4.12. The Torah onboard the Columbia space shuttle

Read about Ilan Ramon’s amazing quotation from the Bible aboard the doomed Columbia Space Shuttle.
” … that tiny Torah that survived a concentration camp was destroyed in the explosion of the space shuttle.”
–  Is there a Divine Message in this tragic event?

A major tragedy always evokes speculation of conspiracies and sabotage – and the explosion of Columbia space shuttle is no exception.  Already conspiracy theorists are claiming sabotage because there was an Israeli Jew on board, first Israeli astronaut Colonel Ilan Ramon.

Then there are the religious doom theorists – Baghdad immediately voiced the Islamic conclusion that it was “God’s Retribution against the Jews and Ramon”. specifically, for him being one of the F-16 Israeli jet pilots that blew up the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak in 1981

Amidst all the theorising, also from the NASA scientists, there is of course no allowance or tolerance with ‘Bible punters’ – and certainly, all introspect is taboo in the corridors of the Jewish intellect.

As much as it may be inappropriate to barge into these ‘forbidden’ practices,  ongoing information in the aftermath of the disaster – especially in these awesome times that we are living in – aroused several commentators to question whether or not there may have been a Divine Message inherent in the shock wave that the news of the Shuttle Disaster caused in the world, but especially in Israel..

Several intriguing incidences and quotations of what the Israeli astronaut conveyed to friends from onboard the space shuttle prior to the disaster, have raised concern – but none as much as the tiny Torah Scroll which Ilan Ramon carried with him on the Columbia, and his quotation from it, which he asked his rabbi to read in their synagogue.

No one will deny that the Bible, of which the Jewish Torah is the basis and the most original, has as Divine Purpose and Message to humanity,  namely, the education and guidance of professing followers of the Creator God.  Four thousand years of history surrounding the nation of Israel, as recorded in the Bible and the annals of world history, undeniably confirms the direct interest that God holds in His followers and specifically the nation of Israel – that is Judah (Jews) and the re-awakening 10 “Lost” tribes of Israel, which numbers in the millions today and is found amongst all nations.
Refer: 4.4. Book Review: “Jerusalem – Final Countdown to Armageddon”

2 Timothy 3:16  “All Scripture is breathed by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for setting straight, for instruction in righteousness ….”   Although this is a quotation from the New Testament Scriptures, this directive does not refer to the New Testament itself (which at the time of writing of these words did not exist), but it refers to the Tanach (the O.T.) of which the Torah forms the foundational part – the first 5 books of the Bible.

The Torah Scroll which Ilan Ramon carried aboard the Columbia, is therefore representative of this qualification of being “breathed by God and profitable for instruction in righteousness…”, and it may well be that its symbolism, its background and the interest that it roused, especially after the disaster,  may carry a special Message to humanity – and specifically to the nation of Israel, which at this moment faces its biggest Challenge ever – the possibility of the eruption of a nuclear or bio-chemical war on its nation and its Land.

If the Shuttle Disaster holds any significant Message or Warning for mankind, and it emanates from the Torah itself,  then it should be heeded.  To evaluate the probability of such, it will be necessary for readers to understand more about the amazing adaptation of the Torah and its Message to eventualities surrounding Israel, even in this day and age.

Ilan Ramon’s enigmatic Torah quotation from space

During the last days of this fateful voyage. One of the last news items reported in Israel prior to the crash and well before the Columbia crew members had any inkling of the fate that awaited them, Col. Ilan Ramon sent a message to the rabbi of the congregation he attended in Houston. He asked that a certain verse be recited in the synagogue, and his wish was honoured. But we will never know what moved him to make this request. The verse was from;

Deuteronomy 4:33:  Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have, and yet lived?”

As a Bible student, my spirit jolted at the reading of this report.  It is well known to Bible commentators that all Scripture quotes have to be read in context with the greater portion of Scripture from which it is quoted.  In applying this study method to Ilan’s Torah reference, there were more surprises!

The greater portion around Ilan’s quotation from Deuteronomy, is all about the last instructions of Moses, that other great hero of Israel, regarding entry into and possession of the Promised Land of Israel – which is at this time at the very root of the world peace threatening crisis in the Middle East between Israel and the Arabs, and with the Palestinians denying the Jews’ rights to their Biblical Land of Divine Promise.

We know of Moses’s tragic ordeal of having to forfeit the honour of entering the Promised Land together with the nation of Israel which he so majestically led through the wilderness.

