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Ode to Ramon

Ode to Ramon


Ilan Ramon was not the first Jew to travel outside the earth’s atmosphere, but his voyage was certainly the most special for us. He was the first to go not as an individual, but as the representative of the entire Jewish people. That is why, although he did not identify as an observant Jew, he insisted that NASA provide him only kosher food. He hung a mezuzah on one of the portals of his capsule. In his bag was a book of Psalms and a dollar bill from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As he passed over Jerusalem, he said the Shema Yisrael. And the whole world watched as he lifted a small Torah scroll that had miraculously survived Auschwitz.

Why the Almighty took him and the other six astronauts from us as He did, I will not even venture to know. But I must admit that, in so many ways, I envy him. Sure, I envy all those who get to travel to outer space—but nobody ever carried anything like his kind of baggage. You could say that he took an entire nation—3400 years of history included—to the heavens. Proving that none of us, no matter how far we may journey, ever goes alone.

Ode to Ramon

February 3, 2003

He was all of us
And he knew he was all of us.
He felt it to the bone.

As Colonel Ramon pierced the firmament of planet Earth
reaching yet higher, past his home, upward to enter the endless heavens
he held his mother’s hand,
and his father’s
and his grandparents’.
All their memories and memorabilia, their suffering and their victory.

He held my hand, too, and the hand of every one of us that ever was
and he held all the millennia of our people as living objects in his capsule

Not Sefardi, not Ashkenazi
Not secular, not haredi
Not north, not south, not West Bank, not Diaspora
Not Ramon

A Jew.

And in that final moment of a space pilot’s glory
as the Unfathomable One stretched forth His arm in embrace
as the stars made room for him in the heavens

In that ultimate moment of supreme oneness,
in awe, through his lips the Eternal Jew uttered,
“Listen, Israel, the Source of Being, our G‑d, the Source of Being is One.”

And the vast emptiness beyond
echoed an awesome voice,
“Who is like Your people, Israel! A nation of oneness
upon the earth.”

There is hope, for we are one.
There is hope for all our planet Earth.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Anonymous Cocoa Beach Florida February 5, 2013

Ode to Ramon Oh how i wish i could have met such a special man. I am so very lucky to have such a wonderful Rabbi Who (was Ilan Ramon's Rabbi as well) has made us happy to be Jewish people living out in this non-religious town.
Thank you Rabbi Konikov Reply

Graham-Michoel Wellington February 5, 2013

Ode Utterly beautiful and deeply moving. Thank you for sharing writing it and sharing it. Reply

joseph montoya san francisco, ca via February 2, 2013

Ilan Ramon and ZVI Destiny tied Rabbi Konikov to Ilan. The two met in mind and heart towards the single cause which is so paramount these days. Blessed be Ilan to have been the last to read from a most sacred Torah which survived the Holocaust to disintigrate into Infinity with many a dream, a sorrow, a tear Reply

Andre Cohen Huntington Beach, Ca February 1, 2013

Shalom TV through my cable on demand has a documentary of his last space mission This man lived his dream! My heart goes out to his family who suffered the sudden loss of a loving husband and father. Reply

Anonymous West Bloomfield , Michigan via February 1, 2013

Ramn & Koch Strange to two great men died on the same day, 11 years apart Reply

Anonymous Cocoa, FL/ U.S.A. via February 25, 2012

Ilan Ramon I was an armed security officer at the entrance gate of SpaceHab. It was a wonderful experience. On three different occasions my husband was called in for extra security because of Ilan being from Israel. My husband and I had a lot of fun. I even made cross stitched magnets for them. They were six American flags and one Israeli flag. When they received them their faces lit up (especially Ilan's) When my mother-in-law died each of the astronauts gave their condolences personally to my husband. I can still remember my lasts words to them on their final visit to SpaceHab. I told them "Have fun." (I have to include the others because they were like bothers and sisters to each other). I still have the Israeli flag cross stitch pattern. Every time I make something using that pattern I always think of Ilan. I miss them all. Thank you Israel for sharing Ilan with us. Reply

