"W ho apportions life for all those living.” (Tefillas Rosh Hashanah) 

Why aren’t we scared of the judgment taking place on Rosh Hashanah?

The nature of a person is to see himself with the continuing status of life. Even in a bad situation, he assumes he’ll come out fine because he’s within the category of those living. Logically, he knows his life can be terminated at any moment. But he judges himself favorably and reassures himself that Hashem has mercy. So long as there’s no reason to change the status quo, he’s confident that Hashem will help him. (Rav Tzvi Greenhouse)

I settled into my airplane seat on my way to a long-awaited vacation in the States. I was traveling blissfully unencumbered by my lively progeny and was even looking forward to the long, lazy flight. The stewardess droned on about evacuation protocol while I closed my eyes and cleared my brain.

Take off... I was free! Heading toward the friendly skies, the land of the free, and peaceful paradise.

This approach is clearly flawed. There’s no status quo. What was decreed last year is only valid until this Rosh Hashanah. Now Hashem is going to assess us and render a new judgment. We’re about to be created anew. Who knows what conclusion Hashem will reach about recreating our lives? (ibid.)

I idly opened my eyes and frowned. Was I that tired? Everything seemed cloudy. Where were my glasses? But this was no trick of tired eyes. The air in front of me was thickening with smoke. Glancing across the aisle, I realized that I could barely see the next row over. The air was full of thick clouds and more were rolling in. The seat belt sign was still on, but clearly this was an emergency.

The PA system crackled to life: “Ladies and gentlemen, please do not react to the present situation of smoke as the crew is aware of this situation and is attending to this difficulty.”

There was no doubt in my mind that there was tension in the flight attendant’s voice. Judging by the shouting and movements around me, my fellow passengers felt the same way. Why do I never pay attention to the evacuation instructions? I always assumed they would never apply to me.

I tried to shove my way into the now-packed aisle, clutching my phone like a lifeline. Was I expecting reception thousands of feet above the ground? Or maybe down in the Mediterranean? All I wanted was to call my family to tell them I loved them.

I’m sorry I needed a vacation. My thoughts were reaching hysteria. I just want to go home. I promise I won’t complain about laundry again.

With my face muffled in the mass of humanity, I tried to remember Tehillim…Vidui…something!

Suppose there were a huge performance taking place and everyone was trying to get in. People would busy themselves trying to get a good ticket. They would worry about how many tickets were left, what they were worth, which seats were available, and how much they cost. No one would say, “I went to last year’s performance so I get free entry this year too.”

Hashem acts with mercy and allows us to buy new tickets. But we have to seize the opportunity. A person has to worry about what could possibly happen to him if he doesn’t manage to “get in” to the New Year. (ibid.)

The captain’s voice penetrated the fog. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve just confirmed with our maintenance crew that the slight condensation in the air is due to our air conditioning system, which apparently has malfunctioned. We’ll be returning to Tel Aviv to attend to this problem immediately and I ask you all to take your seats.”

The AC?! Not a smoking bomb? Not a smoldering engine?

We landed safely in Tel Aviv about half an hour after we’d taken off. Was that all it had been? It had seemed like years.

It took several more hours — until late in the night — for them to finally fix the AC and we were able to take off once more.

As the plane taxied down the runway, every muscle in my body screamed tension as the strain of the past few hours took its toll. I feverishly murmured Tehillim. I wasn’t taking any step of this journey for granted. After all, who knew what forecast the future held? Cloudy with a chance of anything. (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 560)