Deut. 4:21 (just a few verses prior to Ilan’s reference)  “YHVH (the Hebrew Name of the God of Israel) has been angry with me (Moses) on your account,’ Moses said to Israel. ‘He has sworn that I shall not … enter the prosperous Land which He is giving you as your heritage. Yes, I am to die (outside of the Land of Israel)” (also 3:25).

Deut 4:1 (The introduction to this Scripture section from which Ilan Ramon quoted his intriguing request)  “And now Israel, take notice of the Laws and Customs which I teach you today, and observe them that you may live and may enter and take possession of the Land that YHVH your God is giving you … take nothing away from it … (verse 6) observe them and they will demonstrate to the nations your wisdom.  When they come to know of all these Laws, they will exclaim … ‘What great nation is there that has Laws and Customs to match?”

Verse 13 “YHVH revealed His Covenant to you and commanded you to observe it” and as for ‘the strange gods’ (verse 19, 20), “YHVH your God has allotted them to all the nations under heaven, but as for you, He has taken and brought you out from the furnace … from Egypt, to be a nation all His Own.” (verse 27) “YHVH will scatter you among the nations … (verse 30) “but at the End of Days you will return to YHVH your God and listen to His Voice.” – which is what has been happening with the Return of the Jews from the Death Camps of Hitler after 1945,  a Return which has been irking the local and surrounding Arab nations, inspiring them to destroy the ‘intruding, occupying Jews from the off face of the earth.’

From this evil inclination was born modern terrorism.

And then follows Ilan’s text, 4:33 “Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have, and yet lived?”

It is the context i9n the greater Scripture portion which gives us the full Message though, as it continues from verse 34  “Has any other god ventured to take to him one nation from amidst of the others by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors …?”  This He showed you so that you might know that YHVH is God indeed and that there is no other. He let you hear His Voice out of heaven; on earth He let you see His great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard His Word. … He brought you out from Egypt, openly showing you His Presence and great Power, driving out in front of you nations greater and more powerful than yourself, and brought you into their land to give it to you for your heritage.”

Has He spoken to humanity, and especially to Israel,  from the heart of the fire of the doomed Columbia spacecraft?  Is the nation of Israel and its leaders, which were so unified behind Ilan Ramon, truly in accordance with the terms of their Ketubah (Marriage Contract) with God, the Covenant and its terms as depicted by that tiny Torah Scroll in the fiery furnace of the Columbia disaster?  Do they truly believe and trust in His Mighty Hand and outstretched Arm which will be their only security in the looming War, threatened by Iran, which could develop into the nuclear bio-chemical holocaust of Gog and Magog? (Armageddon).
Refer 4.4. Book Review: “Jerusalem – Final Countdown to Armageddon” the 160 pg review available FREE on this Web Site.

Or will they trust in the frail hand of the USA and submit to the pressure of other world leaders who are forcing them into sharing their heritage with a Palestinian Terror State?  After the demise of Ariel Sharon, who instigated the surrender of part of the Promised Land (Gush Katif) in August 2005,  the government lead was taken over by Ehud Ohlmert, who is hell bent on surrendering the entire Biblical land of Samaria (Shomron) and even half of Jerusalem to the arch enemies of the Jews! – the Palestinians, a nation who to date has never even had a government or capitol city in history.

The intriguing background to the Columbia disaster holds much more – READ ON!

The Message contained in the weekly Torah Reading portions which lead up to the date of the Columbia disaster

The Torah, Judaism maintains, holds great wisdom, understanding and special blessings for those who study it regularly.   Synagogues all over the world read the entire Torah, on an annual specified program basis which divides the Torah into 52 consecutive weekly portions or Parashot (Hebrew).  This order never changes from year to year as it has been pre-defined, more than 1000 years ago,  by Rabbinical authorities.  It is also evident to those who study the Torah on this weekly basis, that the Messages are linked from week to week, in an ongoing ‘chain’ theme, depending on which of the many threads inherent in each weekly portion, one wishes to select.

But what is truly astonishing, is how that current news events regarding Israel, often have an uncanny resemblance of fulfilment with regard to these weekly Messages. And it is to this area that we will divert our investigation – the Torah Parashot Messages of the last two weeks during which time the Columbia Shuttle Mission lasted, i.e. coinciding with the readings for week 17 & 18.

In the BIBLE REVELATIONS Forum which is hosted by this Web Site,  commentaries were posted on each specific Parashah and we will now copy certain relevant extracts from these commentaries.

Parashat Yitroh (“Be warned!”) ,  for the week ending  Sabbath, 25 Jan 2003 (17th week of the annual cycle, 1st week of the Shuttle Mission).

