Opinion: More On In-Flight Movies


chareidimBy Rabbi Yisroel Feldman, Novato, CA for Matzav.com

Last Thursday, Matzav.com posted an article about the problem of movies — most of which, unfortunately, are filled with very bad content — being shown on airplane flights.  The article related how a number of airline companies are now offering flights with no movies. 

In one of the Shiurim that he gives at the Agudas Yisroel shul in Baltimore, Rav Yissachar Frand, Sh’lita, tells an awesome story regarding this issue.  I heard it on one of the tapes of these lectures that was probably made in the early 1990’s. 

Rav Frand was discussing the crucial need that we have to keep away from bad things and, specifically, from the terrible corruption that, unfortunately, fills much of today’s world.  For a parable, he turned to the events of (what was then) the recent First Iraq War in 1991.  In that dangerous confrontation in which there was the horrific possibility of chemical attacks from Iraq, Rachmona Litzlan, we used what was called a “Cheder HaAtum” – a “Sealed Room.”  (We took a room and covered its walls, windows, doorways, and any other openings with thick sheet plastic.  Then, when United States satellites detected a launch of an Iraqi rocket in our direction, the alarm was sounded and we ran into one of these plastic covered rooms and stayed there until the “all clear” was announced.)

So Rav Frand explained that just like then we had to put ourselves in a physical “sealed room” to keep ourselves from being physically injured by the physical poisons that were possibly outside, so, even more so, we have to put ourselves in a spiritual “sealed room” to keep ourselves from being spiritually ruined by the spiritual poisons — the terrible corruptions — that definitely are in the outside world.

To dramatically illustrate what sometimes needs to be done to build such a spiritual “sealed room,” he related the following awesome story.

A man with his family were riding on an airplane (from the context of the narration, it seems that the man and his family were not Jewish).  During the flight, as usual, the crew turned on a movie; they showed it on the large screen in front of the cabin, which was in full view of all of the passengers.  The man soon realized that the particular film that was being shown was quite a smut filled presentation with numerous explicit scenes.  He was very alarmed, for he did not want his children, who were sitting right next to him and could see the screen just as well as he could, to look at and absorb such material.

So he got up and tried to talk to one of the stewardesses about the problem.  She though, merely replied to him that the picture showing is part of the flight program, which cannot be changed.  So he asked her to please let him speak to the captain of the plane about it.  At this, she angrily retorted that he certainly could not see the captain!

So, he walked over to where the projector screen was and pulled up the screen!!

(Rav Frand, who is an extremely talented speaker, in his humorous style, simply paused for a moment and then bluntly continued:)

“HE – GOT – TO – SEE – THE – CAPTAIN!!!”

The captain was a large imposing six foot man; however, the father too, was a good six feet tall, and was thus a full match for the captain.  The captain too gave the line that this is an integral part of the flight program, to provide entertainment for the passengers.  The father though countered — and again, he was a full match for the captain — that this was the wrong kind of entertainment.  As they were arguing, one of the passengers called out “Let’s take a vote!”  The father and the captain agreed to this suggestion, to put the issue to a vote of the passengers, and so they took the vote.


The father won.  They did not show the movie.  The father won.

Rav Frand repeatedly stressed though, that he was not advising or instructing anyone to do what this man did.  What he was saying was that he was showing that this man clearly realized the great need to protect his family and the extreme steps that he felt he had to do in that situation in order to build for them a “Cheder HaAtum.”

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. sorry to dissapoint you but the family is a frum yeshivish family . the father is a very prominent rebbe.i know them very well. i am the mother of this family and with them on the flight when it happened!!!

  2. Put beautifully! The reality is that most passengers feel like that father but, people are more prone to buy stuff in-flight duty free or food when their emotions have been rattled and they’re behaving with less rationale.

    ( I just read the other article. There are others who also enjoy using this moniker)

  3. Especially now-a-days, such a thing would never work. That stunt would not get you to see the captain. It would probably just get you handcuffed to a seat with a police officer waiting to arrest you on the ground.

