Whosoever embarks upon a journey and is not accompanied by matters of Torah endangers himself.
ZOHAR, BEREISHIT 89
Ritual laws, dietary restrictions and a code of behavior governing virtually every facet of daily life effectively force a Jew to establish a life-style in which the requirements of Jewish law will not become so onerous as to restrict daily activities unduly. The accouterments and conveniences of home serve to obviate many difficulties. Unless plans are carefully made in advance, the traveler, more likely than not, will find that halakhic restrictions severely compromise both the benefits and pleasures of travel. Nevertheless, despite the arduous nature of travel, Jewish law provides extremely few concessions or exceptions for the traveler. Frequently, the obligations placed upon the traveler are rendered even more difficult by virtue of considerations arising from a change of time and locale.
Yet, from its very inception, the Jewish people has always been a nation of travelers. It is almost as if the nomadic journeys of Abraham, the flight of Jacob to the house of Laban and his subsequent descent to Egypt and the Exodus and wandering of Israel in the wilderness had the effect of imbuing the national spirit of Israel with a pervasive Wanderlust. Certainly, following the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of Israel, Jews could no longer feel a sense of permanence and, as a result, felt few psychological barriers to travel for any and every purpose.
Nor should it be forgotten that persecution and denial of liberties taken for granted by others forced Jews to become an itinerant people. Since most other modes of earning a livelihood were closed to them, they perforce became a mercantile nation. Long and arduous journeys became necessary to procure goods for resale by means of even more onerous peddling of merchandise from place to place in order to realize a profit. Travel became a way of life.
No less significant from the historical perspective is the phenomenon of travel for purposes of study and the broadening of intellectual vistas. Throughout the ages, the advice of the Sages of the Mishnah, "Go as an exile to a place of Torah" (Ethics of the Fathers 4:14), was accepted and acted upon by significant numbers of students and scholars many of whom spent long periods of time away from their homes and families.
With the establishment of the State of Israel and the reemergence of the Land of Israel as a major center of Torah scholarship, more and more students and aspiring scholars are prompted to spend varying periods of time during their formative years studying in Erez Yisra'el. The very existence of the State of Israel has served as a magnet attracting tourists, visitors and temporary residents seeking to share even marginally in the sanctity of the Land of Israel.
Little wonder, then, that embodied both in the annals of Jewish law and in its current literature there exists a vast and rich corpus of material devoted to the unique problems and difficulties faced by travelers in their unflagging commitment to adjust their lives—and travels—to the manifold requirements of Halakhah.
Birkat ha-Gomel and Tefillat ha-Derekh for Air Travelers
The Gemara, Berakhot 54b, records: "There are four [classes of people] who must offer thanksgiving: those who cross the sea; those who travel through deserts; one who has been sick and has recovered; and one who has been incarcerated in prison and has emerged." Rambam, Hilkhot Berakhot 10:8, substitutes the term "wayfarers" (holkhei derakhim) for "those who travel through deserts." According to Rambam, safe completion of even an intercity journey necessitates recitation of this blessing. The Gemara adduces biblical verses expressing praise of God for deliverance from each of these dangers. Accordingly, some authorities maintain that birkat ha-gomel, the blessing of thanksgiving, is to be recited only in conjunction with the four specifically enumerated forms of deliverance. According to this position, the verses reflect commonly encountered forms of danger and the rabbinic regulation prescribing the blessing is similarly limited to those frequent forms of divine deliverance. Other authorities maintain that the phenomena described are not exhaustive and that the blessing was ordained for recitation upon deliverance from any form or danger, e.g., from the collapse of a wall upon an individual, the attack of a wild beast, the goring of an ox, etc. Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 219:9, records both opinions and rules that, in instances of deliverance from a danger not included among the four categories explicitly enumerated by the Gemara, it is preferable to pronounce the blessing but with the omission of both the Divine Name and of the reference to God as King of the universe. Later authorities rule entirely in accordance with the first opinion cited by Shulḥan Arukh, i.e., that a blessing must be pronounced upon deliverance from any form of danger. Hence, in view of the fact that a blessing without invocation of the Divine Name and reference to God as King of the universe is of no halakhic import, those authorities require recitation of the blessing in its usual form upon deliverance from any form of danger. It should be emphasized that such blessings are not discretionary; they are either required by virtue of rabbinic edict or are forbidden as an unwarranted invocation of the Divine Name.
The question of whether birkat ha-gomel should be recited upon safe completion of an airplane flight was first addressed in the very early days of air travel by R. David Zevi Katzberg, editor of the Hungarian Torah journal Tel Talpiyot, in the Tammuz 5694 issue of that publication. Rabbi Katzberg sees no reason to recite birkat ha-gomel upon safe completion of a short intercity flight since Rema, Oraḥ Hayyim 219:7, rules, contrary to Rambam's position, that no such blessing is required subsequent to interurban surface travel. He further notes that "even when traveling by boat from Pest to Vienna and the like we have never heard that ha-gomel is recited." However, the same author states that circumnavigation of the globe, flight at an inordinately high altitude, or any other dangerous form of flight, does necessitate recitation of birkat ha-gomel. These rulings seem to be entirely unexceptionable: According to Rema's ruling, ordinary intercity travel does not occasion this blessing, while latter-day authorities rule that even activities other than travel necessitate recitation of the blessing when danger of some sort has been encountered. At the time that Rabbi Katzberg's article was published, round-the-world flight and travel at high altitudes certainly entailed a high degree of danger. The crucial question is whether an uneventful transoceanic flight or a flight over a desert generates an obligation with regard to birkat ha-gomel. That question is not at all addressed by Rabbi Katzberg. Such an obligation may follow simply from the fact that air travel is no different from travel by land or sea. Hence, even though the journey has been by air, the traveler who has traversed either a sea or a desert may be obligated to recite the blessing as a member of one of the four specifically enumerated categories of people for whom the blessing is required. Alternatively, since he has traveled by air, he may not be included in those specific categories but may, nevertheless, be required to recite the blessing in accordance with the view that those categories are not exhaustive but that the blessing is obligatory for all persons delivered from danger.