This commentary started with a reference to the previous 2 Parashot Messages, which were:

Week 15 – “Boh” – (“Come!”)  Exodus 10:1 – 13:16  – The Divine plea to Israel and His professing followers, to ‘Come out of Egypt/Babylon/bondage/exile’.  The accompanying Haftorah portion (from the Prophetic books of the Bible) (Jeremiah 46:13 – 28) emphasises the folly of trusting in ‘super powers’ (Egypt & Babylon in those days, USA today).

Week 16 – “B’Shallach” – (“Release”) – Describing The Release (the Exodus) for those who take action to escape from bondage, to follow their Redeemer as He leads – as Israel of old did in following Moses out of Egyptian Slavery.

Then Week 17 (the 1st week of Columbia’s Mission) – Yitroh – (‘be warned!’)  Exodus ch. 18 through 20  – This section includes the receiving of the Ten Commandments at Sinai, known in Judaism as The Revelation!  First Main Stop in the Exodus – to receive the Torah (as represented by the Torah Scroll aboard the Columbia) which contains the underlying Conditions and Terms of the Covenant with the Redeeming God of Israel.  This Occasion of the Receiving of the 10 Commandments signifies God’s Marriage Contract and Terms with Israel.  The first four of these Conditions defines His credentials as their Redeemer God, claiming Sole Rulership over Israel (thus they are afforded no reliance on other powers) and Israel’s faithful observance of His Shabbat – Sign of His Creatorship and ‘Lordship’ over them (as in a Marriage relationship). Much of the commentary was devoted to this special relationship of the God of Israel with His nation.  As in a human marriage, the love of the husband is a jealous love over his beloved – an intimate love that he does not wish to share with other husbands or stray lovers. A love that demands implicit faith from the bride.  How hurtful it is to him  when she relies on others for comfort, protection and care.

Intriguingly, our commentary went on to explain a Divine Oddity inherent in the Hebrew spelling of the Sacred Name of the God of Israel.  The Name YHVH,  can have extreme opposite meanings, when even just a vowel sound in the spelling is changed – as in YAHVEH to YAHVAH.  The meaning can in this way change from ‘sacred to evil’,  from ‘good to bad’, from ‘blessing to curse’, from ‘safety to disaster’!  (Refer 2.1. Restoration of the Sacred Name for comprehensive details on the Sacred Name).

One could reason that this extreme opposites in meaning of the same spelling of the Name, may well infer the power of God to confront His own Bride when she goes astray. Israel’s long and volatile history records how that 10 of the 12 Tribes of ancient Israel were rejected and ‘divorced’ by God for her neglect of proper observance of the Marriage Terms.  They became known, historically, as the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel.  Similarly Judah, the Jews (making out the balance of the 12 Tribes), were destined to the evil ‘Pharaoh’ Hitler for their part of the unfaithful Marriage.  But, in the same sense,  the ‘Shoah’ or disaster can be turned into Blessing again.

The question is whether the Shuttle disaster, with the Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, representing so impressively Israel and the Jewish fraternity to the world, and the resulting consequences and strange eventualities related to this Mission – if all this, and its tragic ending,  should hold a foreboding Message to Israel and the world.

Bear in mind the background to this tragic event of the shuttle disaster which occurred in early 2003 – that is one year into the Intifada in Israel.  This was the time period when Israel’s government under Ariel Sharon decided to resolve by ‘unilateral withdrawal’ from Israel inhabited territories. The start of this Israeli retreat, shattered the Israeli nation in August 2005 when 1800  highly productive Jewish families were forcibly removed and expelled from their homes, farms and businesses in Gush Katif, Gaza. Today, nine months after (May 2006) more than half of these people are still homeless and not compensated by the government – their  homes bulldozed into the desert sands (now Palestinian terrorist training camps and rocket launching pads towards Israel) while they are still responsible for mortgage payments to the Israeli Banks!  Their belongings out of reach to them, where it is stored in containers somewhere in the desert!  And the new government, after Sharon’s demise (Divine retribution?) is hell-bent on removing another 70 000 Jews from their homes in Samaria (Shomron) in order to hand the Land over to the Palestinians, now under the rule of their ‘democratically’ elected Hamas terrorist government who has vowed to destroy Jewish Israel altogether.

With the War between Israel and Hezbullah (in Lebanon) breaking out so suddenly in July 2006, many commentators agreed that one of its main causes was the withdrawal from Gush Katif, Gaza, by Israel.

What has the Shuttle disaster to do with all this?

Read on! – as we will review it further in reference to the weekly Bible Readings surrounding this disaster.