Susan Barth Beit Shemesh, Israel February 23, 2012

thank you What a beautiful memorial to a proud Jew and Israeli - the Israeli flag on his sleeve spoke volumes about his identity and the dreams and prayers of all Jews along with the symbols of our heritage.May his legacy be a reminder of achdut and our rich heritage Reply

levin naaman ramat ha golan, israel February 23, 2012

This story is written in a beautiful way and true and dear to all
But first of all Ilan Ramon was an Israeli, his parents realized vision of the prophets and came to Israel, he was the pilot in the Israeli air, he fought in the wars of Israel, for the Jews... Reply

Shelly Scottsdale , Ax February 23, 2012

Ilan Ramon The day Ilan Ramon went into space, I was as proud as a Jewish person could be. I shared with him the dubious distinction of being a second generation holocaust survivor. I could not have been more proud at that moment in time. And then, I never thought I could ever be more sad when the news of his denise reached me. I wept like a child. A beautiful Jew, a beautiful man, a beautiful human being. Yet,more sadness than I could ever imagine when I heard that his son, a member of the Israeli Defense Forces, was killed on a mission defending Israel and Jews the world over. May his and his son's souls rest in peace. We have been truly blessed by having Ilan Ramon in our lives and having been a proud representative of "Am Yisrael". "Yasher Koach, Ilan"! Reply

Rick M Big Cabin, OK USA February 23, 2012

Ode to Ramon Outstanding tribute. He really made a statement for those us that are Jews just Jews, in our hearts, in our souls, in our prayers, in our actions I can only imagine the 6 million plus souls that greeted him at that time. I hope to meet this man at the resurrection of the dead when the Messiah comes. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma February 22, 2012

Ode to Ramon This is entirely beautiful.

Inner space and Outer space do connect and the poetry of what is writte here, does say it all.

His soul is among stars. Reply

Lynne Newington Victoria, Australia February 22, 2012

Ode to Ramon Thank you so much for this beautiful insight.
I am ashamed to say I had never heard of him, and of course the significance.
I will now be the "informed one" and share it with others. Reply

Michal Germany February 22, 2012

Ramon I read it all, Rabbi Freeman, and it touches me so much, that my eyes are still filled with tears.
He was really not on his own, he was there with all of us, Am Yisrael.
I liked the ode. And I liked that all were united, No matter what affiliation, we were one.
I did not know all this. Thank you for writing your article!!! And be blessed for it.! Reply

Franca Englander FR February 22, 2012

I read your Ode, I cried, and cried
Honour to Ramon, honour to his family may
G-d be blessed! Reply

Rivkah Davidow Tarzana, CA February 21, 2012

Thank you for sharing with all of us. It's so beautiful, thank you again... Reply

Anonymous Nederland, TX February 21, 2012

Inspiring and poignant. A beautiful tribute to a G-dly man. I had never heard his story until today. Thanks for sharing it. Reply

Dovid Klein Chicago, Illinois February 21, 2012

We owe it to Ilan The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that the biggest tribute to a soul in Heaven is when we people here on Earth act properly and in the Rebbe's words, to do acts of goodness and kindness.

Just take a mere momentary glance at the world around us, and there is evil darkness and hatred everywhere, especially from the terrorists, G-d forbid.

If we truly want to give pleasure to Ilan in heaven we must do it by doing everything in our power to do only acts of goodness and
kindness. This for sure we owe to Ilan Ramon. Reply

Anonymous New York, NY February 4, 2011

His name and the Mogen Dovid are on Mars A memorial plaque listing these astronauts has been placed on the planet Mars. A tiny Jewish Star is next to Ilan Ramon's name on this plaque, as he was on board as an Israeli national although the ship was American. A Mogen Dovid is on Mars, because of him! I saw a photo of it. And, Ilan Ramon marked Shabbat in orbit, using the time in Jerusalem as his Shabbat time. Reply

Paul Slocumb Cape Elizabeth, Maine February 12, 2010

Ode to Ramon Thank you for the beautiful and touching ode.
Surely G-d views Ramon as observant, from the "eleventh hour" through Eternity.
May all Jews take to heart their duty to let go of any arbitrary criteria, and love all Jews.
And, by logical extension, love all people --with no requirement that the favor be returned, but with great hope that the kindling catch fire. Reply

assia sydney, australia February 23, 2009

just beautiful Reply