R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yabi'a Omer, II, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 14, sec. 2, and R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Ẓiz Eli'ezer, XI, no. 14, correctly note that transoceanic flight would not occasion birkat ha-gomel by virtue of the second consideration. Even those authorities who maintain that the classes of persons enumerated by the Gemara as being required to recite the blessing are not exhaustive concede that these classes are not merely paradigmatic. Members of the enumerated classes are required to recite the blessing even if they have not met with any untoward experience and have themselves not been endangered in any way.1See Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 218:8. This view is, however, disputed by Me’iri, Berakhot 54b, who, in accordance with a literal reading of the verses cited by the Gemara, maintains that only travelers who lose their way in the desert or sea voyagers who have been threatened by turbulent waves are required to recite birkat ha-gomel. Among latter-day authorities this position is espoused by R. Eliezer Landau (a grandson of Noda bi-Yehudah) in his commentary on the Mishneh Torah, Yad ha-Melekh, Hilkhot Berakhot 10:8. The fact that other persons frequently do experience danger under similar circumstances is sufficient to establish a blanket obligation for all members of those classes. Deliverance from other dangers, according to the opinion of those authorities, similarly occasions recitation of the blessing, but only if the person in question was actually endangered.2This distinction does not appear to have been fully appreciated by R. Mordecai Fogelman, Teshuvot Bet Mordekhai, no. 22. However, insofar as his halakhic position is concerned, Rabbi Fogelman’s conclusions concur with those of Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Waldenberg. There also appears to be some confusion with regard to this point in the initial comments of R. Isaac Liebes, Teshuvot Bet Avi, I, no. 37. Thus a routine flight over a sea or desert would not require birkat ha-gomel on those grounds. Nevertheless, both Rabbi Yosef and Rabbi Waldenberg rule that a flight over an ocean or over a desert necessitates recitation of birkat ha-gomel. They reason simply that since a sea or desert has been traversed in the course of the journey the mode of travel is irrelevant, particularly since air travel is no less dangerous than surface travel. A similar view is ascribed to the late Satmar Rav, R. Joel Teitelbaum, by R. Ya'akov Breisch in an article that appeared in the Tammuz 5716 issue of Ha-Ma'or and is reprinted in Rabbi Breisch's responsa collection, Helkat Ya'akov, II, no. 9. R. Pincus Epstein, the late head of the Bet Din of Jerusalem's Edah ha-Haredit, also concurred in this ruling as is recorded in his glosses appended to R. Betzalel Stern's Teshuvot be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah, I, p. 190b.
R. Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, II, no. 59, reaches a similar, but more far-reaching conclusion, albeit on somewhat different grounds. Iggerot Mosheh argues that, although the danger encountered in the wilderness is essentially accidental in nature, the danger inherent in sea voyages that serves as a basis of the obligation for thanksgiving is not the danger occasioned by a storm or an accident of some type. Rather, asserts Iggerot Mosheh, the very nature of travel in a ship is intrinsically dangerous because man cannot survive for a significant period of time in water; it is the ship that serves to protect the traveler from the danger of the sea surrounding him. Since, at times, the ship may prove to be unseaworthy, the ocean voyager is always at risk. The identical consideration, argues Iggerot Mosheh, applies to airplane travelers. Man cannot survive in the sky; it is only the airplane which protects him from danger. Since the airplane may malfunction, the air passenger is always at risk. Hence, concludes Iggerot Mosheh, an airplane traveler must recite the birkat ha-gomel for precisely the same reason that a sea voyager recites that blessing.
Iggerot Mosheh goes beyond other authorities in ruling that birkat ha-gomel is required subsequent to any plane journey, including those undertaken entirely over dry land. This conclusion is entirely consistent with his thesis concerning the consideration which prompts birkat ha-gomel for ocean voyagers. According to Iggerot Mosheh's reasoning, the danger of travel in the sky is entirely analogous to the danger of ocean travel. Accordingly, every airplane trip is tantamount to a sea journey. Iggerot Mosheh does not stipulate any minimum distance or minimum period of travel for incurring an obligation with regard to birkat ha-gomel. If there is no minimum distance or time period and if Iggerot Mosheh's reasoning is taken to its logical conclusion, it would appear that a ride in a funicular, or even on a ferris wheel, would similarly require recitation of birkat ha-gomel.
A somewhat different position is espoused by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. Halakhah requires that, during the course of his travel, the traveler recite telfillat ha-derekh, the wayfarer's prayer beseeching that he be granted a safe journey and delivered from any danger. As recorded in Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 110:7, that prayer is recited only upon embarking on a voyage of at least one parasang in length.3A parasang or parsah is equal in distance to 4 mil or 8,000 cubits. Based upon R. Abraham Chaim Noe’s calculation of the measurement of a cubit or amah as 48 centimeters (as presented in his Shi‘urei Torah 3:25), a parasang is equal in length to 3,840 meters. According to Ḥazon Ish’s calculation of an amah as 58 centimeters (as presented in Ḥazon Ish, Kuntres ha-Shi‘urim, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 39:12), a parasang is equal to 4,640 meters. See also R. Ya‘akov Kanievsky, Shi‘urim shel Torah (Bnei Brak, 5729), p. 67. According to some early authorities, the amah may be 59.5 centimeters in measurement and yield a parsah of 4,760 meters in length. See R. Ya‘akov Gershon Weiss, Middot u-Mishkalot shel Torah (Jerusalem, 5747), p. 382. Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 219:7, rules that the same distance constitutes the minimum length of a voyage necessitating birkat ha-gomel. A number of authorities, including Petaḥ ha-Devir, III, 313b; Teshuvot Yismaḥ Lev, II, no. 4; and Sedei Hemed, Ma'arekhet Berakhot, no. 2, sec. 15, no. 42, also maintain that birkat ha-gomel must be recited subsequent to a train trip of at least one parasang in distance even though the distance is traversed much more rapidly than would be the case with a more primitive form of travel. However, R. Judah Grunwald, Teshuvot Zikhron Yehudah, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 42, asserts that the stipulated distance of a parasang is the normative minimum only for an individual who travels by foot. However, rules Zikhron Yehudah, when traveling by motor vehicle, there is no similar obligation with regard to birkat ha-gomel unless the journey is of a time period equal to that which it would take for an individual to traverse a parasang by foot. The period or time required for an average person to cover a parasang by foot is established as an hour and twelve minutes. Yabi'a Omer, I, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 13, sec. 9, rules in accordance with the opinion of Zikhron Yehudah. This is also the opinion of Rabbi Y. A. Silber, Oz Nidberu, VI, no. 66.4Zikhron Yehudah adopts the same position with regard to tefillat ha-derekh as well. Insofar as tefillat haderekh is concerned, Zikhron Yehudah’s position is contrary to that of Mishnah Berurah 110:30 and R. Ya‘akov Kanievsky, Shi‘urim shel Torah, no. 10, addenda, sec. 33. Rabbi Silber distinguishes between tefillat ha-derekh and birkat ha-gomel in maintaining that tefillat ha-derekh is recited upon traveling a minimum distance of one parasang regardless of the mode of transportation employed, while birkat ha-gomel is pronounced only upon completion of a journey of at least seventy-two minutes in duration. Tefillat ha-derekh is recited because roads are regarded as dangerous due to the presence of brigands, wild animals, etc. Such dangers are not present, or are greatly reduced, in inhabited areas and their environs, i.e., within a parasang of a city. Hence, since areas lying beyond a parasang are inherently dangerous, tefillat ha-derekh is always recited on journeys which take the traveler beyond that distance, even though the distance is traversed with great speed. However, birkat ha-gomel is not recited unless the journey is at least seventy-two minutes in duration, argues Rabbi Silber, since, when less time is spent in travel, the danger is too brief for deliverance to be regarded as “miraculous.” Although Rabbi Yosef cites Zikhron Yehudah with regard to both birkat ha-gomel and tefillat ha-derekh, Rabbi Yosef’s own discussion is limited to birkat ha-gomel. In Yabi'a Omer, II, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 14, sec. 3, and in Yeḥaveh Da'at, II, no. 26, Rabbi Yosef similarly rules that birkat ha-gomel must be recited subsequent to any flight of at least one hour and twelve minutes in duration. Rabbi Yitzchak Ya'akov Weisz, Teshuvot Minḥat Yizḥak, II, no. 47, correctly notes that Rabbi Yosef expresses this view in accordance with the Sephardic practice requiring birkat ha-gomel on the occasion of all intercity travel. Sephardic practice follows Rambam's position that, not only travel through a desert, but also any intercity journey occasions birkat ha-gomel. However, it follows from Rabbi Yosef's exposition, and indeed it is implicitly stated by him, that travel over a sea or desert would require recitation of birkat ha-gomel according to all authorities.
