I need a hero
Those of you who know me well know that I love movies. And while I don’t talk about movies to a great degree in my sermons, I am always watching with an eye for Jewish values and teachings reflected in our mainstream media. Having just seen the LEGO movie with my family, for example, I was struck by the many lessons that could be applied to the Torah readings of these past several weeks about the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle.
But that’s a topic for a sermon on another occasion. My real movie passion is superheroes. I can’t explain why. Perhaps a few weeks with a therapist would open a window into my psyche that would reveal a deep desire to have an impenetrable alter-ego. Or perhaps it’s just that I’ve always wanted to be able to fly, to soar above the fray, to see the world from a different perspective.
When Top Gun hit the theaters in 1986, I admit that I fantasized abandoning my plans for law school and heading to the Air Force Academy instead. Most Jewish children, however, especially those getting married and thinking of starting families, put aside such fantasies. Instead, they follow the more conventional routes (like law school, a short stint as an attorney, and then off to Rabbinical school). Unless you are a Jewish child living in Israel.
In Israel, children dream of flying, and some of them (though only a small percentage) will actually get to live out their dream. With hard work, intellectual and physical training, and a bit of luck, Jewish children have grown up to be the defenders from above, true Top Guns, the creme of the crop, Israeli fighter pilots. Some, sadly, have died protecting Israel’s borders and securing a Jewish homeland, and some have gone on to be leaders in politics and business. Some have even gone to space, carrying Torah with them higher than the heavens.
One such Top Gun happens to be a husband and father of three who lives next door to my younger sister in Israel. Colonel Ariel Brickman is my age, he has commanded a fighter squadron of F-16’s, and he has been the Commander of an air force base in Haztor. Our community has been fortunate to visit his base, to experience the flight simulator, to climb into the jets, and to mourn with pilots’ families on Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. Today, he serves as General Manager of the Ramon Foundation, which promotes and initiates projects aimed at improving society through science and space, and inspiring young people to dream and to achieve. (Ilan Ramon was Israel’s first astronaut, who died with the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia; Asaf Ramon, his son, was a fighter pilot who died in a training accident. Ilan’s wife, Rona, decided to coordinate and manage the many efforts to commemorate her husband and son and celebrate their legacy under the umbrella of the Ramon Foundation. Learn more at http://www.ramonfoundation.org.il.)
Did I mention the Colonel (that’s what his friends call him) is my age? Did I mention that I feel like a child when I am in his presence? Did I mention he is my hero? Did I mention he will be visiting our community this Shabbat morning, sharing his story, and what the legacy of the Ramon family means to Israel?
Well now you know. There will be a real live action hero in the house this Shabbat morning. Perhaps you will join me in greeting him.
Rabbi Craig Scheff