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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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Discussion (20)
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
Cocoa Beach Florida
February 5, 2013
Utterly beautiful and deeply moving. Thank you for sharing writing it and sharing it.
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
joseph montoya
san francisco, 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.
Andre Cohen
Huntington Beach, Ca
February 1, 2013
Ramn & Koch
Strange to two great men died on the same day, 11 years apart
West Bloomfield , Michigan
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.
Cocoa, FL/ U.S.A.
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
Susan Barth
Beit Shemesh, 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...
levin naaman
ramat ha golan, israel
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"!
Scottsdale , Ax
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.
Rick M
Big Cabin, OK USA