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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


July 13, 2018  RSS feed
Rabbinically Speaking

Text: T T T

Lessons from a flight attendant

By RABBI DANIELLE UPBIN Cong Beth Shalom, Clearwater

I recently flew on an airline known for its snarky, albeit entertaining, flight crew. As we prepared to disembark, we heard the usual script over the sound system, thanking the passengers for choosing airline X and welcoming us to the Tampa Bay area. I thought he was finished, but then the flight attendant went rogue and closed with these heartfelt words: “Be kind to others out there. Try not to be impatient, especially on the road. Know that you can truly make a difference.”

In that liminal moment between our safe containment on terra firma and the relatively unexpected nature of what lies ahead “out there,” his words spoke to me. Essentially, the “rabbi in the jump seat” was reworking the teaching of Hillel: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor, go forth and study.” (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 31a), which is an iteration of the verse from Torah: “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:18). The problem with pithy quotes is that as powerful as they are, their potency relies on action. Our “lived experience” is the teacher of their truth.

Our flight attendant likely felt the need to remind us of these holy teachings because our society seems to be losing its grip on the ethical life. We often remind our children of the “golden rule,” but as adults, we sometimes forget what it means. Notice how easy it is to get frazzled and impatient – especially during these long hot summer days. Sometimes even the slightest infraction creates inner-turbulence: somebody says the wrong thing or looks at us the wrong way, a slow driver holds us up when we are in a rush, another solicitor lights up our cell phone. It doesn’t take much to yank us off the path of civility.

Our tradition, however, reminds us that we have options in how we choose to respond.

We can make the conscious choice to act and react calmly – even pleasantly, when faced with the daily array of unpleasant situations. How does that work? The first step is to notice our unconscious reactions to daily disturbances. There is always that moment when we make a choice: to let go or to dig in, to offer a kind word or to sling an insult – or to say nothing at all. Notice how we pave a smooth path of compassion or a rocky road of harsh judgment. In our hands is the power to make or break a great day – for ourselves and for the people we meet.

In more familiar terms – whenever possible, “Be a Mensch.” I don’t think my flight attendant knows Yiddish, but he certainly knows what a Mensch does: “Be kind to others out there. Try not to be impatient. Know that you can truly make a difference.” If we all try a little harder, with a little more humility and a little more love, we can surely make our lives a little easier.

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press in cooperation with the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the board. The views expressed in the column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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