Parashat Mishpatim (Rulings) Exodus 21 to 24 – for the week ending  Sabbath, 1 Feb. 2003 – Week 18

The Day of the Disaster.

This portion primarily discusses Jewish civil law. The Torah not only directs our spiritual lives, but also the laws for the national welfare of the nation.  In particular in our commentary, we featured, well ahead of the fateful Crash,  one of the many of these Laws:  ‘they shall not dwell in your land’ (EXODUS 23:33).  It is forbidden to allow the gentiles to have a foothold in Israel, as it is written,  ‘do not allow them a foothold’, and it is also written, ‘they shall not dwell in your land’. Therefore it is forbidden to withdraw from any part of Eretz Yisrael, thereby leaving it,  God forbid, “in the hands of gentiles”. There can be no inheritance of the land without a disinheritance of it’s gentile inhabitants.

Since July 16 2002 the major world powers have been pressing for the division of the land of Israel and the creation of a gentile Palestinian state in competition to the Jewish State on the same land and with the same contested capital City, Jerusalem!  USA  Secretary of State Colin Powell met with representatives from the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia (the ‘Quartet’) and issued a statement in New York City, part of which is quoted here:  “The Quartet remains committed to implementing the vision of two states, Israel and…Palestine . . .The Quartet calls upon Israel to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable Palestinian state . . .The Quartet reaffirms that… the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 must end . . . On September 17 2002 the Quartet issued a further statement, quoted in part: The Quartet is working closely…on a concrete, three-phase implementation roadmap that could achieve a final settlement within three years . . .In its initial phase (2002-first half of 2003)… Israeli withdrawals . . . In the plan’s second phase (2003)… creating a Palestinian state with provisional borders . . . In its final phase (2004-5)…consistent with the vision expressed by President Bush, this means that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through…Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognized borders.

The Bible’s perspective on the Quartet’s joint declaration is that these nations who have signed on to the above statements have crossed a line of demarcation, and that these attempts to divide the land of Israel are strongly displeasing to the God of Jacob (see Deut.32:8-10; Zech.2:12).

One of the many amazing and perplexing circumstantial consequences related to this disaster, which are fuelling the commentaries popping up all over, is the fact that the first reports of the Shuttle’s explosion came from eye witnesses in a small town called Palestine, in Texas, USA. In the face of  the world’s intention to create Arab Islamic Palestine as a State next to Israel in the Holy Land, one commentator (www.davidstent.org) asks:  “Could the explosion over Palestine, Texas be God’s way of drawing world attention to the matter of ‘Palestine?  Could the Columbia shuttle’s name and tragic destiny be a prophetic wake-up call to the world in general and to the Unites States of America in particular? Are American efforts to re-divide the Biblical land of Israel leading it toward a fatal crash?’  Is it co-incidence, or is there a Divine Message in the fact that the shuttle broke up over Palestine – a US town few people in the world knew about?  Latest reports have it, that the area of Palestine in Texas, is contaminated with radio active materials from the fall out of the Columbia shuttle!  Is this a Divine foreboding?

The story behind the Torah Scroll on the Columbia

But there are more perplexing circumstances surrounding this international tragedy:

Israel’s Sabbath Peace of February 1, 2003 was broken by the interruption of an abrupt announcement of the explosion at 1400 GMT over Israel Radio, to the nation awaiting the return of their hero.  This was an international tragedy for the world.   It was also a national tragedy for Israel.

During a televised conference aboard the Shuttle, Astronaut Ilan Ramon held up the small Torah — the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures — .  Watching with emotion from a NASA control centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, was the Torah’s owner,  Joachim Joseph, a 71-year-old Holocaust survivor who sent the tiny Torah scroll into space with Israel’s first astronaut, in this way fulfilling a promise he made 59 years ago. Joseph is an atmospheric physicist at Tel Aviv University who was overseeing an Israeli experiment aboard the shuttle. The scientist received the Torah from a rabbi while both were imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp in Germany in 1944. Joseph had just turned 13, and the rabbi secretly arranged a 4 a.m. bar mitzvah ceremony in the prisoners’ barracks.  “After the ceremony, he said, You take this, this scroll that you just read from, because I will not leave here alive. But you must promise me that if you get out, you’ll tell the story,”‘ Joseph recalled. The rabbi was killed two months later. Joseph was freed from the Bergen-Belsen camp in a prisoner exchange in 1945.