However, a number of authorities including R. Ya'akov Breisch, Ha-Ma'or, Tammuz 5716 and Teshuvot Helkat Ya'akov, II, no. 9; R. Yitzchak Ya'akov Weisz, Teshuvot Minḥat Yizḥak, II, no. 46; R. Betzalel Stern, Teshuvot Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah, I, no. 20; and R. Isaac Liebes, Teshuvot Bet Avi, I, Oraḥ Hayyim, no. 37, and Teshuvot Bet Avi, IV, no. 18, sec. 4, rule that air travel does not necessitate recitation of birkat ha-gomel. Helkat Ya'akov, Minḥat Yizḥak and Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah also quote the late Belzer Rebbe, R. Aaron Rokeah, as espousing this position as well. Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah reports that the Tchebiner Rav, R. Dov Berish Weidenfeld, was also in agreement with this ruling.
An intriguing argument has been advanced in support of the view that airplane travelers should not recite the wayfarer's prayer during the course of airplane travel. That position is derived from a provision of Jewish law incorporated in the regulations pertaining to the commandment concerning sending a mother bird from its nest prior to taking nestlings or eggs. The terminology in which the commandment is couched, "If a bird's nest chance to be before you in the way" (Deuteronomy 22:6), makes it clear that this obligation exists only with regard to birds that a person comes upon on a roadway or the like. For this reason the Gemara, Hullin 139b, indicates that the commandment does not encompass a situation in which one comes upon a bird carrying its nest while flying:
R. Judah said in the name of Rav, "If a man found a nest in the sea, he is bound to let the dam go since it is written, 'Thus said the Lord who makes a way in the sea' (Isaiah 43:16). Then, in the like manner, if a man found a nest in the sky inasmuch as it is written, 'The way of the eagle is in the sky' (Proverbs 30:19) he should also, should he not, be bound to let the dam go?" [The sky] is referred to as the "way of the eagle" but never simply as a "way."
R. Shlomoh Yosef Zevin, Ishim ve-Shitot (Tel Aviv, 5718), p. 97, relates that, when asked whether an airplane traveler should recite tefillat ha-derekh, the Rogatchover Ga'on, R. Joseph Rosen, immediately and without hesitation cited this discussion and responded in the negative. The Rogatchover Ga'on maintained that the Sages ordained this prayer only for a person who travels on a "derekh" or "way." Since the Gemara clearly states that the sky is "the way of the eagle," but not simply a "way," recitation of the "wayfarer's" prayer, he maintained, is not within the ambit of that edict. Rabbi Zevin cites this incident as an example of the Rogatchover's keen intellect and acumen but expresses ambivalence with regard to the substantive halakhic conclusion. Rabbi Yosef, Yeḥaveh Da'at, II, no. 26, questions whether the Rogatchover intended his comments to be construed as a definitive ruling or whether they were intended merely as an intellectual tour de force. Rabbi Yosef himself rules that airplane travelers should recite tefillat ha-derekh.
A similar line of reasoning with regard to recitation of birkat ha-gomel subsequent to intercity air travel or a flight over a desert is advanced by Helkat Ya'akov without reference to the Rogatchover's ruling vis-à-vis tefillat ha-derekh. This analysis, which focuses upon the denotation of the term "derekh," does not, however, appear to be germane with regard to birkat ha-gomel. As Yabi'a Omer points out, the terminology employed by the Gemara with regard to birkat ha-gomel does not include use of the term "derekh." Although Yabi'a Omer and Bet Avi both note that the biblical verse cited by the Gemara in conjunction with travel through a desert, "They wandered in the wilderness in a desert way" (Psalms 107:4), does employ the term "derekh," Bet Avi comments that such reference does not occur in the verses quoted in conjunction with travel by sea. Both authorities emphasize that the Gemara speaks explicitly of "those who travel through the desert" indicating that the rabbinic edict is not predicated upon the connotation of the term "derekh." Although Rambam extends the obligation to "holekhei derakhim," i.e., all wayfarers, he should not be understood as employing that term in a strictly technical sense since it does not appear in the Gemara itself. Rather, Rambam simply expresses the view that the edict governing travel through a desert is not limited solely to that category of travel but includes all wayfarers. Thus, there is no reason to assume that only a person who traverses a "derekh" is required to recite birkat ha-gomel.
The principal argument in support of this position as formulated by Helkat Ya'akov, Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah and Bet Avi is that the categories of sea voyagers and "those who travel through the desert" are limited by definition to travel on the surface of the sea or desert. Hence, airplane travel, even when transoceanic, is not within the ambit of the obligation established by rabbinic decree.
