The First Airship (Part 1)

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A Lesson For the Children – “Oh, if only somebody would invent an airship,” one woman said. “Forget it, that is a pipe dream for crazy people,” her friend replied. And the first one answered, “But just think. It would change our very lives. We could move from one land to another quickly and efficiently, and we could go wherever we wanted to! It is a wonderful idea!”

This was a discussion among some friends who met many years ago. Airplanes had not yet been invented, and even talk of airships (which preceded planes) was a matter for dreamers.

But then Mr. Safrani joined the conversation. “You are wrong. The airship has already been invented!” “What?” the rest of the people in the room asked. Mr. Safrani was not known as a person who made up stories, but what he said seemed to the listeners to be completely imaginary. Nobody had heard about a working model of an airship. But he insisted: “The airship has been invented, and I myself saw it. Listen and I will tell you all about it.” And all the people gathered around to hear his story.

* * * * * *

A few years ago, there was a young engineer by the name of Joseph Miller. He worked in a small factory that manufactured machines, but his mind was filled with other thoughts. Whenever he had a free moment, he would spend his time calculating and thinking, and learning all he could. And it was all for one purpose: to design an airship! In the end, after fourteen years of hard work, he had developed a full set of plans. His joy knew no bounds. He felt that he had the key to solving a problem that had occupied many people in his generation, and all that was needed was for him to begin building his machine.

That very day Joseph Miller went to see the owner of the factory. He showed him the plans. He explained the plans in all detail, and at the end he reached the weakest point – in order to put the plan into action, he would need the huge sum of two million gold coins. But Joseph had a proposal. “Let us become partners with some factories like ours, we can also turn to government interests, and we will be able to raise the necessary money. To Joseph’s surprise, the owner was not enthusiastic, and in fact he scorned the idea. He said, almost as if to himself, “I always knew that this Miller character had weird ideas.” He smiled paternally, and said, “`Well, Joseph, you can understand that this is not a serious idea. An airship or a flying carpet is fine for legends like ‘A Thousand and One Nights,’ but not for a serious factory like ours. Miller, stop thinking about these imaginary ideas and get back to work.”

Joseph Miller was upset, but he did not give up. He understood that he would not receive any help from the owner of the factory or from the other factory owners, and he tried to see how to raise the necessary money by himself.

Meanwhile, a rumor was started in the factory that Joseph was insane, and everybody began to mock him. They would make motions of flapping wings, make sounds of whistling and explosions – in short, they made his life miserable. One time a worker upset Joseph so much that he could not control himself and he actually hit the man.

The next day, the owner of the factory called Joseph into his office. He showed him two men and said, “Look, Joseph. These two men heard about your idea for an airship, and they want to help.” Joseph took them into the office and explained all of his ideas in detail. The two men appeared to be enthusiastic, and they said, “Come with us to our office, and we will continue our discussion there.” Joseph joined the men in their carriage, but he soon found that they had taken him to in an insane asylum in order to lock him up…

(To be continued… )

Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute ( Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat BeShabbato please write to

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.