    The Wolf

  4. Great story by rabbi frand although I wouldnt advise it considering the security threat we are living under at the current point in time. But its a great point to bring across to airlines, how important it is to show only movies that are fitting for children, because we are always travelling with children and because we could turn this into an issue that affects the goyim too and through this we can avoid a major chilul Hashem it is worth finding eitzis rather then be michalel shem shumayim

  5. Most airlines are moving to technology where the movie is presented at each seat or group of seats. It has become easier and easier to avoid seeing what you don’t want to see by minding your own business.

  6. For all of you who have not been on a flight in the past 10 years, most airlines now have small screens for individual usage, and you can choose what you want to watch. My grandparents, for example, spent their entire 12 hour flight to eretz yisrael last year watching the map of the plane crossing the sea. Not because they are so frum, they just happened to enjoy it. The point is, you can watch what you want, and when the movie is shown on a few bigger screens, you can go to sleep. Stop making such a big deal about such stupidity.

  7. To Comment #3. from WolfishMusings:

    You lamented: “Especially now-a-days, such a thing would never work. That stunt would not get you to see the captain. It would probably just get you handcuffed to a seat with a police officer waiting to arrest you on the ground.”

    This is probably why, as I noted at the end, Rav Frand pointed out that he was not advising anyone to actually do this action!

    Yes, this is quite a problem. This is why we certainly must be very thankful for this new development related in last Thursday’s article that, Boruch HaShem, there are now a number of airlines that are offering flights with no movies.

    For those who need to go on flights where there are movies, the article also mentioned that there is a little organization called: “Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Tachbura”; their phone numbers are: 02-537-7793 or 057-315-5613 or 057-311-9088. They offer these little curtains that people riding on a plane can use to block out of their view offensive things in front of them.

    Maybe this Vaad also has advice for people about how they can talk to flight personnel — without getting theselves arrested — and effectively convince them to turn off especially bad films.

    Maybe this Vaad also has advice for people about efforts that can be done to effectively encourage and convince more airline companies to eliminate movies from their flights.

  8. 1. Comment from yankel
    Time March 2, 2010 at 8:02 AM

    sorry to dissapoint you but the family is a frum yeshivish family . the father is a very prominent rebbe.i know them very well. i am the mother of this family and with them on the flight when it happened!!!


    YANKEL, Are you the MOTHER? What’s your husbands name? Shoshana?

  9. HEROIC MOVE!!! I know the man myself. The story gets much better, but will probably not pass Matzav’s inspection. The point we should all learn from this is to stick up for things l’maan ha’kedusha of our children…
    Go,brother, go!!! We’re still so proud of you!!!

  10. to all those who saw the posting from yankel sorry that was from one of my boys in the past from a posting i forgot to change it to my name. i am the wife /mother of this family.

  11. I don’t think, if a movie is promised, any passenger has a right to decide it’s inappropriate. I think everyone on board would have to agree, and that’s not going to happen. Movies are part of the deal.

  12. To Not fair: Would you be opposed to urinating in public? After all, it’s accepted for one to relieve themselves, and it’s my perogative to do as i please. Urinating is “part of the deal”.
    A movie being promised should come with decemncy. Would you venture to say that a “movie that was promised” is okay if the man is urinating in the movie in public?

  13. I fly to Israel very often and am quite repulsed by the content in most movies. (I used to watch movies years ago, when they were “just entertainment”.

    My travel agent knows me and will only book me on a flight with individual small screens. I watch the flight map the entire trip.

    Anyone can do what I do. You DO have personal choice, but I believe you do not have the right to control what others want to do.

  14. To Comment #2. from Truth:

    You said: “The reality is that most passengers feel like that father . . . ”

    This really states the issue beautifully and perfectly. All too often when someone tries to complain about the endless bad presentations — of both Gelui Araiyos – immoral filth and Sh’fichas Damim – murder and other sadistic violence — that surround us, the retort usually is: “That’s what people want!” “That’s what they want!”

