The First Airship (Part 2)

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A Lesson For the ChildrenSummary of the previous chapter: Many years before the invention of the airplane, an engineer named Yosef Miller thought of a similar idea: an airship. But, as Mr. Safrani told his colleagues, the problem was that nobody took Miller seriously, and he was eventually sent to an insane asylum.

And Mr. Safrani continued his story:

In the asylum, Yosef Miller accepted the situation. He tried to act normal in order to convince the staff that he had been “cured” of his insanity, so that they would set him free. And after a few months, Yosef was indeed allowed to leave the asylum. He did not mention his ideas of an airship any more. Instead, he began to make small but useful inventions that he hoped would lead the people to appreciate him once again. He invented a new bottle opener, a new type of suspenders, and other items. The inventions did not make him rich but provided him with a comfortable income.

His inventions spread. His idea of a “self operating brake” for a train was sold to a construction company for fifty thousand gold coins, and the “non-leaking tire” for bicycles gave him his first million gold coins. The richer he became, the higher his social status became, and everybody respected him and began to flock to his doorstep.

At this point, Yosef Miller transferred his business to hired managers, bought himself a yacht, and began to travel throughout the world. He spent much of his time on a lonely island in the South Sea. But nobody knew what he was doing there.

One day, Yosef invited me to join him in a trip to his island together with two other friends. On the way, he told us about the airship that he had wanted to invent and how he had been put to shame and considered insane. He described how everybody had stayed away from him at the time, while now the people paid him compliments because of his wealth and his status.

When we approached the island in the middle of the night, we saw the outlines of several big buildings. Yosef took a small boat to the beach and left us behind on the yacht. Suddenly, we were greatly startled. A huge wall of one of the buildings fell outwards, and from the opening a large metal object came out, rising into the sky. After a few hours, the “monster” returned and went back into the building. Yosef Miller returned, very happy that his test had succeeded, and he proposed that we join him in his new airship for a ride.

Quite frightened, we climbed into the huge machine. But when we rose into the air, we could not help but marvel at the wonderful invention. The flight was smooth. We moved swiftly over oceans, mountains, and valleys, and we returned to the island full of enthusiasm.

Suddenly, Yosef stood up and said in a strange voice: “I kept my word, and that is what is important! I have succeeded in the mission that I set for myself! You, my friends, know that this is true. But the world has not earned the right to know about this. All the people who mocked me and did not have any faith in me, and therefore refused to help me fulfill my dream, are not worthy of enjoying my invention. For them, a bottle opener or a new bicycle tire is enough…”

As he spoke, Yosef Miller pressed a button. There was a loud explosion and the wondrous airship, a dream of many generations, was instantly transformed into a pile of metal and wood.

* * * * * *

Mr. Safrani finished his story and was quiet. The silence was finally broken by one of the women present, who said, “Miller was wrong. Perhaps the people that he knew were not worthy of his machine, but somebody who is interested in the future must take all of humanity into account. And we could certainly have benefited from his great invention.”

And another woman added: “For all his great character, he was missing one trait: To know how to forgive!”

Source: “Readings by Herzl”. Reprinted with permission from Zomet Institute ( Translated from the Hebrew by Moshe Goldberg. To subscribe to receive the complete version of Shabbat B’Shabbato 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.