly seeping into the plane itself. As the terrified people made their way out of the temporary safety of their downed plane into the frozen waters, nearby ferries and rescue boats rushed to their aid. Amazingly, all one hundred and fiftyfive were brought to safety just as Moses was rescued by Pharaoh's daughter, who happened to be bathing nearby.

It's a wonderful story with a genuinely happy ending and one that reminds us of the double edge of life itself, where the bad things we encounter can also be good things — if we look at them in the right way.

RABBI LEVI OSDOBA BELLE HARBOR TORAH

INSTITUTE

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