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My JetBlue Minyan

by Rabbi Zvi Konikov

  

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I am on my way to Israel on El Al for a Bar Mitzvah of one of our Chabad members.  It’s 11:30 P.M. and, along with 450 other passengers, I am trying to get as comfortable as possible for the long flight to the Holy Land.  My mind is reeling; I still can’t believe what happened to me just a few hours ago!

I was regulary attending services daily, saying Kaddish in memory of my mother.  JetBlue Flight 46 from Orlando to JFK enroute to Israel presented a challenge.

The connecting flight schedules were very tight, so I arranged with my brother, Rabbi Aaron Levi Konikov, to take me from JFK to his Roslyn, NY Chabad Center for afternoon services.

I had covered all possibilities - or so I thought. In Yiddish, there’s an expression, “Ah mentch tracht un G-t lacht.”  “Man proposes and G-d disposes.”   This was a perfect example.  We were supposed to depart Orlando at 4:15 pm, but the captain announced a 90 minute delay due to bad weather.


I had not missed saying one Kaddish since my mother passed away ten months ago. What to do?  Worried, I thought of a solution. I’ll exit the plane.  I’ll miss the flight, I can always rebook, but I can’t miss Kaddish.

 “Excuse me,” I asked a stewardess.  “I have an important meeting in NY and if I can’t make it in person, I must leave the plane now.”

Maybe there are enough Jews on this flight to make a Minyan!
“I’m sorry,” she replied politely. “We cannot return to the gate.  We are on the runway waiting to take off.  There are planes ahead and planes in back of us. We cannot move.  It’s impossible.”  Oh, well.  I tried.

Thrity minutes passed and we were going nowhere.
Every few seconds, I looked at my watch and calculated our earliest possible arrival time.  Another 15 minutes passed. I realized, I must do something, but what?

Suddenly, a crazy thought dawned on me.  Maybe there are enough Jews on this flight to make a Minyan!  I didn't notice any religious Jews, but it was my only hope.

 “Before I make a scene, I'll check my chances of success,” I told myself.  Trying to be inconspicuous, I got up from my seat “to stretch” and walked up and down the aisles looking for Jewish faces.  Alas, only the guy in the last seat had a Jewish face.  And I wasn’t even sure about him. Was I dreaming or was I so desperate that I imagined that he looked Jewish?  I gathered my courage and asked him straight out. "Are you Jewish?"  I almost hit the roof when he answered, “Yes!”   Quickly, I explained that I had to say Kaddish for my mother and needed a Minyan.  He understood. “Count me in when you get ten,” he replied.  Then he resumed his reclining position in front of the TV, nodding his head slightly to wish me good luck.

Bolstered by my success, I identified the next “Jewish face.”  Before I knew it, we were up to four! Each commented, "I'm not religious," or "I don't know how to pray."  Still, they were willing to help.

The minutes continued to tick by, but I had run into a brick wall.  That was it for Jewish faces.  How many people who looked Puerto Rican could possibly be Jewish?  Should I call it a day?  Give up? Seat by seat I made my plea, but this time a little bit different than before.  “Excuse me, is anyone in your party Jewish?"  I asked.   And the unbelievable was happening.  Once in a while, the answer was “Yes, he is,” or “Yes, I am.”

By this time, I had seven!  Only three more to go.  Surprisingly, one of Jet Blue's managers was sitting in a regular seat.  “Can I help you?” he asked.  I thought that he was just following the customer service routine.  But when I explained my predicament he immediately sprung into action to help me, I started to sing the Jet Blue advertising jingle in my head.  Amazingly, he offered to make an announcement asking for volunteers over the PA system!


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COMMENTS

Spirituality in the Heavens

Posted by: Richard Holbook, Sacramento, CA on Oct 24, 2004

I find it extrmeley intresting that many Jews - myself amongst them - may not even participate in High Holiday services but when approached in the most informal, or unassuming enviroment will jump at an opportunity to express our Judaism. This may be a symptom of the "commercialization" of religion in the west? - Just a thought.

Put a smile on my face and warmed my soul!