Minḥat Yizḥak advances the rather curious argument that it is precisely because air travel is more dangerous than other forms of travel that birkat ha-gomel is not required as an expression of thanksgiving for having been delivered from danger. R. Chaim Joseph David Azulai, Maḥazik Berakhah 219:1, questions whether or not birkat ha-gomel was recited by the High Priest upon emerging unscathed from the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. Indeed one does not find mention of recitation of this blessing by other historical personages who placed themselves in extreme danger with no untoward effect. Maḥazik Berakhah responds by stating that birkat ha-gomel was ordained only for deliverance from an involuntarily assumed peril but not for deliverance from a danger that is assumed in an entirely voluntary manner. Minḥat Yizḥak notes the objection that persons embarking upon sea voyages and caravan journeys also voluntarily place themselves in danger. In response he states that, since there is no other way of reaching the required destination, the danger is regarded as "involuntary." However, since one can reach the same destination without the enhanced danger of a plane trip, assumption of the dangers of air travel must be regarded as voluntary in nature.
It should also be noted that Bet Avi somewhat equivocally advances another argument in support of the position that airplane travel does not occasion recitation of birkat ha-gomel. In contradistinction to the position of Iggerot Mosheh, Bet Avi maintains that sea voyages occasion recitation of that blessing by virtue of deliverance from danger resulting from waves which arise in the ocean. This is evidenced by the fact that the Gemara cites the verses "They that go down to the sea in ships … He raised the stormy wind … they reeled to and fro and staggered like a drunken man … He made the storm calm so that the waves thereof were still" (Psalms 107:23-29) in establishing that seafarers are required to offer praise for their deliverance. Bet Avi argues that, since there are no waves in the sky and hence this danger is nonexistent with regard to air travel, there cannot be an obligation for recitation of birkat ha-gomel for the safe completion of a trip by air.
In a somewhat different vein Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah argues that, since the dangers of air travel are identical whether the travel has taken place over an ocean or over dry land, there can be no logical reason for requiring transoceanic air travelers to recite a blessing not recited by persons traveling by air over dry land. The thanksgiving offered, argues Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah, is for the deliverence from the particular danger associated with sea travel. Since those dangers are nonexistent with regard to airplane travel over an ocean, Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah rules that there is no occasion for the recitation of birkat ha-gomel.
Nevertheless, in light of the significant doubt generated by the arguments in favor of recitation of this blessing, these authorities agree that, under such circumstances, birkat ha-gomel should be recited with the deletion of the Divine Name and the phrase "King of the universe."5Some authorities advise that in the case of doubtful obligation the blessing may be recited in the Aramaic form “Brikh Raḥamana Mara Malka de-alma ….” Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 167:10, 187:1 and 219:4, rules that the obligation with regard to various blessings may be fulfilled in this manner. In addition, many authorities maintain that a blessing recited in this manner does not constitute a berakhah le-vatalah, a blessing pronounced in vain. Hence, according to these authorities, this expedient may be utilized in cases of doubtful obligation. See Pnei Yehoushu‘a, Berakhot 12a; Arukh ha-Shulḥan, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 202:3; Derekh Pekudekha, no. 4, sec. 10; Eshel Avraham (Rav of Buczacz), Oraḥ Ḥayyim 229:2; Teshuvot Bikkurei Shlomoh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 39; Sedei Ḥemed, Ma‘arekhet ha-Lamed, klal 141, sec. 32; and Da‘at Kedoshim cited by Ḥelkat Ya‘akov. Ḥatam Sofer is reported to have used an Aramaic formula for kiddush levanah on an occasion when it was doubtful whether the blessing might be pronounced; see Ha‘amek She’elah, she’ilta 53, sec. 2, and Ẓiẓ Eli‘ezer, X, nos. 11-12. Teshuvot Zekher Simḥah, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 232, reports that the author of Teshuvot Ḥamudei Dani’el recommended that this procedure be followed with regard to the blessing over the arba minim when there is reason to suspect that the etrog may be a hybrid.
Nevertheless, numerous authorities maintain that a blessing in the form of “Brikh Raḥamana” does constitute a berakhah le-vatalah. See Pri Megadim, Mishbeẓot Zahav 219:3; Teshuvot R. Akiva Eger, no. 25; Ḥatam Sofer in his commentary on Nedarim 2a (which contradicts the earlier cited position attributed to Ḥatam Sofer); Ḥavat Da‘at, Yoreh De‘ah 110, Bet ha-Safek, sec. 20; Maharam Shick al Taryag Miẓvot, no. 69; and Ha‘amek She’elah, she’ilta 53, sec. 2. Hence, according to these authorities, the expedient of “Brikh Raḥamana” cannot be utilized in cases of doubtful obligation. See also Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, IV, no. 40, sec. 27.
R. Moshe Sternbuch, Ma‘aseh Rav he-Ḥadash (Bnei Brak, 5740), Hanhagot Ba‘al ha-Parnes, sec. 38, cites sources in support of the position that the Aramaic formula is efficacious for purposes of fulfilling obligations regarding blessings only in a locale in which Aramaic is the vernacular.
Teshuvot Rivash, no. 408, advises reciting “Barukh atah ha-Shem …” in all cases of doubtful obligation. Utilization of the term “ha-Shem” presents no problem of pronouncement of the Divine Name since it is not a vernacular term for the Deity but means simply “the Name.” Nevertheless, Teshuvot Rivash maintains that use of this term fulfills the requirement for incorporation of the Divine Name in a blessing. This expedient is recommended by Ḥelkat Ya‘akov for recitation of birkat ha-gomel subsequent to trips by air. For yet another expedient in cases of doubtful obligation, see Pitḥei Teshuvah, Yoreh De‘ah 328:1.
Recitation of Ve-Ten Tal u-Matar by Travelers
The ninth blessing of the Eighteen Benedictions is a general prayer for agricultural bounty. The Men of the Great Assembly who composed the benediction ordained that a supplication on behalf of rain, viz., "ve-ten tal u-matar livrakhah and bestow dew and rain for a blessing" be incorporated in the blessing throughout the rainy season. The dates marking the beginning and the close of the rainy season, during which period the prayer must be recited, were carefully defined. The Gemara, Ta'anit 10a, declares that recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar should begin on the sixtieth day of the autumn season, i.e., the season which commences on the day of the autumn equinox. Recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar continues throughout the winter months until the Passover holiday.
