Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Month Or So Ago I Went To Israel

and back, for a computational linguistics conference. And the flight back was much more pleasant than the flight there. On the flight back, there were no minyanim, because we left motzaei Shabbos at 12:30 -- and if anyone didn't daven Maariv beforehand, he was not about to announce it :) -- and arrived in New York at 5:00 AM.

Meanwhile, on the flight there, there were multiple minyanim.

I got roped into a Mincha minyan just outside the boarding gate. They were having difficulty getting 10 people to stay, since everyone was boarding at the time. I was guilted into it. One fellow was originally going to participate, but left after two aborted attempts to leave, since they were not getting a minyan. I know I did not daven with any semblance of kavana, because I was nervous that I would somehow lose out on my seat, and I really needed to be there on time. My nervousness had no foundation, as it turned out, but it was there nonetheless.

Then, I got on the plane. I had a seat towards the back. And they had two mincha minyanim. Such minyanim block the bathrooms in the aft of the plane, get in the way of the flight attendants, and possibly annoy the people sitting in the back.

And then, later on, a Maariv minyan. I didn't join them in the back, but rather stayed by my seat. But they shliach tzibbur said a loud kaddish, which woke up a person of two in the back, who looked up, annoyed, to see who was disturbing his or her sleep.

And of course a Shacharit minyan.

I wonder whether the following gemara should be applicable, such that praying a tefillah ketzarah is justified:
{Brachot 3a}
They learnt in a brayta: Rabbi Yossi said: One time I was travelling on the road, and I entered a ruin of the ruins of Yerushalayim in order to pray, and Eliyahu, may he be remembered for good, came, and watched over me {while standing} at the entrance until I finished, and when I finished he said to me "Peace be upon you my master." I said to him "Peace be upon you my master and teacher."
He said to me: My son, why did you enter this ruin?
I said to him: To pray.
He said to me: You should have prayed on the road.
I said to him: I feared lest passersby interrupt me.
He said to me: You should have prayed a short prayer
{Tefilla Ketzara, but it is not clear that Tefilla Ketzara is meant literally, with its full implications as elsewhere.}
At that time I learnt from him three things: I learnt that we pray we pray while on the road, and I learnt that one who prays on the road prays a short prayer {tefilla ketzara}, and I learned that we do not enter a ruin.
It seems that there were some accommodations made for the reality of travel in the time of the gemara, whereas nowadays, religious obligations come foremost and reality must bend to accommodate it.

I was going to blog about this a while back, but a post on Emes VeEmunah called it to mind. I don't know that the special prayer stop on the highway is required, or a good thing, but on the other hand I am not convinced that it is such a bad thing either. The trash situation there seems more like the fault of the govt. not putting enough trash cans there, and the raffle tickets / tzedaka collection seemed part of the shul ritual. Selling of food where they do not want them to is not so OK.

But Rabbi Maryles posts this story, which I've seen elsewhere in various comments:
I am reminded of a story about Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky… if I remember correctly. It could have been another Gadol but it doesn’t really matter who it was. It was a Gadol of that caliber.

It has become a custom for many Orthodox Jews who fly to Israel to set up a Minyan in the back of the plane for Shachris. While this was never really protested by the flight staff, they are clearly annoyed by it. It hampers their flight service operations. But most Orthodox Jews are oblivious to that fact. Or they figure... so what if they are “a little” annoyed?! Teffila B’Tzibur is worth a little annoyance and they don’t really protest. Besides they are used to it by now.

But that is not how R Yaakov looked at it. He was on such a flight and was told there would be a Minyan in the back of the plane for Shachris. He turned it down and Davened Shachris by himself while seated. When asked about why he didn’t join the Minyan he responded that the Chilul HaShem of commandeering the back of the plane did not warrant Teffila B’Tzibur and that it was much better to Daven in your seat.

Does this mean that R. Yaakov is not as Frum as those who Davened with a Minyan on the plane? After all no one really complained. And its done all the time. Why not make a Minyan if it’s possible?

Of course Rav Yaakov was as Frum as the other Orthodox Jews on the plane. But he knew the importance of avoiding Chilul HaShem. The others didn’t.


Anonymous said...

I once had a rav explain why not to do it for another reason, makom sakanah. When the minyan congregates in the back of the aircraft the pilot can clearly sense the difference. It affects how the aircraft flies. In addition, If something were to happen it would keep flight staff from dealing with an emergency situation. In a makam sakanah there is clearly no reason to force to daven with a minyan,

Lion of Zion said...

i wrote about this matter at


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