Today, a kid’s tefillin caused an emergency landing.  A plane that took off from New York’s La Guardia, and was bound for Louisville, KY, landed in Philadelphia instead.
It takes a certain level of frumkheit to want to lay tefillin at an airport or on an airplane.  I have had numerous tefillin-related adventures whilst flying to and from Israel — namely, waking up with the bags and boxes on my head; apparently something about a girl in pants on a plane makes her an inanimate object to the ultra-Orthodox — but never in the States.  This 17-year-old, however, was operating, er, davening by himself, and it appears he was not violating anybody’s personal space.  He just wanted to do his ritual on the plane at a time he found to be appropriate for shacharit.
According to the AP, via the Washington Post, Tefillin boy said he explained himself, and the flight crew said his explanation didn’t make any sense.  You know the sad song – the teenager tells the truth and parents just don’t understand!
I’ve always found it strange that I can bring knitting needles on a plane.  Knitting needles, which are like a weapon waiting to happen, are allowed on a plane, but my nearly empty tube of toothpaste gets trashed because it at one point contained more than 3 oz. of Colgate.
Tefillin sure look funny, but do we really live in a world where people can’t figure out that they’re not dangerous through either (A) a clear conversation, (B) context clues, like a prayerbook, (C) your eyeballs or (D) asking someone else to help explain?  You can’t tell me there weren’t other Jews or someone else who had ever seen a Jew on that plane — it went out of LGA!
In these uncertain times, where it’s possible to smuggle oh-so-many things on a plane or even into an airport, such as exploding underwear and romantic idiots, you sort of hope that the tefillin aren’t being used to house stolen or dangerous goods, and are rather just the vectors of meditations meant to serve as “God antennas” to those who travel with them – male or female.
More from: Gothamist, NY Daily Intel, and Tablet.