Rabbi Addresses STS-107 Columbia Crew Memorial Service

Speaker: Rabbi Zvi Konikov

Chabad Jewish Community Center of the Space Coast & Treasure Coasts

STS-107 Columbia Crew Memorial Service

Kennedy Space Center, FL – Shuttle Landing Facility

February 7, 2003

Governor Jeb Bush, Honorable Senators, Congressmen Dave Weldon, Honorable Sean O’Keefe, members of the clergy, distinguished NASA professionals, my fellow Americans:

Today, is a day of mourning and remembering. We are all pained to the core by the tragedy of shuttle Columbia.

Today, we mourn the loss of seven special people, seven heroic human beings, Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Andersen, David Brown, Kaplana Chawla, Laura Clark and, my friend, Ilan Ramon. We pledge in the presence of almighty God that we will never forget you!

Today, we mourn as one family, just as these seven outstanding individuals who came from diverse backgrounds formed a team, united as one.

Last week I was Honored to have been a friend of Ilan Ramon

And Today I am humbled to be part of his legacy.

As I think of my friend, Ilan, I recall the words of King David (in the book of Samuel), when told of the loss of his dear friend Jonathan, “I am pained and distressed over you my brother Ilan.  You were so pleasant to me”!

At Chabad-Lubavitch we daily live the motto of our Sages, “turn pain into action and tragedy into growth”.  Every challenge, every obstacle, every set back, no matter how painful and difficult, must be channeled into greater activity, making the world a more Godly and kinder place.

For while Columbia is gone, our holy mission continues…

Columbia is gone; yet the astronauts’ souls are with God, praying for the well being of their families and for all of us!

Columbia is gone; yet the astronauts’ legacy lives on. They wished to serve and they did. Now it is our turn to serve!

Columbia is gone; yet we anticipate that NASA will redouble its space exploration with all the benefits for mankind. For your work, furthers medical research and the development of defensive weapons, thus healing and protecting all God’s children.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, would continuously remind us that our country, The United States of America, is a nation of deep faith and great kindness.

I would like to thank NASA for accepting with open arms an Israeli scientist, a child of Holocaust survivors.

I would like to thank NASA for accommodating, even encouraging, Ilan’s religious beliefs.

I would like to thank NASA for allowing Ilan to carry a Torah scroll, which miraculously survived the concentration camps!

In Particular:

I would like to thank NASA for allowing Ilan to make the Kiddush and keep his Shabbat.

Last year  Ilan Ramon turned to me with a question:

How does one mark the Sabbath in Space - with every 90 minutes another sunset, every 10 ½  hours is Sabbath and every 20 days is Rosh Hashana –

Jerusalem, we have a problem!

So I had my homework to do.

But Ilan taught us a powerful message:

No matter how fast we’re going, no matter how important our work,  we must pause and think about why we’re here on this earth.

Today, let every one of us do one extra act of kindness in memory of Ilan, Rick, William, Michael, David, Kaplana and Laura. This will serve as a powerful expression of our unity and resolve. This torch of unity will light up the darkness and usher in a new era, the long awaited era of which the bible speaks of, the era of redemption. An era of G‑dliness and goodness, an era of peace, Shalom.  May G‑d bless America.