Ramon, whose mother and grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp, visited the scientist’s home two years ago and saw the Torah. “He was deeply affected. He almost cried,” Joseph said. The astronaut asked if he could take the Torah with him into space. “This represents more than anything the ability of the Jewish people to survive despite everything from horrible periods, black days, to reach periods of hope and belief in the future,” Ramon told Sharon and other Israeli government officials in Jerusalem.

Joseph said: “I feel now that I finally was able to fulfil my promise to Rabbi Dasberg more than 50 years ago, and then on a grand scale, and I’m very grateful to Ilan for making it possible.”

Today, that tiny Torah that survived a concentration camp was destroyed in the explosion of the space shuttle.

The Jerusalem Post in an article by Caroline Glick, summed up the relevancy of this historic mission and its nationalistic meaning for Israel, as follows:

“Ramon set off for outer space on the Columbia space shuttle, armed with a picture of the Earth as seen from the moon drawn by a Jewish boy in Theresienstadt concentration camp, a Torah scroll from Bergen Belsen, a microfiche copy of the bible, the national flag and the dreams and hopes of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Ramon saved us this time not by clearing our skies of the threat of nuclear attack, but by reminding us of who we are and of what we can accomplish if we only have faith in ourselves”

The article continues:

“As the representative of the Jewish people he recited kiddush on Friday night (Shabbat Blessing) . As a Jew he said Shemah Yisrael as the space shuttle orbited over Jerusalem. As a Jew he insisted on eating only kosher food in outer space. And as a Jew he told the Prime Minister from his celestial perch, “I think it is very, very important to preserve our historical tradition, and I mean historical and religious traditions.” (emphasis ours). Ilan realized that his flight had tremendous symbolism and meaning for the Jewish people. On Monday January 20 he said, “I know my flight is very symbolic for the people of Israel, especially…the Holocaust survivors”  Interviewed on the BBC, he said, “I feel I’m representing the whole Jewish people”.

These observations will most likely become historically eternalised.  Could Ramon ever have imagined the monumental directive that he left his nation with these words, in this modern scientific age?  – i.e. to preserve Israel’s historic and religious traditions, as featured in the Torah reading for that fatal Columbia Shuttle week – “the Rulings of Torah” (Mishpatim), succeeding the previous three weekly Messages:

  • Come out (of bondage)
  • Release, exodus to the Promised Land,
  • Be warned
  • preserve God’s Rulings IN THE LAND!

The Message should be clear, if Torah is true – and it certainly is.- that unless we wish to ‘play games’ with the God of Israel; unless we are simply amusing ourselves with the ever-living Messages contained in the Bible and weighing up our own spiritual erudition with those of other believers and teachers of the Bible – then we had better start believing that the Torah and its eternal Message is for real!

That Torah, which was destroyed in that explosion of the shuttle, may well have a more serious Warning than we all like to believe!?

Intact Star of David found in debris

Eye witness report from Tyler, Texas, which is about 40 miles from the place where the Columbia disintegrated: “We heard the most horrible boom, followed by continuous rattling and shaking of the house. At first, I thought a tree had fallen on the house . . . the house continued to shake as if in an earthquake.”

Among the debris from this inferno, found in Louisiana,  was a piece of fabric bearing an intact blue Star of David on a silver background. Chaplain Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss said, “If you ask me it is a miracle itself. For me it is as though Ilan Ramon lives on as a representative of the Jewish people.”

Perhaps the intact blue star of David serves as a reminder to mankind,  confirmed by the lessons of history to date,  that even after great calamities, Israel has always survived – and even with a world War looming at this time, the likes of which could fulfil the ancient Biblical Prophecies of a Final nuclear War over Jerusalem to end this Dispensation, the same Prophecies predict,  that she will survive again – this time as the Seat of the Universal Rule of the Creator God!

‘Columbia’ in Hebrew

One research item remained yet undone for me:  “What is the meaning of “Columbia”?  My mind wandered off to Hebraise this name – and yet another surprise was in stock: As a Hebrew transliteration it would be “Coelam b’ YAH” – and no Hebrew degree is required to figure this out as meaning: “Everything/All (of us, them) are/should be with/at/in YAH.” The latter being the Sacred Name by which God announced Himself to Moses from the fiery bush, when He instructed Moses to bring His nation out of Egyptian bondage. There is yet another alternative transliteration, it only later struck me:  “Kol Am b’ YAH” (The entire nation with/by/in YAH).

Are all these intriguing circumstances surrounding the fiery end of the Columbia merely coincidence – or does it really represent a Voice from the fire?

I think it is very, very important to preserve our historical tradition, and I mean historical and religious traditions.” – Ilan Ramon