Tonight Israel will write a new chapter in human history. At 8:45pm EST SpaceIL, a privately funded Israeli space exploration company will launch Beresheet, an lunar lander aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. To date, only three countries have ever landed on the moon: the United States, Russia, and China. Forty days from now, Israel will be the fourth country, in human history, to land on the moon.
Forty days can pass in the blink of an eye or it can feel like an eternity. For our ancestors wandering in the desert, forty days was enough time to lose faith in God, build a golden calf, and worship a foreign idol. This week’s parasha is Ki Tisa, the parasha in which Moses tells the Israelites that he’ll return in forty days, but he ends up delaying a bit. Forty days of waiting at the foot of Mt. Sinai led the Israelites to throw their hands in the sky and turn to their other leader, Aaron, Moses’ brother, for a new path to follow. Over the next forty days, our attention will once again be toward the sky, just as our ancestors once gazed up at Mt. Sinai. Yet again, we will wait forty days for a miracle.
Last year, Yonatan Weintraub, one of the three founders of SpaceIL inspired us and our kids at Temple Emanu-El when he told us about his crazy dream: to land a spacecraft on the Moon. Today, that dream is only forty days from reality. In the history of the Jewish people, forty days was the difference between life and death in the wilderness, from faithfulness to blasphemy. Today, forty days is what separates Israel and the Jewish people from doing what billions of humans have only dreamed about.
The forty-year journey of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in our land has always been the test of our mettle. Now, the dreams of millions rest on the coming forty days as Israel once again will defy all expectations and attempt what few have ever tried: to break free of earthly bonds and rocket towards boundless freedom.