Passengers on a flight from Los Angeles to New York witnessed an unusual sight: While they were getting off the plane, the pilot bid them farewell with tefillin on.
The video of this incident has recently gone viral on social media, and it has now been revealed that the person behind this "operation tefillin" is a Chabad Hasid named Shmuel Fogelman.
In an interview with Ynet, he shared what happened on the plane. "I got on the plane very early. I couldn't do the tefillah (prayers) so early in the morning, so I knew that I had to do it on the plane. I sat in a good seat, I had room, the plane was quiet, and it was a good time. So I stood up and I was davening (praying). It was quiet, it was very nice. At one point, the stewardess came over to me, very nicely, and she said, 'You'll have to sit down,' and I said, 'No problem, I will.'
"Then the captain came out, and I realized probably it's not a good thing. And he came and he whispered in my ear, and he said 'Listen, if you need to daven, I made space for you in the back of the plane, go ahead.' I realized he was Jewish and I said 'You wanna put on tefillin?' and he was like 'I can't, I'm flying the plane.'
"When the flight was over, I went straight to the front of the plane, I figured here's an opportunity. I said 'Would you put on tefillin?' and he said 'It's impossible.' I said 'Do me a favor, I'm going to the Rebbe of Lubavitch, I need to bring something.' He put out his hand and said 'Let's do it right now.'
"I put the tefillin on him and he was very happy and you can see he's a very inspiring fellow."
What happened afterward? "I went to the Rebbe (his gravesite) and I wrote down on the paper that I came with something small, I found one Jew and I put on tefillin, which is a silly thing to write because the Rebbe's lesson is that every single Jew has infinite power and infinite energy, and we each carry the wick to light another Jew. By the time I left the Ohel of the Rebbe, the story was all over the world, so I realized that that energy was inspired. "
How did the passengers on the plane react to this? "They seemed very receptive, and nobody seemed to have a problem. I don't even think whoever it was that complained had a problem. Something so positive couldn't be negative. How could I miss the opportunity?"