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Saved by a Boeing 777 & Noah's Flood

Friday, 19 October, 2012 - 4:53 pm

Airplane.jpgThis week I read a story about Glenn Ey. an Australian sailor who is lucky to be alive after being picked up some 270 miles out at sea after running out of fuel and having a broken mast. What makes him extra lucky to be alive is that it took a Boeing 777 with 300 people on board and a joint visual search effort by hundreds of passengers and the crew as well as the airplane’s descent to some 3700 feet above sea level to spot him and pass on his location.

It all began this past Tuesday, at 8:15am when the Australian Maritime Safety Authority received an emergency beacon activation coming from approximately 270 nautical miles east of Sydney. The authorities immediately requested an Air Canada Flight Boeing 777 en route from Vancouver to Sydney with 270 passengers and 18 crew aboard, to divert to the area of the beacon.

Capt. Andrew Robertson, of Vancouver, who was piloting the Air Canada flight, says he was contacted by Australian air traffic control and asked to help. "There's a ship, a yacht in distress, may have sunk, and you are the closest aircraft. Would you be able to assist," was the message Robertson said he received.

He lowered the plane to some 3700 feet above sea level and then the Air Canada flight crew used binoculars provided by passengers to look for the yacht as hundreds of passengers looked out the windows to see who would spot the bat.

Once the boat's location was sighted and confirmed, a rescue vessel was dispatched to the dismasted yacht, which was drifting farther out to sea and Glenn Ey was saved and rescued.

It was great to read such a positive story for a change, one with a happy ending, and one which everyone on board seemed to have been happy to have been of help even though it delayed their flight time significantly.

It made me think of an interesting connection to this week’s Torah portion where we read another story of someone floating and drifting in an ocean in the story of Noah and the flood. Noah was considered a brilliant man and a righteous man, as he was someone who was able to go against the flow of the evil and corrupt behaviors of his time and stay sane and righteous. To be able to do that, to go against the flow and stand up for who you are takes a lot of moral strength, especially when you are up against the masses, yet Noah was able to do it and for that reason he is considered a special person.

Nevertheless, despite his righteousness, in Jewish thought the Flood is named after Noah and is called Noah’s Floodwaters. In light of the above  idea that Noah was a righteous person, it seems strange to name the flood after him, he wasn’t even a politician, so why name the waters after him, isn’t this blaming him in a sense?

Yet the truth is that despite Noah’s righteousness, we don’t ever find that he made an effort to reach out and help his fellow man. While he did keep his moral integrity and spirituality intact, he never seemed to make a conscious effort to change those around himself and bring the positive change to them. Thus, ultimately while we learn spiritual strength and stamina from Noah’s unbending principles and tremendous inner strength, at the same time we remember that we must go beyond what Noah himself did, and we must always be there to reach out to our fellow humans and help make a difference to others too.

This week, Captain Robertson and his 300 passengers perhaps highlighted for us as we read the story of Noah, that it doesn’t make a difference who you are, or how big you think you are, or how insignificant the person you need to help is compared to you, nevertheless we are obligated, asked and empowered to reach out and help our fellow person in their time of need, be it physical help that they need, spiritual or moral support. It is this trait that Abraham our Patriarch embodied and this trait that we seek to live by as the Jewish people!

Good Shabbos

Rabbi Yisroel Freeman


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