[02/03/03 — Ilan Ramon, of blessed memory, was killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy that occured on Saturday, February 1. He will forever remain a hero to those of us that keep our eyes on the skies and our hope in the future. Click here for video (WM) of Israel as Ramon last saw it, and as we all hope to one day see it… Serene, and in peace.]

Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, is circling over-head this very moment, and on this—his first space mission—has brought “a pencil sketch of earth, as seen from the moon, drawn by a 14-year-old boy who died in the Holocaust.” A truly remarkable gesture on Ramon’s part, who himself is the child of a Holocaust survivor.

Ramon’s journey has also, of course, opened up an entirely new can of worms for Rabbinic authorities, posing such complex questions as how one might keep kosher or observe Shabbos in space, which Ramon intends to do.

It’s rather reminiscent of the following joke…

NASA had sent many many shuttles to orbit the earth and made an attempt to include passengers of all races, color and creed.. They recently realized they had excluded the clergy, so they invited, a priest, a minister and a rabbi to orbit the earth in a shuttle…

Upon their return, crowds of people formed to hear their impressions. First the priest emerged, beaming and happy, his statement was full of joy. He said, “It was totally amazing, I saw the sun rise and set, I saw the beautiful oceans.”

Then the minister emerged, also happy and at peace. He said, “I saw the magnificent earth, our home, I saw the majestic sun. I’m truly in awe.”

Then the rabbi came out. He was completely disheveled, his beard was tangled and in every direction, his yarlmulke was frayed, his tallis was wrinkled, like you can’t imagine. They asked him, “Rabbi, did you enjoy the flight?”

He threw his hands in the air crazily and replied, “ENJOY?! What was to enjoy?! Oy oy oy! Every five minutes the sun was rising and setting! On with the tfillin, off with the tfillin, shachris, mincha, maariv, shachris, mincha, maariv!…Gevalt!”

I wonder if Mel Brooks held off on “Jews in Space” cuz he couldn’t get a rabbi to pasek the same questions. Or perhaps not. Either way…

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