Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Vayishlach

In this week’s D’var Torah the Chief Rabbi wonders whether El Al is a suitable name for an airline.

Is El Al a suitable name for an airline?

The term el al is taken from the opening verse of the Haftarah for Parashat Vayishlach which is read according to most traditions

The prophet Hoshea says ‘v’ami telu’im limshuvati – and my people, says God, are hesitating to come back to me.’ ‘V’el al yikra’uhu – and even though they are called upon to go up,’ ‘yachad lo y’romem – together they do not ascend.’

A nation given a great opportunity, the potential to cling to Hashem and to raise their spiritual identity but they were hesitating

The particular historical context here relates to a nation given a great opportunity, the potential to cling to Hashem and to raise their spiritual identity but they were hesitating. And as often happens, when given such a glorious opportunity, they missed it. Invited to go upwards in their profile, their achievements – they stayed on the ground. ‘El’ which means ‘to’ and ‘Al’ meaning ‘on’ indicates that you ascend to a place from which you can look down and therefore it’s a brilliant name, an inspirational name for an airline.

Some of our mefarshim tell us that el al is a shortened version of one of the names of God: kel elyon. Therefore, the prophet is saying v’el al yikra’uhu – they are called upon to connect with God.

I find that this is highly relevant for me and I’m sure for many others because I always think of God when I’m in an aeroplane. How can you not think of God then?

The incredible ability of human beings to create this massive machine which, like a bird, can transport you from one continent to the other within just a few hours. Particularly when I look through a window of an aeroplane I imagine in a tiny way that I’m a little bit like God, I can look down and see everything. But Hashem is chacham harazim, he sees into the hearts and the minds and the souls of every single one amongst billions of people, he knows all and that’s just in our world not to mention the entire universe.

But Hashem is chacham harazim, he sees into the hearts and the minds and the souls of every single one amongst billions of people

Therefore, the name el al serves as a reminder to us every time we fly that we should contemplate on the absolute greatness of Hakadosh Baruch Hu who is kel elyon koneh shamayim va’aretz – God on high who governs both heaven and earth.

Shabbat Shalom

 

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