    So we would, very politely, like to ask: “WHO are these ‘people’?” “WHO are ‘they’?” “Where ARE these people?”

    Of course though, we admit that these people DO exist! It is obvious that there are SOME people who do want this stuff.

    However, the WAY that we are retorted with: “Well, that’s what people want!” “That’s what they want!” seems to mean: “Well, that’s what ALL people want!” “That’s what they ALL want!” In other words,they are stating to us: “You, who ARE protesting this, are meaningless, because ALMOST ALL people do want this!” “This is what ALMOST ALL of them DO what!”

    So, to this, we ask: “Who ARE these ALMOST ALL people?” “Where ARE these ALMOST ALL people?” Because we do not see any of them around! On the contrary, what we do see around are an aweful lot of people who do NOT want all this garbage — and are pretty mad about it too!

    We just saw right here in this story on the airplane that the majority of the probably two hundred or even more passengers who were there sided with the father. Even if their vote was only that they were just being nice and did not want to hurt the father’s feelings, it was still obvious that the father’s feelings were a lot more important to them than their holy, holy movie!

    Many, many, many times, Maran Rav Avigdor Miller, ZT’L, related the following story. There was a certain Christian church where the members of its congregation made a decision to do the following action. One afternoon, they all brought all of their television sets from their homes over to the church’s parking lot. As the sets arrived, they were stacked up in the middle of the lot into a huge gigantic pile. Once all the sets had been brought there and placed in the pile, THEY LIT THE PILE ON FIRE!! Yes, they lit the pile on fire, obviously making a very huge bonfire — in the parking lot! Yes, they BURNED their televisions!!

    The very prominent radio talk show host “Michael Savage” once angrily exclaimed: “We’re tired! We’re tired of all the ——– (in other words, totally out of place provocations of the Ta’avas Z’nus)!”

    Another time, he even more angrily exclaimed: “Why is it that Orthodox Jews don’t have television sets?? Why is it that Orthodox Jews don’t go to movies?? ‘CAUSE THEY DON’T WANT THEIR KIDS TO SEE ALL THE CRAP!!!!”

    Already when I was a child — in the early 1960’s — I met several parents who told me that they did not have any television in their homes.

    Today, I put into the AOL Internet search slot the words: “problems of television programs.” For the search results, the counter number was well above seven and a half million enteries!

    Just the first entery on the list, from the University of Michigan at http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/TV.htm, has enough excellent material for twenty articles! I will just quote here a small portion of what is discussed there; paragraphs 8 and part of 9:

    “What about TV and aggressive or violent behavior?
    Literally thousands of studies since the 1950s have asked whether there is a link between exposure to media violence and violent behavior.  All but 18 have answered, “Yes.”   The evidence from the research is overwhelming.  According to the AAP, “Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.”

    An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.
    Two-thirds of all programming contains violence.
    Programs designed for children more often contain violence than adult TV.
    Most violent acts go unpunished on TV and are often accompanied by humor. The consequences of human suffering and loss are rarely depicted. 
    Many shows glamorize violence.  TV often promotes violent acts as a fun and effective way to get what you want, without consequences. 
    Even in G-rated, animated movies and DVDs, violence is common—often as a way for the good characters to solve their problems.  Every single U.S. animated feature film produced between 1937 and 1999 contained violence, and the amount of violence with intent to injure has increased over the years. 
    Even “good guys” beating up “bad guys” gives a message that violence is normal and okay.  Many children will try to be like their “good guy” heroes in their play.

    I strongly suggest for readers to go there and read the entire essay. They should also click on the link there titled “Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children” that goes to a page of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ web site at http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/jstmtevc.htm, which has “a document signed in July by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and five other prominent medical groups about the connection between media and violent or aggressive behavior in some children.”