In her ?What?s your JQ? article, (?Three prayers and an airport,? Feb.17), Mrs. Kletenik replied to an inquiry about the propriety of donning tallit and tefillin to pray the morning prayer while waiting at an airport gate. She devoted half a page to a detailed explanation of the custom (halachah) of Jewish prayer times and the background for the use of the tallit and tefillin, but only a brief final paragraph to answer the query. She lauded the action and indicated that one should be proud of it.
The authoritative guide for Orthodox Jews in all matters is the Shulchan Aruch (The Prepared Table). This volume, edited by the noted Kabbalist Joseph Caro in the 16th century and only slightly amended since then, states: ?once the sun has risen and the time for (morning) prayer has begun, it is forbidden to start work, to engage in business, or to get under way before praying. It is also forbidden to eat or drink before praying.?
It would seem that the person so intent on public devotion was not following halachah. Perhaps he got up late and did not want to miss his flight. But he transgressed the rule and in doing so may have validated a saying from Pirke Avot (Saying of the Sages): ?Just as one mitzvah brings about another, so one transgression brings about another one.?
Not everything that can be done should be done. Demonstrative public prayer by individuals is not forbidden in our tolerant multi-religious society in the U.S.A., but it also is not customary. Perhaps it will come to that. Perhaps it will soon become commonplace to have persons waiting for their flight at airports spread prayer rugs to perform one of the five daily prayers mandatory in Islam. Somehow, I feel that starting the ball rolling in that direction is not advisable.