Sunday, January 07, 2007

Seen on the subway: Another opinion on prayer in a public place?

The gentleman in question was seated about 6 feet (2 meters?) from me, wearing a regular knit winter hat. He was reading what appeared to be a siddur (prayer book) with an interlinear
translation from Hebrew to Arabic. The only words that I could read from that distance were the two printed in large type at the top right of the page, Al Kein. Al Kein? He was saying the Aleinu prayer?

Okay, round two. My co-worker from the Women's Tehillim Group says that men are forbidden to pray on the subway, lest there be improperly-dressed women within visual range . That particular co-worker is B'nei Eidot HaMizrach ("Children of the Communities[?] of the East"--of Middle Eastern, such as Syrian, Jewish origin). I think it reasonable to assume that anyone reading a siddur with an Arabic translation is also B'nei Eidot HaMizrach. Apparently, there are differences of hashkafah/religious point of view even within the same group. But one thing I do remember hearing is that one can fulfill one's obligation to wear a tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin simply by donning them with the proper blessings, reciting all three paragraphs of the Sh'ma (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41), then removing them, as this anonymous commenter's rabbi instructed her to do. So is it conceivable that this gentleman might have recited the entire Sh'ma at home while wearing tallit and tefillin, then removed them and left for work, praying the rest of Shacharit on the subway?


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