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Over the past few months I have had the occasion to travel between Israel and the United States a number of times. I do so on my favorite airline, El Al Israel. I enjoy being on El Al because, as their motto states, it makes you feel at home more than any other airline in the world. On El Al everyone is eating kosher, its planes don't fly on the Sabbath and the passengers can get up and pray without interference. It just feels like home, like a Jewish home. Now El Al is not a perfect airline; I don't think there is a perfect airline that has ever existed or will ever exist. Because of that and since it's run and operated by human beings, there is always the tendency for errors in judgment, in speech and somehow to have situations misconstrued. Things happen.
            One recent incident where an El AL plane, because of Sabbath, landed in Athens because the pilot took off in the middle of a snowstorm in the United States, immediately caused a furor, petitions, complaints, et cetera. Again, though perfection is a goal, companies such as airlines do often fall short of that mark. But El AL is a great little airline and it is something of which the Jewish people should be proud. Never before in our history have we had airplanes with the Star of David on their tail, with the ability and prestige El AL enjoys today. That is what we should contemplate and take notice of rather than carping about the imperfections which exists and which, because of human nature, will always exist.
            The Talmud repeatedly emphasizes that people should be grateful. The basis of Judaism is gratitude, to God that we are alive no matter what our problems are, gratitude for what we have no matter what we think we are missing, gratitude to God for everyday life, difficult as it may be. Because of this, the measure of a human being is the ability to be thankful for what exists. The pithy statement of the rabbis is, "Why should a person complain about life? Is it not good enough that he is alive?"
                    People don't feel that way. If something is only 90% good, it's not good enough. We want everything to be 100% so we are not willing to accept and treasure the 90%. An even more extreme example is if something is only 10% good so then people say they can't be grateful because it's 90% bad.
            Yet Judaism demands us to be grateful for the 10% good and that has to be the attitude towards life, towards the family, towards marriage, towards a job, towards anything that we do. If we only look at what we are missing then we will always be tormented, frustrated, sad and envious. The secret of a happy life is gratitude, grateful to the family that one has…. even though everybody has a crazy uncle. Grateful for the job that we have even though our boss is not perfect and our salary is not really what it should be, and grateful for the fact that for the first time in millennia we have an independent Jewish state, imperfect as it may be, and grateful that we have a Jewish airline that in many, many respects exhibits the positive traits of Jewish tradition.
            I notice that people are quick to complain about service, prices, the size of the seats and other issues which exist with El Al. I do not minimize any of these complaints. I also wish that their flights would be cheaper, their seats wider, the planes friendlier to the passenger and less attentive to the profit margin of the company. But that is a very narrow view.
                    There was a time in Poland when the Polish government allowed a railroad spur to be built from Warsaw to the village of Góra Kalavarya where the famous Gerrer rebbi had his court. This 18-mile spur was populated and used practically exclusively by the chassidim of this great master. The Polish government, in a moment of tolerance, allowed that this one spur of the entire Polish national railway system be manned by Jews. There were even Jewish conductors who came to collect the tickets. Seen as a noble gesture by the Polish government on behalf of the Jewish population. Jews were proud that there was a Jewish conductor who had the authority to ask for one's railway ticket.
            Well we've come a long way since then, but we have lost our pride on the way. We take it for granted that Jews can pilot planes, own airlines, be served special meals, adhere to their own traditions, and be made to make feel like home, even at 30,000 feet in the air. This is not an advertisement for El Al because they have not commissioned me to do so but it is my view. If we looked at what we have and where we have come from and how much we have achieved and the blessings that have been bestowed upon us, even if only 50% or 40% of what we wanted, we are still obligated to be grateful. We are still required to say thank you. The more times in our life that we say thank you - in fact we say thank you three times a day in our prayers - the better our life is, the more serene we will be and there will certainly be less tension and frustration in everything that occurs in our mundane world.
Shabbat shalom

Berel Wein 

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