Although the Jewish calendar is lunisolar, the data established for commencement of this prayer is one of the few aspects of the Jewish calendrical system which is entirely solar in nature. Nevertheless, the determination of the date of the autumn equinox for liturgical purposes is not in strict conformity with the actual solar event. The Gemara, Eruvin 56a, records a statement of the Amora, Samuel, to the effect that the duration of each of the four seasons of the year is precisely 91 days and 7½ hours in length. This calculation yields a solar year of exactly 365 days and 6 hours. An identical calculation forms the basis of the Julian calendar which contains 365 days with an additional day added in February every fourth year in order to account for the additional six hours of each solar year in excess of the 365 days of the common year. However, in point of fact, the solar year is only 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds in length. Thus the Julian year, as well as the solar year as calculated by Samuel, is longer than the astronomical solar year by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. This error amounts to approximately one full day in every 128 years. The discrepancy between the length of the Julian year and the true solar year led to a modification of the calendar and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar which omits the extra day of the leap year in all centenary years except in those which are multiples of 400. R. Chaim Joseph David Azulai, Birkei Yosef, Shiyurei Berakhah, Oraḥ Hayyim 229:1, remarks that Samuel was well aware of this discrepancy (and indeed for purposes of adding intercalated months in leap years the Jewish calendrical system utilizes a more sophisticated calculation) but nevertheless the Sages adopted a simple and readily understandable system of calculating the equinox so that the general populace would have no difficulty in determining the date on which to commence recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar. Indeed, since calculation of the seasons for purposes of recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar is based upon a 365-day year with provision for an intercalated day every four years, the date for commencement of the recitation of this prayer is readily determined by utilization of the civil calendar. Throughout any given century the dates in the civil calendar for commencement of ve-ten tal u-matar remain constant. During the twentieth century, the autumn equinox, as defined for this purpose by Jewish law, always occurs on October 7 in common years; hence recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar begins sixty days later on the eve of December 5th. Every fourth year, in the autumn preceding a leap year, the equinox occurs one day later on October 8th and accordingly, in leap years, recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar commences on the eve of December 6th.
The designated period during which ve-ten tal u-matar is recited corresponds to the rainy season in Babylonia—the geographic area which was the home of the major portion of the Jewish people at the time that the Men of the Great Assembly ordained this prayer as well as of the later talmudic period. The ordinance governing recitation of this supplication provides that Jews throughout the Diaspora conform to the practice established in Babylonia without regard to local climatic conditions.
However, in establishing this ordinance, special provision was made for inhabitants of the Land of Israel on the assumption that the Land of Israel requires a longer period of precipitation "because its elevation is greatest of all lands." The Sages ordained that the inhabitants of Israel begin the recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar on a somewhat earlier date, viz., the seventh day of Heshvan.6Actually, it would have been logical to ordain the commencement of recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar in Ereẓ Yisra’el immediately following Shemini Aẓeret which marks the beginning of the rainy season as evidenced by commencement on Shemini Aẓeret of the recitation of “mashiv ha-ruaḥ u-morid ha-geshem—He makes the wind blow and the rain descend.” However, the Mishnah, Ta‘anit 10a, explains that recitation of tal u-matar was delayed for two weeks, until the seventh day of Ḥeshvan, in order to permit Jews who were obligated to travel to the Temple for the festival to return to their homes, it being assumed that even stragglers would be able to travel as far as the banks of the Euphrates within that period. A favorable response to the supplication for rain would have brought inclement weather and would have made the return journey arduous. Although Ramban disagrees, the vast majority of early authorities maintain that, even subsequent to the destruction of the Temple, recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar does not begin until after this two-week period has elapsed. Rabbenu Nissim explains that, even after the destruction of the Temple, many Jews continued the practice of journeying to Jerusalem to celebrate the festivals. Nowadays, when tourism and travel between Israel and other countries is common, a question which arises with increasing frequency concerns the manner in which travelers should conduct themselves with regard to the recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar between the dates of 7 Heshvan and December 5. Should residents of the Diaspora who find themselves in Israel join in recitation of the supplication together with the inhabitants of Erez Yisra'el or should they follow the practice of their own countries of residence and omit this petition? Conversely, should residents of Erez Yisra'el who travel to other countries during this period continue to recite the prayer for rain or should they follow the practice of the locale in which they find themselves?
Be'er Heitev, Oraḥ Hayyim 117:4, cites three conflicting views with regard to the second of these questions. Maharikash and Halakhot Ketanot are of the opinion that a resident of Erez Yisra'el should recite the supplication even when traveling in the Diaspora, but only if the traveler himself has need of rain during that period. Need for rain is defined as pertaining under either of two conditions: (1) the traveler will himself return to Erez Yisra'el during the course of the rainy season; or (2) his wife and children have remained in Erez Yisra'el. The latter stipulation is, of course, based upon the consideration that the needs of one's family are tantamount to personal needs.7R. Joel Schwartz, Gevurot Geshamim (Jerusalem, 5744), p. 48, note 9, observes that, according to these authorities, the same ruling would apply to students in the Diaspora who are supported by family living in Ereẓ Yisra’el since the sustenance of such individuals is directly dependent upon the rainfall of Ereẓ Yisra’el. This is also the view of Teshuvot Radbaz, V, no. 2,055. R. Yechiel Abraham Silber, Birur Halakhah 117, qualifies this ruling by stating that an emigrant from Erez Yisra'el who has established permanent residence elsewhere should not recite the supplication even though his wife and children remain in Erez Yisra'el. These authorities are silent with regard to the first question, viz., the manner in which a resident of the Diaspora should conduct himself in Erez Yisra'el.8This view is also endorsed by R. Menachem Zechariah Silber, Mo’znei Ẓedek, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 6, sec. 6. Other authorities, including R. Joshua Molko and Teshuvot Dvar Shmu'el, no. 323, disagree and rule that an Israeli traveler should follow the practice of the locale in which he finds himself. These authorities similarly maintain that a tourist in Israel should follow the local practice. Pri Hadash rules that a resident of Erez Yisra'el should recite ve-ten tal u-matar even in the Diaspora but only if he intends to return to Erez Yisra'el "within the year"; if, however, the individual intends to return only "after a year or two years" he should not recite this supplication even though he may have a wife and children who remain in Erez Yisra'el. Birur Halakhah expresses doubt with regard to how the period of "a year" stipulated by Pri Hadash is to be calculated. He queries whether the traveler follows the practice of Erez Yisra'el only if he intends to return to his home prior to Rosh ha-Shanah, prior to the following 7 Heshvan, or prior to the subsequent December 5th.
