Sunday, April 20, 2008

Thoughts on a Plane

Two reflections from aeroplanes - one positive, one negative - from my recent travels.

The first is reflected by this piece (link) regarding Pesach. One can really never know people from the outside. Sometimes, one finds such impressive characters in the most unsuspecting packages.

On the way to the U.S. I was sitting next to a chiloni family, going away for a month to the States as a "batmitzva trip" for their daughter. Dressed in sweats, they appeared as a well to do typical secular Israeli family - two kids - buying volumes of Duty Free etc. I was wondering in my mind as to whether they would even have a Seder and (rather cruelly) imagined that they were "escaping" Pesach and probably would not even see a Matza for the 7 days of Pesach.

Anyhow, they aroused my curiosity when as we took off, the mother read Tefillat Haderech with the daughter. But then, a few hours into the flight, the mother pulled out a Sefer Tehillim and read the entire section (about 20 perakim!) for that day! So I asked her whether she said Tehillim every day and why she does it.

She told me that she does try to say the Tehillim every day, and that "Zeh Tov LaNeshama!" But she added that it all started one Friday evening when her husband returned home after she had lit Shabbat candles. She asked him how he could have broken Shabbat! Anyhow, she said, since that day, they decided "lehitchazek" - to renew their Jewish intensity. Now, her husband goes to shul every Friday night and she recites Tehillim on a daily basis.

I was blown away! They slipped up once and look at the response! Look at the sense of Teshuva, self-change, of introspection and renewed commitment. How many "frum" people engage in such Cheshbon Nefesh?! It was a true example to me. And I cannot imagine that this family will NOT be celebrating Pesach. So, we have to be more generous, less judgmental, more humble, less critical.

And a second thought. I wrote once before about my thoughts about Kashruth on planes (link). This time, I would like to reflect upon minyanim on planes.

On this trip, there were an enormous number of frum (male) passengers. I would estimate maybe 80 people who wanted to daven with a minyan. It was crazy. It inconveniences other passengers significantly. All the time , people are walking back and forwards through the aisles. It irritates the flight attendants. At the initial level, I don't get, when a flight leaves at 2:30 p.m., why people cannot daven Mincha before they get on the plane. Do they have to make a minyan davka in the air? (Is that closer to God?) But I davened with a minyan for Maariv. I saw the looks on people around us. We disturbed people trying to sleep, we irritated them by going up and down the aisle, we pushed them and crowded them. we annoyed the flight attendants because there were too may of us. all in all, it was wrong. and if you think I had any kavanna pressed into a tiny space and being aware of how many people I was upsetting, then you have to be kidding.

So shacharit, I davened in my seat. I am now convinced that it should be assur to daven betzibbur on the plane. It is a Hillul Hashem. It is stealing from peoples space and convenience and quiet; they have paid a great deal of money for a flight and want the little quiet, space etc. that they have. Gatherings of 20 men just don't have a place on a little plane. I really don't think that the value of Tefilla Betzibur outweighs Gezel, Onaah, Veahahvta Lereyacha Kamocha, etc.

(I am not used to long U.S. flights so I guess I haven't encountered this so much in the past!)

I have also been lead to understand that Rav Lichtenstein, and in the Haredi world, Rav Wosner both rule that one should simply daven in their seat. (This is also the upshot of the Mishnayot in Berachot that talk about davening on a boat or a donkey!!)
Anyway, from now on, I will be davening in my seat!

Moadim Lesimcha!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,

Interesting post.

1. I read the kashrut article too. One of my students on an Ela Al flight was actually told by someone sitting near her that the food she had received was not kosher. She knew no better and so did not eat it!
2. I was on a flight once with Rav Amital and he specifically asked me to arrange a minyan for Ma'ariv while we were waiting for the luggage in the airport. Apart from the incovenience to the other passengers, Rav Amital also said that he is not prepared to daven by the bathrooms!