Sunday, August 12, 2007

Shut It Down!

I have one final word about the designated Mincha Rest area on the New York Thruway. I believe the only real rectification to the ongoing Chilul Hashem that takes place there is to shut it down. And fast! If I were the Agudah Moetzes I would pettion the highway authority to remove their permission to use it.

In fact I can’t believe it ever opened up in the first place. The Mitzva of Tefilla B’tzibur is trumped by the Chilul HaShem resulting from it.

Lest anyone say that denying people an opportunity to do a Mitzva like Tefila B’Tzibur is in and of itself a Chilul HaShem, that is certainly not the case. People can find Minyanm all over town at any time of day. They can leave the city a little later. Or they can leave a little earlier and find a Minyan in the Catskills. Short of that they can Daven alone B’Ychidis,.

I doubt that a single prominent rabbinic figure has ever Daven’d Mincha at this rest area.

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.

On my last flight to Israel there was such a Minyan. I didn’t go and Davened in my seat. But the fellow sitting next me did. When I mentioned the story of R Yaakov, he kind of gave me a “Hmmmm…very interesting!" look. And then he got up and Davened with that Minyan. He was otherwise a very nice fellow and we had some very freindly discussions during that long flight. But he did not want to miss an opprtuntiy to Daven Teffila B’Tzibur. That was his focus.

The Chilul Hashem that is taking place on the New York State Thruway is exactly the same thing as the one on the plane only much greater. They may have gotten permission to use a public area for Mincha, but the resulting Chilul HaShem makes that permission meaningless.

In my view that “Mincha” rest area should be closed. Fressing (pigging out) Cholent, kids hawking raffle tickets, and the resulting mess is not what God is looking for when he wants us to Daven Teffila B’Tzibur. It makes Davening on an airplane look like a Kiddush Hashem by comparison.