The nature of the controversy between those espousing each of the first two positions is not difficult to explain. R. Joshua Molko and Teshuvot Dvar Shmu'el maintain that recitation of veten tal u-matar is governed by the same general rule which governs many other areas of ritual practice, viz., one is required to follow the practices of the locale in which one finds oneself. Maharikash and Halakhot Ketanot, on the other hand, maintain that prayer (i.e., the Eighteen Benedictions) is ordained to reflect an individual's personal needs and concerns. Hence, according to Maharikash and Halakhot Ketanot, a traveler must disregard local practice and recite the benediction in accordance with his own needs. Pri Hadash may well be understood as being in basic agreement with Maharikash and Halakhot Ketanot in accepting the principle that recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar is contingent upon personal need; the sole disagreement being the definition of need. Unlike Maharikash and Halakhot Ketanot, Pri Hadash maintains that the traveler is in need of rain not only if he plans to return to Erez Yisra'el within the period of the rainy season but also if he returns any time within the year. Birur Halakhah interprets Pri Hadash in this manner but, as noted earlier, expresses doubt with regard to how the term "year" is to be defined, whether as the calendar year beginning with Rosh ha-Shanah or as a cycle of four seasons closing with the beginning of the next rainy season on either 7 Heshvan or December 5. Precipitation during the rainy season serves to satisfy agricultural needs throughout the growing season which culminates approximately at the time of Rosh ha-Shanah and serves to fill other needs for water until rain falls again at the beginning of the next year's rainy season.
However, the terminology employed by Pri Hadash lends itself to another possible interpretation. Pri Hadash counterposes the term "a year" and the term "two or three years." Pri Hadash may well have used the term "a year" in the sense of twelve months calculated from the time the traveler has left Erez Yisra'el. Many authorities, including Arukh ha-Shulḥan, Oraḥ Hayyim 496:5, maintain precisely that distinction with regard to observance of the second day of Yom Tov. Those authorities maintain that a visitor acquires the status of a permanent resident if the anticipated duration of the trip is twelve months or longer even though the visitor may have every intention of eventually returning to his home.9Cf., however Mo’znei Ẓedek, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 6, sec. 3. Understood in this manner, Pri Hadash's view constitutes a third position maintaining that the recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar depends entirely upon one's residence rather than upon personal needs. Determination of residence, for Pri Hadash, depends upon whether the anticipated absence is a period of twelve months or longer.
This controversy persists among later authorities who continue to differ with regard to resolution of the conflict. Pri Megadim, Mishbezot Zahav 117:1, rules in accordance with the opinion of Pri Hadash while Birkei Yosef, Oraḥ Hayyim 117:5, rules in accordance with the position of R. Joshua Molko and Dvar Shmu'el.
Mishnah Berurah 11:5 points out that, although these authorities differ with regard to the theoretical basis of their positions, in terms of the practice to be followed there is no controversy between them. Pri Hadash rules that residents of Erez Yisra'el intending to return to the Holy Land must recite ve-ten tal u-matar on and after 7 Heshvan even during their stay in the Diaspora (either because they remain in need of rain, or because they must follow the practice of their place of domicile). R. Joshua Molko rules that they must follow local practice. However, points out Mishnah Berurah, the general rule is that one adopts local practice only if one intends to remain in the locale for some period of time. A transient intending to return to his place of origin retains his original practices. Accordingly, opines Mishnah Berurah, the statements of R. Joshua Molko and other authorities requiring the traveler to adopt local practices must be understood as referring only to persons "who do not intend to return." Pri Hadash explicitly concedes that one remaining in a new residence for an extended period of time must follow the local practice (either on the grounds that his personal needs have become identical to those of other indigenous residents or because he is deemed to have acquired a new domicile). Mishnah Berurah advances this conclusion somewhat tentatively and states that one would have to peruse the responsa of Dvar Shmu'el and Yad Aharon in order to reach a definitive conclusion. Those works were apparently unavailable to Mishnah Berurah. In point of fact those authorities rule explicitly that local practice should be followed even by a traveler who intends to return to his former abode. Birur Halakhah rules in accordance with this view, contrary to the position of Mishnah Berurah.
R. Moses Feinstein, Iggerot Mosheh, Oraḥ Hayyim, II, no. 102, also rules in accordance with the view of R. Joshua Molko and Teshuvot Dvar Shmu'el but for a different reason. Teshuvot ha-Rosh, klal 4, no. 10, and Maharya, cited by Bet Yosef, Oraḥ Hayyim 117, point out that in "our places" rainfall is required early in the fall. Hence, logically, we should commence recitation of the prayer for rain on 7 Heshvan, as is the practice in Erez Yisra'el, rather than on the later date ordained for Babylonia. We do not do so simply because, absent a formal rabbinic ordinance to commence the supplication on the earlier date, such practice never became firmly established and hence it became accepted custom not to recite the supplication at the earlier date. Nevertheless, the cogency of this consideration is reflected in Halakhah. The general rule is that if ve-ten tal u-matar is recited other than in the rainy season the Eighteen Benedictions must be repeated a second time without that supplication. However, Rema, Oraḥ Hayyim 117:2, rules that, in lands where early rainfall is beneficial, if through error one recites ve-ten tal u-matar at an earlier date, the Eighteen Benedictions need not be repeated. On the basis of these considerations Iggerot Mosheh argues that travelers from Israel should commence recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar on the earlier date. Since, in our lands, early rainfall is beneficial, insertion of this supplication does not serve to invalidate the Eighteen Benedictions. Moreover, since in earlier times travel was a relatively rare phenomenon, there is no established custom with regard to travelers which would augur against reciting this prayer. Therefore, concludes Iggerot Mosheh, according to all authorities, a visitor from Israel may commence recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar on 7 Heshvan and, indeed, he should do so in order to fulfill his obligation according to the opinion which requires recitation at the earlier date. The controversy between Pri Hadash and the other authorities, declares Iggerot Mosheh, is limited to lands such as Babylonia which do not require rain until a later date. Iggerot Mosheh rules that in such places the opinion of Pri Hadash and Pri Megadim should be followed. Iggerot Mosheh maintains that the view of Mishnah Berurah is also in accordance with that of Pri Hadash.
