As Mushi Fogelman is davening on a plane on the way to the Ohel for Gimmel Tammuz, he is approached by the pilot. Instead of raising an issue as expected, the pilot reveals he is Jewish.
I boarded a plane at 6 am from Los Angeles to NY this morning. It was too early to daven before we left. I didn’t want to daven at 2:30 when we landed because I was going straight to Ohel. I made sure I had an exit row bulkhead. I knew with this plane configuration, I would have plenty of room to daven.
About an hour after takeoff, I stood up, took out my Tallis and tefilin, and started davening. The plane was pretty quiet, most people sleeping, and it was really a pleasant davening. As I was taking off my Rashi tefilin, a stewardess approached. I could see she was uncomfortable and said, “You know you will have to sit down soon.” I told her I was just about done and thought nothing more of it.
As I looked up, a gentleman was standing, talking to his son and pointing toward me. I heard him say “tefilin,” and then he came over. He told me his community had a program where wounded Israeli soldiers came to stay in people’s houses. The one that stayed in his house put on tefilin every day. The soldier gave his tefilin to the young boy whose bar mitzvah was in two months if he promises to put them on.
As we are talking, another steward comes to where we are standing and is hovering, making us uncomfortable. We both thought it was strange, but he clearly wanted the conversation over. The gentleman went back to his seat, and I put on Rabbeinu Tam.
I saw something going on at the front of the plane, and then the captain comes out of his cabin, and I figured trouble is coming. As I’m wrapping up the tefilin, the captain comes up behind me, and I figure, “Here goes.” He whispers in my ear, “Listen, if you need to daven or learn or whatever, go to the galley. I told them to make space. These Goyim have no idea what’s going on.”
Of course, realizing he’s Jewish, I asked him to put on tefilin. He said, “I can’t, I gotta fly the plane,” and went back to his cabin. The plane landed, and I jumped up so I could be the first to the door. I knew the captain would be standing there to say goodbye to everyone.
I walked up to him and said, “I have a favor to ask, I’ll wait till everyone leaves.” He said, “Ask now, I’m leaving as soon as everyone is off.” I said, “I want you to put on tefilin, it will take 60 seconds.” He said, “Impossible.” I said, “I’m going to NY for the yartzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. As a matter of fact, I’m going straight there. Can you do me a personal favor, put them on so I have something positive to share with the Rebbe?” He stuck out his arm and said, “Let’s do it, let everyone see.” His name is Chaim Boruch Ben Leah. I should share it with the Rebbe.
In a video shared on social media, the pilot can be seen saying goodbye to all of the passengers as they leave the plane.