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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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'HOLY PLASTIC!'

‘Plastic Bag’ Airplane Passenger a Kohen Staying Pure?

Look up in the sky? Is It a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Plastic Man – the Orthodox Jew who wrapped himself in plastic on an airplane, apparently because he is a very scrupulous Kohen.
plastic-man-on-airplane

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An Orthodox Jewish man, wrapped in a plastic bag in his airline seat, apparently did so because he was probably a Kohen who went to extreme lengths to make sure he would not be ritually impure if the plane flew over a Jewish cemetery.

Kohenim are prohibited from coming into contact with dead bodies, and many rabbis have taken the strict opinion that a Kohen may not ride in a plane if he knows ahead of time that it will fly directly over a Jewish cemetery. Many have ruled that if does not know of the flight plan, he may ride in the airplane.

El Al once agreed to change a fight trajectory to avoid flying over a cemetery.

The man wrapped in plastic, whose photograph first appeared on the Redditor site and later on the Gothamist site, apparently did not want to take any chances. By covering himself in plastic, he established a separation between him and impurities.

However, since he arrived at his destination safe and sound, it can be assumed there was a hole in the plastic bag so he could breathe.

Some readers of Redditor suggested that “plastic man” was making sure he would not come into contact with the woman sitting behind him, but that is doubtful since it is unlikely he carried a plastic covering “just in case.”

Or maybe he simply wanted some attention.

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About the Author: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.


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27 Responses to “‘Plastic Bag’ Airplane Passenger a Kohen Staying Pure?”

  1. Lisa Liel says:

    See, and I thought it was a life-sized Hassid doll.

  2. Lisa Liel says:

    See, and I thought it was a life-sized Hassid doll.

  3. Josh Backon says:

    But these are gentile cemetaries ! See Yoreh Deah Siman 372 and Chelkat Yaakov I Siman 26 based on the Shach YD 372 s"k bet. Also Iggrot Moshe YD II 166. There is a klal: safek tumah bi'reshut ha'rabbim mutar. And here we're dealing with a POSSIBLE flight over a gentile cemetary. And even with a Jewish cemetary it's an issur d'rabbanan. The chilul hashem these idiots caused is much greater.

  4. Daniel Rosen says:

    If the insight in the article is based on a "probably" then how is this news? Does the writer know the facts of the story? The provenance of the picture? Has he interviewed those involved? Why is this a news story if it is conjecture? Is the article about religious experts who have issued rulings condoning or dondemning it? Is it an expose about the practices of El Al? I wouldn't know — I don't know what airline the guy in the picture is flying. Guess work is not journalism.

  5. Yehudis Gross says:

    How does he breathe?

  6. Raizy Fogel says:

    sorry, the picture doesn't look real, looks like a computer trick… stupid!

  7. Debbie Lee Burton says:

    I'm thinking about all those plastic bags that have warnings about keeping them away from children who might put it over their head and suffocate themselves. Now large bags will have to add warnings about adult Chasidim using them this way. I wonder how long a person can be in a bag before it is a health risk.

  8. Peter W. Singer says:

    This is what I would call a schmuck.

  9. Peter W. Singer says:

    This is what I would call a schmuck.

  10. Peter W. Singer says:

    This is what I would call a schmuck.

  11. Peter W. Singer says:

    Looks to me like a used body bag from the morgue.

  12. Kent Persson says:

    The fuselage of the aircraft ought to provide far better shielding agains Jewish cemeteries than a plastic bag with air holes.

  13. Yehuda Cohen says:

    Maybe there was a dead body on the plane. I have seen a casket put in first class and not in the bagage area. Only the family of that person sat in first class. More needs to be investigated and reported on this matter and not leave it to guess work as Daniel Rosen has stated otherwise an article like this opens people's mouths to Lashon Harah.

  14. Josh- go learn what "Hillul Hashem" is and what it is not. When it is an actual sin then it is a Hillul Hashem, when their is no sin it is not a Hillul Hashem. You also need to see how to talk about others and perhaps you need to make repentance in that regards before pointing the finger.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Has the "reporter" verified this story. The picture looks photo-shopped to me.

  16. The airplane should be adequate protection for the Kohen (i.e., the Rambam/Ramban was wrong and so are the poskim following him). The theory being followed by the poskim is that there is a form of contamination emitting from dead people that issues straight up into the sky. Apparently, one solution put forth is that concrete siding and a concrete lid can block this "contamination" from affecting the Kohen's ritual purity. When the Rambam thought of a vehicle passinf over a cemetery, he thought of something like a movable tent – a shelter over the ground, with flaps that might open and floorboards that, perhaps, have cracks. Now, apparently, this contamination goes straight up (and, according to those poskim, at least to 5000 feet). An airplane is pretty tightly built. It is a sturdy structure with a pressurized air cabin. There is an air intake, but it is indirect. So how would the contamination get in? Is the air intake at the exact bottom of the plane? More than likely, those Kohen get two or three sheets of metal, a carpet, a whole bunch of luggage, and their clothes (and airline seat) between them and this supposed contamination. Not to mention at least 5,000 feet of air (and, at cruising height, 35,000 feet). So what's the problem?

  17. The impurity goes straight up, like a laser, and bangs into the side of the plane. It stops there, so there's no need for plastic. The frumma are being silly.

  18. Junior Bear says:

    So, did he have his own air tank too. Wouldn't a breathing hole in the plastic still allow contamination under his thinking?

  19. Grace Acosta says:

    Considering how many times I get a cold or flu when flying, he may actually have the right idea! Still, taking Airborne during the flight is a bit less attention grabbing.

  20. It baffles me that no one seems to think this may possibly shed a very negative light on Jews…. Hello! Hillul Hashem much!?

  21. Gary Bennell says:

    The human condom… is this bloke for real?

  22. Angelina Ross says:

    um…I'm assuming he poked air holes in the bag so wouldn't that be letting in the impurities he's trying to protect himself from? I'm trying to apply logic to crazy again my bad!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Damn.. these fundamentalist Muslims… err wait…

  24. Anonymous says:

    Damn.. these fundamentalist Muslims… err wait…

  25. Anonymous says:

    What does he breathe ?!!

  26. bobbomo says:

    Monty Python could not have done better.

  27. Batsheva Bat-Avraham says:

    I also figured the airplane would be sufficient protection for the Kohen. What do I know?

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