Iggerot Mosheh does not address the question of the proper practice to be followed by tourists or temporary residents in Israel. Although not discussed explicitly by many of the aforementioned authorities, this question would also appear to be the subject of controversy between them. Since Iggerot Mosheh rules in accordance with the basic position of Pri Hadash, it would then follow, it may be argued, that, in his opinion, tourists and temporary residents should retain the practice of the Diaspora. Pri Megadim, who follows the position of Pri Hadash, does state that the rule requiring travelers to retain the practice of their place of residence applies also to visitors to Erez Yisra'el. However, R. Betzalel Stern, Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah, I, no. 62, reaches a different conclusion. Pri Hadash limits his discussion to the question of the practice to be followed by a resident of Erez Yisra'el who finds himself in the Diaspora, but does not mention the converse. Rabbi Stern argues that Pri Hadash does not reject temporary personal need as a controlling factor requiring recitation of this supplication. Rather, it may be argued, Pri Hadash posits the need shared with inhabitants of one's place of residence (or the general rule governing ritual practices) as an additional factor necessitating recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar. Thus, in effect, the determining factors are disjunctive: either immediate personal need or needs shared with inhabitants of one's place of residence (or the formal requirement to follow the ritual practices of one's place of residence). An Israeli visiting the Diaspora recites ve-ten tal u-matar because of the latter consideration, while a tourist in Israel is required to recite the supplication, argues Rabbi Stern, because of the first consideration.
Rabbi Stern does not fail to recognize that a tourist in Israel planning only a brief visit does not derive any direct benefit from the local autumn rainfall and hence, unless he remains long enough to enjoy that year's produce, has no personal need for the rain. Rabbi Stern counters this contention by citing Berakhot 59a and arguing that abundant rainfall causes the price of produce to fall immediately in anticipation of a bountiful crop during the coming season. Hence, even a person in Israel on a brief visit has "need" for autumn rain since it will immediately result in lower food prices. Moreover, argues Rabbi Stern, in the event that rains are delayed in Erez Yisra'el, Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 575:1-4, rules that days of fasting and prayer are proclaimed. Tourists and visitors are also duty-bound to join in prayer and fasting to prevent local misfortune. Therefore, argues Rabbi Stern, even visitors have a need for rain in order to preclude such inconvenience. A similar ruling requiring visitors to Erez Yisra'el to commence recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar on 7 Heshvan is recorded in earlier works including Shulḥan ha-Tahor, Torat Hayyim, as well as by Halakhot Ketanot, I, no. 74. The latter authority, it will be remembered, espouses the opposite view with regard to residents of Erez Yisra'el who visit the Diaspora. Halakhot Ketanot clearly maintains that either immediate personal need or the need of the place of residence to which one will return is sufficient to require the recitation of this supplication. Birur Halakhah also analyzes the position of Pri Hadash and Radbaz in a like manner, but, unlike Rabbi Stern, Birur Halakhah expresses some reservation in the case of a tourist who intends to return home prior to the close of the rainy season and who, therefore, will not benefit directly from produce nurtured by the rain. Unlike Iggerot Mosheh, Birur Halakhah finds that the majority of rabbinic decisors affirm the view of R. Joshua Molko.10It is noteworthy that R. Yechiel Michal Tucatzinsky, in his Luaḥ Ereẓ Yisra’el, records that the Sephardic authorities in Israel conduct themselves in accordance with the opinion of Birkei Yosef who accepted the position of R. Joshua Molko and Dvar Shmu’el. R. Shmu’el ha-Levi Wosner is reported to have ruled that foreign students in Israel should abide by this practice and commence recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar as of 7 Ḥeshvan, but that, should they forget to include ve-ten tal u-matar in any particular recitation of the shemoneh esreh, they should rely upon the position of Pri Ḥadash and not repeat the shemoneh esreh prayer. See Gevurot Geshamim, p. 48, note 8. According to those authorities, each person recites the prayer in accordance with the practice of the locale in which he finds himself. According to this view, individual need is not at all a determining factor. Contrary to the opinion expressed by Iggerot Mosheh, Rabbi Yechiel Abraham Silber, as well as his father, R. Benjamin Silber, Bet Barukh, II, klal 24, sec. 64, maintain that this is the position of Mishnah Berurah as well.11It is probably the case that neither Iggerot Mosheh’s nor Birur Halakhah’s interpretation of Mishnah Berurah’s position is accurate. Mishnah Berurah first cites the opinion of Pri Ḥadash and Pri Megadim to the effect that travelers should follow the practice of their place of domicile and immediately thereafter proceeds to cite the conflicting view. Mishnah Berurah concludes by formulating the hypothesis that the latter authorities mandate conformity with local practices only if the visitor does not intend to return to Ereẓ Yisra’el and notes that the texts of the Teshuvot Dvar Shmu’el and Yad Aharon should be examined. Quite evidently Mishnah Berurah found no reason to choose between these conflicting positions because of his assumption that, in practice, no disagreement actually exists, although Mishnah Berurah did advance his hypothesis in a tentative manner, pending an examination of texts apparently not available to him. Thus Mishnah Berurah did not attempt to decide between what are, in fact, conflicting views.
It has been suggested that any halakhic difficulty in reaching a definitive determination can be avoided by including ve-ten tal u-matar in the fifteenth benediction, “shome‘a tefillah,” rather than in its proper position within the ninth benediction. Halakhah provides that, when inadvertently omitted in its proper place, the phrase ve-ten tal u-matar may be included in the blessing shome‘a tefillah which constitutes a general supplication beseeching God to hearken to our prayers. Prayers for personal needs of any nature may be included in shome‘a tefillah. Hence, even though ve-ten tal u-matar should not be added to the ninth benediction other than in accordance with the rabbinic edict, it may be added to shome‘a tefillah since personal supplications may be incorporated in that benediction. Birur Halakhah dismisses this suggestion as an unnecessary expedient since he rules firmly in accordance with the position of R. Joshua Molko. Nevertheless, in light of the many authorities who rule in accordance with Pri Ḥadash, this advice certainly commends itself to any person who desires to fulfill the obligation in accordance with the views of all authorities. Zer ha-Shulḥan suggests that, under such circumstances, the appropriate interpolation in shome’a tefillah is “ve-tan tal u-matar livrakhah livnei Ereẓ, Yisra’el—and give dew and rain for a blessing to the inhabitants of the Land of Israel.”
Although he adopts the view that a traveler must conform to local practice, Birkei Yosef 117:6 concedes that a different rule should be followed by a resident of Israel who begins his trip after 7 Heshvan. Birkei Yosef declares that since the traveler has already begun to recite ve-ten tal u-matar he should not interrupt his continued recitation of this supplication in order to conform to local practice.12See Be-Ẓel he-Ḥokhmah, I, no. 62, who avers that Birkei Yosef’s comments are directed only to the situation of a resident of Israel who has traveled abroad but intends to return to Israel. However, a resident of Israel who emigrates permanently after 7 Ḥeshvan, argues Be-Ẓel he-Ḥokhmah, should cease recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar. To do so would appear to render his earlier recitation "foolish."13Birkei Yosef’s view is, however, contradicted by Teshuvot Be’er Mayim Ḥayyim, no. 5. R. Ovadiah Yosef, in his column in the Israeli weekly, Erev Shabbat, 26 Tishri 5746, asserts that Be’er Mayim Ḥayim was unaware of the conflicting statements of earlier authorities and, hence, Rabbi Yosef rules in accordance with the position of Birkei Yosef.
