Friday, February 17, 2012

Responding to a Call to Join a Minyan at 35,000 Feet: A Creative Approach

We just returned from a wonderful three week trip to Israel. Reflecting on the trip, it occurred to us that some of the funniest and memorable aspects took place not at the Western Wall, the Dead Sea, or the Tel Aviv Opera, but on the El Al plane coming and going.

Bargaining with a supervisor to drive the cost of traveling with overweight luggage from a starting quote of $70 to a negotiated $25 surcharge, insisting on (and getting) another seat when our seatmate turned out to be a cat in a wire cage, and elbowing our way past a few spontaneous minyanim (prayer quorums) blocking access to the bathrooms were just part of the local color, as any El Al traveler will confirm.

The insistence of so many men on praying with a minyan is surprising, given the opinions of leading rabbis that it is preferable to pray standing in one's seat or even sitting, lest the minyan interfere with the sleep of other passengers.

Sometimes a group of fewer than ten men will tap a seated passenger to ask them to join the minyan, which may or may not be a welcome gesture, depending on whether the tapped passenger wants to participate or not, or just wants to sleep.  Here's a photo of a sleeping passenger who found a creative way to send a message to a potential tapper. It says in Yiddish: Ich hob shoin gedavent (I davened already.)

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