Torah For Today: Space tourism

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Torah For Today: Space tourism

Rabbi Ariel Abel looks at a topical issue and delves into the Jewish texts for a response

Rabbi Ariel Abel is based in Liverpool

Richard Branson recently flew to the edge of space
Richard Branson recently flew to the edge of space

Richard Branson – and now Jeff Bezos –  recently flew to the edge of space, taking us all one step closer to the advent of commercial flights beyond earth’s orbit. What does the Torah say about space tourism?

“The heavens are the almighty’s heavens, but the earth He gave to humankind.” 

This verse from Psalms seems to encourage us to keep out of outer space. We are encouraged by Isaiah to “lift up our eyes and see who created all these” heavenly bodies, and our literature is filled with reference to astronomy and even astrology. 

But actually getting up there? Is the psalmist saying: Stay away? 

The Gerrer Rebbe in the 1960s went to the extent of denying that man could ever get to the moon, owing to this verse; a position he reversed once the moon landing was achieved and watched by audiences in the millions.

Our ability to travel to space is now undeniable, but should it be harnessed for commercial use?

In one of his visions, Ezekiel the prophet was lifted by his sidelocks and whisked through the skies. According to the prophet he night-travelled to Jerusalem, flying “between heaven and earth” making for a speedy journey.  

In another vision, he described extraterrestrial travel machines running on hashmal – electricity. Ezekiel’s images then fictive to most is our reality nowadays. 

Just like Ezekiel, we can be whisked rapidly to the Biblical “four corners” of the world. If we can shorten travel time, and perhaps even reduce the amount of pollution expelled, we may find that Israel dubs its first heavenly transatlantic sub-space vehicle “Ezekiel’s chariot”, or even Elijah’s!

The prospects of uniting split families and scattered communities; bringing Israel and the diaspora closer together; and touring the exosphere to better observe the handiwork of creation all seem a lot closer to a Torah ideal than to a Torah objection of any kind. 

Rabbi Ariel Abel is based in Liverpool

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