Thursday, May 04, 2017

Not the Kind of Achdus I’m Looking For

When it's the passengers that aren't so friendly
There is was in all its magnificent ‘glory’. The Jewish people at their worst. Although I’m sure they thought it was their best – as religious Jews. All kinds of religious Jews. From very Chasidic with long peyos and beards – to Yeshiva type Jews of the black hat variety, to Modern Orthodox Jews dressed casually and  wearing Kipot Seruga. What a way to show Achdus!

The wrong way. Instead of being a Kiddush HaShem it may have been the opposite. At best it was an annoyance. Not so much for me. But for the rest of the passengers on the plane that were women, children or non praying men.

Once we were in flight and the sky turned dark, these Jews decided it was time to Daven Ma’ariv (evening prayers). Nothing wrong with that. I too decided to Daven Ma’ariv. So I took out my trusted IPhone, Shirley, and was about to start when one a couple of passengers asked me if I wanted to join them in the back for a Minyan. I politely declined saying I was going to Daven in my seat.

As they passed me by, I turned around and lo and behold, there was a mob of men standing  in the back galley overflowing into the aisle and blocking the bathroom door. I could not believe it. There must have been at least 20 people standing there as if they owned the plane swaying back and forth while praying.

It didn’t seem to occur to them that their desire to Daven with a Minyan on a plane might just be an inconvenience to others. The plane is not a Shul. It is not your living room or a hotel lobby. It isn’t even the airport. It is a tight  space where there are flight attendants trying to do their jobs and prevented from doing so, while these self centered gentleman did their prayer thing.  Nor did it occur to them that someone might need the bathroom whose door they were blocking. Indeed one woman needed to use it. I told her I would try to run interference for her. But the fellow standing outermost in the aisle of that Minyan motioned that they weren’t finished indicating that she had to wait. Nor did it occur to them that there might be sudden turbulence that could knock them off their feet and that they could get hurt.

When they finally ended Ma’ariv, they started walking down the aisle -returning to their seats en masse. Causing a ‘traffic jam’ since the flight attendants were walking down that same ails in the opposite direction with the food cart serving meals. The maneuvering to get around that food cart would have been humorous if it hadn’t been so sad.

I’m sure that most of these people have flown before. They are not novices. I would have thought by now they would have notices how much Davening with a Minyan on a plane inconveniences everyone else. But either they either don’t notice or don’t care. Or a little of both.

If these people are about doing God’s will, as Orthodox Jews ought to understand that that is our purpose here on earth, Do they think that what they did on that plane yesterday is what God wanted them to do? Is God ‘happy’ with the prayers of people that do so at the expense of others?

Unlike Shachris (morning prayers)and Mincha(afternoon prayers)that are a rabbinic requirement – It is unclear whether Ma’ariv is. It is actually a Machlokes – a dispute between the sages of the Talmud. If Iecall correctly we actually Paskin that it is a Reshus – we are permitted but not required to Daven Ma’ariv. The fcat that most religious Jews do is because of aa long standing tradition where our the Jewish people have ancestrally accepted it upon themselves a requirement. From that perspective – we are now required. It is a Mesorah. What we are most certainly not required to do though is seek a Minyan to do it. While it is preferable under normal circumstances. It is surely not preferable when it inconveniences others – especially those whose work is disrupted by it.

So what we have here is religious Jews believing that Bain Adam L’Makom (laws between man and God) is what being religious is all about. Bein Adam L’Chavero (laws between man and God) are completely overlooked as though they don’t matter in the face of Bein Adam L’Makom. What they don’t understand is that when one violates Bein Adam L’Chavero – he is actually violating Bein Adam L’Makom too. It is after all God that requires us to observe those laws. Not man.

Now I’m sure that these are all fine and decent people. They are probably good husbands, good fathers, good neighbors and are well thought of by their friends and peers. But for some reason on an airplane they seem to become self centered and oblivious to those concerns.

I’ve heard it said that the airplane staff is used to it and they don’t really mind. But that is simply untrue. They look the other way because they don’t want to create a stir. Or get into fights. But they do mind. Even on an El Al plane going to Israel filled with religious Jews. Perhaps especially when there are so many religious Jews blocking the bathroom doors and the aisles.

The sad part is the fact that the fellow sitting next to me seemed like a secular Jew (he was not wearing a Kipa). He was seeking his religious roots under the tutelage of Chabad. When he noticed all those religious Jews going to the back of the plane  to Daven, he said he was going to join them and Daven Ma’ariv too.

I thought ‘how wonderful to see a secular Jew on the road to observance – caring so much about prayer- and praying with a Minyan. But how sad it was he was learning this bad habit as though it were a religious value to inconvenience others when it suited your religious goals.