Last year, my wife and I traveled by plane to Portland, Oregon to visit our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. We had a connecting flight in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a three-hour stopover.
The terminal was packed. I only found out later that the airport is a hub for US Airways and one of the country’s busiest airports.
At Minchah time, I didn’t feel comfortable davening in front of so many people. The Mishnah Berurah (siman 90, se’if katan 11) says that when traveling, it is preferable to find a secluded place to daven so that others won’t disturb you. I was actually more concerned about feeling self-conscious that people would stare at me, causing me to lack the proper level of kavanah while davening.
I started to walk in one direction in quest of a place to daven, but had no success. I retraced my steps and went in the opposite direction, but still no luck. I’m not one to give up easily, remembering an interpretation of the expression yeiush shelo mida’as: if one gives up hope, he’s not thinking straight.
Walking back to the departure lounge, I passed gate after gate after gate. All of a sudden, an idea popped into my head. I chose a gate at random and approached the official who was manning it. I told the tall, elderly gentleman that I needed to pray in a private area for approximately 10 minutes. The man sized me up and asked if my praying was for Minchah or Shacharit. Shocked, my mouth dropped.
“Minchah,” I answered, “but how do you know?” The official replied, “I’m Jewish.” I probably came upon the only Jew who worked at the airport. He told me to follow him. He took me to a room filled with computer equipment and said, “You pray here for as long as you want.” I couldn’t believe my ears.
I thanked the man profusely and began to daven slowly – with kavanah. I expressed gratitude to Hashem for allowing me to daven Minchah undisturbed. My davening was a mechayeh!
Upon completing Minchah, I wished to thank the airport official again – but he was no longer there. So I returned to my wife, who was waiting for me at the departure lounge, and told her what had happened. She asked me if I knew the man. I said that I didn’t, and hadn’t even asked him for his name. “Well, I know who he is,” my wife said. Smiling broadly, she said, “Eliyahu HaNavi!”
The Gemara in Berachos says that one should always remember to daven Minchah, as Eliyahu HaNavi was answered only at the time of tefillas Minchah. Thus, the connection between Eliyahu and Minchah couldn’t be greater. Could my wife have been correct?
May Eliyahu HaNavi arrive with the announcement that Mashiach is here bimheirah beyameinu!