Life Lessons

By Rabbi Mark Melamut

Imagine for a moment that you’re sitting next to us, your seat is 12B. From one side, “Abba, is this our plane? Is that the wing? Can I watch my movie yet?…..” From the other side, some giggles, some “mama,” and a bit of crying and kvetching. By now, you’re either wishing you were in a different row, you’re just waiting to reach the appropriate altitude so that you can put on your listening device and block it out, you’re remembering the adventures of traveling with children, or you’re holding your breath for the beverage cart to finally make its way down the aisle.

Our family recently returned from a trip to Mobile, AL, to celebrate a cousin’s wedding. It was our first plane trip in a while, and it taught me some valuable lessons, which I think are also life lessons.

A change in environment, routine and schedule is good for the soul. It gives you perspective and even some moments to think and rest, if you’re lucky, and if you don’t have too many airline delays or distractions. This travel day was a bit different than my average day. What is an average day for a rabbi anyway? It often includes dropping the kids at school, a bit of prayer, some learning, maybe some writing, lots of emails, phone calls and visits, planning, changing plans, planning again, teaching, listening, collaborating, going through mail, scheduling meetings with people and organizations, meeting with people and organizations, and some schlepping here and there and back again. And then, squeezing in some important time with my children.

In Jewish tradition we are taught that when we travel anywhere beyond a few miles, when we have left our town, we are to offer T’fillat Haderech, a Traveler’s Prayer. It is a beautiful prayer that essentially asks that we be guided in peace, protected from all kinds of perils along the way, and arrive at our destination, as well as return, b’simcha u’v’shalom, in happiness and in peace. You can even find this blessing in a travel-ready, mini-card form, so as to have it handy for your journeys.

Today, my blessing card was in the backpack, which was stuffed way under the seat, and buried deep under snacks and toys. So, I closed my eyes and just said to myself a personal prayer for guidance not only for safety and peace, but for the patience of our fellow passengers and for ourselves.

The next thing I knew, our trip was over. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, the long trip, the packed wedding weekend, the fried food, or just being in the mindset of happiness and peace, but 87 degrees had turned back to 67 degrees, the sun was hidden and the fog prevalent, and we were home, a bit travel weary and blurry eyed, but home. I had learned and relearned a short list of lessons which, now that I think about it, can help guide us through our daily lives as well:

  • Always have a nosh, snack or something handy to tinker with readily available – not to risk unnecessary tears or meltdown, or at least mood dampening
  • Plan, but also be flexible – otherwise, we miss something along the way
  • Rest, when you can – it really does help to be rested
  • Be in the moment – what other choice do we have
  • Remember to laugh along the way – it really does help relieve pressure

Whether you’re staying put or traveling this summer, may your daily adventures be guided by happiness and peace, may you be protected along the way, and may you arrive and return safely.

N’siyah tovah/a good journey,

Rabbi Mark

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