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    Praying on an airplane – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What advice can you give about how to daven on an airplane?

    A. The Shema requires us to have the Divine words in our mouths “when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up”.

    “Walking by the way” includes an air flight. Davening is especially important when you are travelling because it obviously includes praying that you and everyone else will reach your destination in health and peace. But the air flight context makes praying particularly difficult.

    If you are a male who needs to put on tallit and tefillin you are likely to find that getting out of your seat is already a problem, as is standing up to say the Amidah, particularly if the “Fasten seat belt sign” is on. There is also a question of inconveniencing the flight crew and disturbing the other passengers.

    If you try to organise a minyan on the plane it is hard to pray with kavvanah, you probably won’t be able to hear the chazan properly, and generally the only area where a group can congregate is near the toilets, which is also not conducive to concentration on prayer.

    A number of authorities, e.g. Rabbi Shlomo Zelman Auerbach, say one should not try to form a minyan in these circumstances, and even if you stay in your seat to pray you should daven softly and need not stand up for the Amidah.

    One approach is to daven in a suitable corner at the airport before boarding or after disembarking, though this does not solve the problem if it is a long-haul flight.

    Many people still prefer to pray with a minyan but they should plan in advance – keep tallit, tefillin and siddur handy, ask the cabin crew’s advice as to where to stand and when is the least inconvenient time for them, in Shacharit say the Pasukei D’Zimra in your seat and thus shorten the length of the service with the minyan, have someone standing beside the chazan wave his hand as a signal to the rest of the minyan to say Amen, and thank the cabin crew and the passengers beside you for their consideration.

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