Posted by: Levi's Mom, Round Lake Heights, IL on Oct 26, 2004

What a wonderful story. How often they probably happen, G-d willing, but we don't hear about them. This story put a smile on my face and warmed my soul! There is a certain connection we Jews feel to one another and if we all did go around in any situation, in any place I do feel we would find many Jewish people. For those who were delayed and may have not known that they were part of a really wonderful trip, I hope they read this and realize they were part of something miraculous. So the next time you are stalled or wondering what the delay is, sit back, think of this story and be patient - there may be a bigger deal going on ;-)! (It was also nice to see so many Rabbi's with the name "Levi" as that is my son's name and G-d willing he'll follow in their footsteps as Rabbi's.)

Inspired

Posted by: Anonymous, Columbus, Ohio on Oct 27, 2004

I feel inspired and encouraged from this story as I haven't felt in a long time...

Reminds me of...

Posted by: Enrique Brener, Miami, FL on Oct 29, 2004

I was in my junior year of High School and my father's yuhrzait fell on the day a group of us would be traveling to Israel for a 6-month program. We were leaving in the after Maariv from Lima, and wouldn't make it into Amsterdam in time for Shajarit. Luckily, there were 10 of my male friends, so it wasn't a problem getting the minyan, but I remember the 11 of us getting up from our seats in the morning, going to the back of the plane and putting on tefilin and davening so I could say kadish. Mincha was said in my hotel room in Amsterdam.

Wouldn't you know, 3 years later it's my brother's turn to travel to Israel with his class, and wouldn't you know, the travel day was our father's yuhrzait. The same scene repeated itself!


deeply moving

Posted by: Anonymous, Baltimore, Maryland on Nov 01, 2004

That story is amazing yet seemingly ordinary,

i see from that even though maybe u thought,

there was no other option but to maybe just leave it to g-d that he would be forgiving in u not saying kaddish. ended up that u were able to not only say kaddish ,but to also make a kiddush hashem! and what an abosolutely beautiful one it turned out to be. It was a truly moving story but humorous at the same time thanks .

sincerely, a reader

Inspiring

Posted by: Mark on Jan 01, 2005

I go to a very secular school where I'm trying to help myself and others get back in touch with our souls through Judaism. This gives me hope!
Thanks,
Mark

It touched my heart

Posted by: Norman Joshua, Frankfurt am Main, Germany on Apr 08, 2005

I must say, that this story realy touched my heart. For myself the story also could end, when this one fellow jew found out about his jewish heritage.

Sincerely,


A mynian Chabad of the Space & Treasure Coasts in Florida

Posted by: Natania Etienne, Cote Saint Luc, Quebec, Canada on Aug 22, 2005

Very shocking article, the rabbi search for a mynian trying to profile Jews is absolutly shocking.

your the best!

Posted by: Zachary Shemesh, Staten Island, New York on Nov 30, 2005

hello rabbi your story is trluy beautiful. its yidden like you that world needs i wish you a yasher koach and you definintely inspired me for future references.

goosebump minyan

Posted by: Anonymous, San Antonio, TX on Feb 17, 2006

This is a very sweet and inspiring story. I wish I had been there.

My first goose-bump minyan occured 35 years ago atop Masada at sunrise. At the time I was not a religious person, and had not participated in any minyans, despite having a Hebrew school education and having become a Bar Mitzvah. That trip to Israel changed my life. I have since become a much more observant Jew and have had many other special experiences in prayer with my fellow Jews.

I would encourage everyone to go to shul and participate in Jewish life. You will be amply rewarded. And then when your time comes to make a minyan at 30,000 feet, you will be ready.

Mike //\/\\/\//

RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer
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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Hashem
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Aaron
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
Kaddish
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
Levi
1. Name of Patriarch Jacob's third son. 2. A Levite -- a Jew who is a patrilineal descendant of Levi. Levites had special duties in the Holy Temple, and are still accorded special respect.
Yiddish
Language closely related to German commonly spoken by European Jews.
Minyan
A quorum consisting of ten adult male Jews. A minyan is necessary to recite the kaddish or to publicly read from the Torah scroll.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Davening
(Yiddish) Praying.