Last week, Air Canada announced that flight attendants will no longer be addressing passengers as “ladies and gentlemen.”1 They claim that the move is being made to respect “identity, diversity, and inclusion.” From now on, passengers will be addressed as “Everybody.”
Well, I am thinking of suing Air Canada for discrimination, for not respecting my individuality. You see, I identify myself as a soul trapped in a human body. Therefore, when they address “every-body” I feel like I am being left out.
The Torah refers to man as Adam. The Hebrew word adam has two opposite connotations. On the one hand, adam comes from the word adamah – earth, a reference to the finite, physicality of man and his needs for food and shelter. But it also is similar to the word adameh as in the pasuk “adameh laElyon–I will liken myself to the Most High” (Yeshaya 14:14), a clear reference to man’s quest to transcend his physical confines and identify with his spiritual soul and life force and to connect with its Creator.
Our struggle in life is always about which meaning of adam we identify ourselves with – adamah or adameh.
Every Shabbos, we put aside all technology. We are perhaps the only community in the world who are active members of society all week and yet won’t check emails, social media, or the news for 25 hours. There has even been discussion in the modern media about the need and benefit of adapting a “tech Shabbat” where people exorcise themselves from their devices for one day in order to reconnect with life. Although we must respect and care for our bodies and physical needs, we strive to view ourselves primarily as souls. We are in this world with a purpose and mission that transcend the finite physical life of this world.
When Avraham and his entourage arrived at the foot of Mount Moriah where Avraham was instructed to offer Yitzchak to G-d as a sacrifice, Avraham turned to Yishmael and Eliezer and said, “Remain poh – here – with the donkey, and I and the youth will proceed ad koh – yonder” (B’reishis 22:5).
Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l noted: “Here is represented the difference in outlook between a Jew and a non-Jew.
“The word poh here represents the universal commitment of every human being to adhere to the seven Noahide mitzvos. Avraham tells Yishmael and Eliezer: ‘You only come until poh – here; your obligation ends here.
“‘But I and Yitzchak will proceed beyond. Our mission is to go koh – yonder – a point further added. A Jew must traverse poh and always be yearning and seeking koh – higher ideals of spiritual attainment.”2
The holiday of Chanukah begins on kaf-hei – the 25th day of Kislev. The philosophy of the ancient Greeks was built on glorification of the human body and physical beauty. They were a people rooted in the concept of poh – the pleasures and beauty of the here and now. They sought to acculturate the world and to compel all peoples to adopt that outlook. But in us they found an adversary willing to sacrifice their lives to maintain their beliefs that life is not merely about the ephemeral here and now. The miracles of the holiday occurred for those who lived their lives with that transcendent feeling of “going yonder.”3 Chanukah is a celebration of koh over poh.4
Ours is a tall order. We are to live in a world seeped in hedonism, selfishness, and pursuit of materialism and to be a beacon of light of morality and meaning. We accomplish that in the way we conduct ourselves, the way we speak, and by maintaining our integrity in all situations.
That’s why I say that Air Canada’s attempts to prove to everyone how liberal and open-minded they are is an abject failure. “Everybody” does not include me. Perhaps they should address their passengers as “every being” – or maybe they should adopt the slang of the times and just start with “Yo, listen up!”
I should mention in closing that I have another friend who is also upset with Air Canada. He told me that he identifies as a roasted marshmallow.