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“Discovery has come home”

With those words my wife and I (and the rest of the country) breathed a sigh of relief that the space shuttle Discovery had safely made it back home to Earth. We didn’t even realize we were holding our breath as we watched the landing live on TV while having breakfast, and there was little we could do to hold back a couple tears of joy.

When the Columbia exploded two years ago, we were incredibly distraught, not just because of the tragedy of it all, but also because we had an emotional investment on that mission, namely Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space, the first Jew to leave the confines of this planet and keep the commandments he rarely kept on terra firma. Discovery’s mission had no similar attachment, though it became surprisingly important in our lives, to the point where we were actually joyful that everything had turned out right and that these explorers were now back home.

We say it with such mundane flippancy, “They were in space,” but this morning I stopped to relfect on those words, on the fact that these men and women had gone somewhere most people will never go. These modern-day explorers had left the confines of ultimate security, Earth, to venture into a place that is entirely inhospitable, a realm of silence and darkness, where we are not rulers or leaders, a realm of unparalleled beauty, where G-d’s magnificent creation is undeniable. I only think to my travels, and that moment when I come back home, and I try to multiply that by a number too large to fathom, and it gives me chills.

Thank G-d for bringing our astronauts safely back home to Earth.

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