© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Time Traveling and Manna from Heaven

Don’t worry; this blog is not going to be about wormholes... well, only a little bit I guess. You see, I ‘have’ been traveling through a time warp, both going back in time and leaping forward. My journey to the land that I lost started as I stepped off the plane and saw my little brother drive up to greet me in California. It was a whirlwind tour of emotions that felt as if it stretched through all of my ages. I played, once again, on my hillside playground where I was once hit in the face with a ‘sling-clod,’ I found an old clay friend looking out of the bushes at me from the yard of my childhood home, and I flew down the hills on my skateboard (technically I was in a car this time), like I was a kid with my whole life in front of me again. On my way to Yosemite for the final destination and the reason for my trip in time, visiting my mom, I stopped over in San Francisco for a brief but wonderful visit with one of my oldest friends that I haven’t seen in over 25 years. In only an hour, standing outside of a coffee shop not far from the airport, we spoke of family and old friends, war and politics, and Hashem, art, and spirituality. He drove me back to the airport and we said our goodbyes, only to find out that my plane was cancelled. I needed to take another flight later in the afternoon...

We had already condensed most of what was important into one little meeting, but now had the time to elaborate into more depth. It was a very interesting way to have a visit, like an introductory paragraph, followed by an essay on the life that we had led for the last 30 years. In our many discussions I recalled that while jetting somewhere over the California coast, I began to think of someone that I heard about that was afraid to fly. I began to relate to my old friend how, while looking out at the flimsy little strips of metal that kept the plane aloft, I realized that being afraid to fly is exactly the same thing as not believing that there is a G*D at all! For a Jew, this is a particularly prickly problem...

So, how does this work? First I had to figure out how a plane stays in the air in the first place. I started thinking about how ‘lift’ works for an airplane. I think that the principle is that the air traveling over the flat, bottom of the wing moves faster than the air moving across the curved, top of the wing, causing a kind of ‘upward-suck’ and pulling the airplane up into the sky. I tried to visualize the way that works and while looking out of the window at the wing slashing through the air, I realized, with a moment of panic, that there is really nothing tangible holding the plane up. It makes sense in terms of physical dynamics, but I really don’t know why it should. I mean, what if the nature of the universe all of a sudden changed its parameters? What if instead of sucking the plane up, the nature of the universe sucked the plane down! Just breathe... breathe... breathe...

Right about this time, I noticed a large fog bank way down below. It looked like a cushion of cotton laced pillows, nestled together and billowing up in order to snare the plane with the promise of a soft landing. The fog bank began to get larger and larger and as we descended further into San Francisco, instead of bouncing into the pillow of whipped cream fog, the plane was enveloped by it. Up above, the air was clear and beautiful. I could see for miles and had tracked along the coast of California the places that I had lived and worked, like I was traveling back in time; places like Laguna Beach, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Malibu, Downtown LA, and Santa Barbara. As soon as the plane descended below the fog layer, dropping down into that whipped cream, I could no longer see past the flimsy wing of the plane. After reorienting myself with the fact that we were not going to bounce off of the pillow of fog, I figured that I had a few minutes to prepare for the landing, as I could not see the ground at all, and then the runway was under us, emerging from the wispy white cushion of fog. We had landed. We were told that we were in San Francisco, but it could have been anywhere. I almost expected to see, somewhere off in the distance, the craning neck of a dinosaur, like we had landed in the Land of the Lost, lost in space and in time.

In this week’s parsha, Yitro (Exodus 18-20), we don't learn of Manna and Shabbat. That was last week's parsha, but I am going to talk about it anyways. Manna fell from the sky, layered with a layer of dew on the bottom and a layer on the top. It is said to have tasted like wafers of coriander seed bread. It is also said to have spiritual properties that endowed it with the ability to taste like anything you wanted it to (accept for onions, but that is a different story). The Manna fell six days a week and on Friday, a double portion fell for Shabbat. No more and no less fell than each person needed for the day and none was able to be saved over for the next day or it would rot with worms and decay. This, I realized while taxing down the runway in ‘the Land of the Lost,’ was connected to ‘fear of flight’ or anything else for that matter. The Israelites were completely reliant on Hashem for everything while in the desert, even their food and water. Hashem provided them with everything they needed, but not more. If a person was particularly spiritual, he might enjoy a fancy seven course meal of everything edible for a Jew under the Sun. If a person was less spiritual, he might just be eating a very satisfying bag of potato chips. Hashem provides the world with its nature for a reason. The more we connect with Him, the more we enjoy living. This idea especially comes to light with the nature of Shabbat. The Israelites did not have to provide, collect, cook, or do anything else on Shabbat, and they were taken care of. All they had to do was connect to Hashem.

When I realized this, taxing down the runway, I had the thought that I might have seen something in the fog, while descending to the ground that day. It wasn’t a dinosaur neck craning to see the time travelers landing from a place far away. It was the Hand of Hashem, as He supported the plane and gently set it down in San Francisco. This is how I know that an airplane can even fly in the first place; not because the air flows faster under the wing than over the top of the wing, but because Hashem runs the world. This is really the definition of life: To Learn and to strive to reach out to the Creator, who is continually providing sustenance to each and every one of us and is exactly the portion that meets our every need!

Sending blessings to my family and friends in the Holy Land,
Sending blessings to my family and friends all over our Holy Planet Earth,
And sending blessings and health to my Mom, who is recovering from what we all hope is just some minor turbulence in this process of life.

Shabbat Shalom!