My Airport story

Thursday, 11 November, 2010 - 7:15 pm

They say that every Rabbi has an airport story. When I travel, my trips are usually pretty uneventful.

Besides for some “action” like almost missing a flight, or trying to organize a kosher meal for the flight at the check-in counter at the last minute, nothing significant ever happened to me, that I would be able to call it “my airport story”.

This week the "moment" finally came, when I experienced something unexpected at the airport.

On my way back home from New York, for certain reasons, instead of flying directly to Zurich, I had to fly through Paris with a two hour layover at Paris Charles De Gaulle.

2 hours is a long time, what to do?

For starters I sent a message to the international Chabad Network “Is anyone at the airport in Paris?” Only a couple of minutes later I get an email from a colleague of mine, who is like me on a layover in Paris, and is already on his way over to visit me at Terminal G2. We meet and sit down for a nice chat. Then he asks me to watch his belonging while he does the morning prayers.

(I’m not sure if you have seen Jews praying at an airport, but if you travel a lot, you will probably see them from time to time. The reason why we sometimes pray at the airport and don’t wait to get to a synagogue or to our home is that just like many things in Jewish law, the prayer times are specified to certain hours. Once this time passes, it would already be time for the following prayer of the day.)

Here I’m sitting watching my colleague, who moved to the corner of the terminal, putting on his Tallit and Tefillin, swaying back and forth, prayer book in hand. Quickly I realize that I’m not the only one watching. Even though he was standing in the corner, there was almost not one passerby who didn’t give a quick glance. Indeed an unusual scene for many of the travelers.

Then something interesting happened. One passerby, noticing the swaying Tallit, decided to sit down not far away and did not take his eyes off my friend for a minute. At first I got a bit cautious, these days you never know…  but after a while I concluded that it was just a regular, curious person, who probably never saw something like this before. In the meantime, my friend finishes his prayers, takes off his Tallit and Tefillin, when this gentleman gets up and gets closer to him.

I decided, just to be on the safe side, to go over there myself as well. They were already shaking hands, chattzing and I overhear their conversation as follows:

Mr. X: “Good morning, Rabbi. This was something special to watch you pray at the airport. I never saw something like this before. The truth is, that it has been years since I even saw a religious Jew pray at all.”

Rabbi: “Good morning to you, I’m pleased that I brought another person a good feeling, even without knowing.”

Mr. X: “Rabbi, I have a favor to ask you. According to the calculation I made while you were praying, today is the Yahrtzeit of my dear mother. Can I ask you to please say the Kaddish with me?”

Rabbi: “What is your Jewish name, if I may ask?”

Mr. X: “Yechezkel, Yechezkel ben Eliezer and Bluma.”

Rabbi: “Listen here, Yechezkel, I would have loved to say Kaddish with you, but I’m afraid we don’t have 10 Jewish men here for a minyan, and according to Jewish law, one can only say Kaddish with a minyan. However, I have another idea.

We can learn a mishna together. The word Mishna has the same letters as ‘Neshama’(soul). Learning a mishna in the honor of someone who has passed away is no less meaningful than saying Kaddish.”

Mr. X:” Great idea, but we don’t have a mishna here.”

Listening to the conversation, I step up and take out my Iphone, and open the ‘Mishna with English translation’ App and pass them my phone. So, the Rabbi and Mr. X sit down together, and learn a Mishna for the deceased soul of the mother of Mr. X, or if we go by his full Jewish name, Yechezkel ben Eliezer and Bluma.

What can I tell you. I had just spent 5 full days at the convention of about 4000 Rabbis and Chabad representatives from around the world. I learned many things. I got lots of inspiration for my work from the many speeches, workshops and meetings with friends.

But, specifically this scene, seeing a Chabad Rabbi on his way home, sitting at the airport with a Jew whom he never met before, and whom he will probably never see again, learning a Mishna together from the Iphone on the Yahrtzeit of his mother...

It was this scene that gave me more than the entire conference.

I felt a great happiness, and in my heart I thanked G-d, who has given me the opportunity to be a small part of this great organization – Chabad Lubavitch.

(I really wanted to take a picture, but couldn’t since my Iphone was in use :))

Rivky and the children join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim



Comments on: My Airport story

ruth ritter wrote...

it's a beuatiful and very touching story.
i am really moved. thank you and shabbat shalom.

Tzvi wrote...

Rabbi Chaim, you are inspiring, keep it coming!

Steve Kuepfer wrote...

Always nice to read your stories!

Itzik wrote...

Hi Chaim
Very nice story, still more for me the meeting with the colleague.
and: you should thank als Steve Jobs!
see you