Opinion

Israel in space: A bittersweet night for Israel and Judaism

As disappointing as it was not landing properly, it is first a success that we made it at all, and second a reminder of all the symbolism involved in Judaism. And that our destiny is to struggle at first, and then repent and return and succeed in the end.

Alexander Friedman, left, directs a control room of 25 Israeli scientists monitoring the “Beresheet” satellite as it made its way to the moon. Credit: Chabad.org/News.
Alexander Friedman, left, directs a control room of 25 Israeli scientists monitoring the “Beresheet” satellite as it made its way to the moon. Credit: Chabad.org/News.
Yechiel Stein
Yechiel Stein

It’s a bittersweet night. Apparently, “Beresheet” landed on the moon, but crashed. I want to take a minute to reflect on the Jewish symbolism of the Israeli spacecraft and offer hope.

We launched the week of Parshat Ki Tisa, right in the middle of the Torah readings about the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Our spacecraft was covered on the outside in gold—like the gold plating in the Mishkan. On the inside, we had two fuel tanks, like the two tablets in the Holy of Holies. On top we had two standing solar panels, like the two Keruvim (“cherubs”). We were in orbit for exactly seven weeks, like the days of Omer, like the years of the Jubilee—a very significant number in Judaism.

The flight was during the months of Adar and Nisan, months of our redemption. We just read about how the Jewish calendar uses the moon on the special Shabbat Hachodesh this past week. The name of the Israeli spacecraft was “Beresheet,” the first book of the Hebrew Bible and the story of G-d creating the world, and the Mishkan was G-d’s home on the world He created (more parallels there too long to go into). The team even kept Shabbat on the mission.

Now our little redemptive tabernacle of creation has crashed at its final destination, like our two temples were destroyed.

However, Judaism is all about repentance (teshuvah) and prayer, hope and longing for the final redemption. So as disappointing as it was not landing properly, it is first a success that we made it at all, and second a reminder of all the symbolism involved in Judaism. And that our destiny is to struggle at first, and then repent and return and succeed in the end.

When our president, Reuven Rivlin, sang our national anthem of “Hatikvah” (“the Hope”), at the end of the broadcast, I was thinking of how we don’t let our disappointments get us down, but maintain our hope. And our prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said to the team that we hope to be back in two to three years. I’m sure our space program at SpaceIL will continue. An entire young generation has now been inspired with the slogan—small country, big dreams—in the final photo “Beresheet” took, based on the founder of modern Zionism’s slogan. The other photos are a model of the spacecraft in orbit and as it approached the moon.

So let’s take pride in this accomplishment, and look forward to fully reaching the moon next time and our final redemption in this month of redemption!

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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