Birkei Yosef’s contention that, once a resident of Ereẓ Yisra’el has commenced recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar, he should not cease such recitation when traveling outside the Land of Israel since to do so would be “foolish,” would appear to apply, mutatis mutandis, to a tourist who returns to his home in the Diaspora after a short visit to Israel. Nevertheless, Rabbi Yosef, in the same contribution to Erev Shabbat, rules that, under such circumstances, the returning traveler should recite ve-ten tal u-matar in shome‘a tefillah. See above, note 11.
Birkei Yosef’s concern that to cease recitation of ve-ten tal u-matar would appear “foolish” does not apply to the repetition of the shemoneh esreh by the shliaḥ ẓibbur since his prayer is rendered on behalf of the congregation. Rabbi Yosef cogently notes that, even according to Birkei Yosef, the shliaḥ ẓibbur should not include ve-ten tal u-matar in his repetition of the shemoneh esreh. This view is also espoused by Bet Barukh, II, klal 24, sec. 63.
The question with regard to how an Israeli who himself recites ve-ten tal u-matar livrakhah should comport himself when serving as a ḥazzan in leading the congregation in prayer is even more complex. The problem lies in the consideration that, although the ḥazzan must himself recite ve-ten tal u-matar, the congregation should not recite that supplication and hence its recitation on behalf of the congregation by the ḥazzan is inappropriate. It would appear that all authorities are in agreement that such an individual should not assume the role of ḥazzan.
The question of how such an individual who inadvertently assumes the role of ḥazzan should recite the Eighteen Benedictions is addressed by Birkei Yosef 117:8. Birkei Yosef rules that while he must indeed recite this supplication in the silent prayer he should not include ve-ten tal u-matar in his repetition of the Eighteen Benedictions on behalf of the congregation. This ruling is disputed by R. Menachem Silber, Mo'znei Ẓedek, Oraḥ Hayyim (New York, 5757), no. 6, secs. 7-8. Although Bet Yosef cites early authorities who maintain that, on a fast day, a person who is himself not fasting may not lead the congregation in prayer, Magen Avraham, Oraḥ Hayyim 566:7, rules that such a person should recite "Answer us on this day of fasting etc." in the blessing of shome'a tefillah but should not employ the usual formula "Answer us on our fast day etc." The clear implication is that were this expedient not available, all would agree that such an individual could not serve as ḥazzan. Nevertheless, inclusion of that supplication by the ḥazzan in his repetition of the Eighteen Benedictions would not invalidate the prayer on behalf of the congregation. Such a conclusion is mandated by the fact that Rema, Oraḥ Hayyim 117:2, rules that, in lands in which early rainfall is beneficial, if, through error, one recites the ve-ten tal u-matar at an earlier date the Eighteen Benedictions need not be repeated. Accordingly, Mo'znei Ẓedek suggests that a person finding himself in such a dilemma should include the supplication ve-ten tal u-matar livrakhah in his repetition of the Eighteen Benedictions but that he pronounce those words softly so that they are inaudible to the other worshipers. It would appear that, according to Moz'nei Ẓedek, this expedient can be utilized by design by a person who wishes to serve as ḥazzan on the occasion of a yahrzeit or similar occasion.
Sefirat ha-Omer and the Observance of Shavu'ot for Travelers Crossing the Dateline
A person traveling across the Pacific Ocean from east to west, and hence following the path of the sun, will lose a full day in crossing the international dateline. Thus, for example, if he crosses the dateline at precisely 6:00 P.M., Sunday, January 10th, he will find himself in a locale in which the time is 6:00 P.M., Monday, January 11th, and will have lost an entire day. Conversely, if a person travels in the opposite direction from the sun, i.e., from west to east, he will gain a full day. Thus, for example, if he crosses the dateline at precisely 6:00 P.M., Monday, January 11th, he will find himself in a locale in which the time is 6:00 P.M., Sunday, January 10th, and hence will have gained an entire day. There is, to be sure, considerable controversy with regard to the location of the dateline for purposes of Halakhah. One who crosses the halakhically recognized dateline, wherever it is established, will find himself having gained or lost a day in terms of calculating the days of the week for purposes of religious observances. Thus, a traveler from east to west will observe his next Shabbat upon expiration of only a five-day period, whereas a traveler from west to east will experience seven full weekdays before observing another Shabbat. This is so because the Sabbath is observed, not on an individual basis upon expiration of six days of labor, but in accordance with objective determination of the day at the longitude at which one finds oneself. Hence all Jews in any given locale observe the Sabbath in a uniform manner. The same is true with regard to observance of festivals which occur on specific days of the month.14See Teshuvot Radbaz, I, no. 76; Teshuvot Even Yekarah, Mahadura Kamma, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, no. 11; Teshuvot Ḥavaẓelet ha-Sharon, I, no. 47; Teshuvot Ḥavalim ba-Ne‘imim, IV, no. 3; and Teshuvot Minḥat Yiẓḥak, VI, no. 84.
A problem does, however, arise with regard to fulfillment of the mizvah of sefirat ha-omer, the counting of the 49 days between Pesaḥ and Shavu'ot. Ostensibly, the counting of the days of the omer does not necessarily entail the counting of consecutive days of the week or of consecutive days of the month, but simply of consecutive twenty-four-hour periods. Thus it might appear that the traveler may ignore the date of the month in the locale in which he finds himself and continue counting consecutive days in seriam. This, however, would lead to an incongruity with regard to the observance of Shavu'ot. The traveler journeying from east to west will find that the festival occurs one day prior to his completion of the counting of seven full weeks; the traveler journeying from west to east will complete the counting of the seven-week period but will experience a delay of one day before Shavu'ot is observed in the area in which he finds himself. Scripture, however, commands that the festival be observed on the day immediately following completion of the counting of the seven-week period: "Until the morrow after the seventh week shall you number fifty days and you shall bring a new meal-offering unto the Lord" (Leviticus 23:16). Thus, the observance of Shavu'ot is inexorably linked to the counting of the omer. Moreover, the counting of the days of this seven-week period is associated with the offering of a sacrifice of the newly harvested produce. The reckoning is essentially the counting off of days until the arrival of the appointed time for the offering. Since the offering is a single communal act it would be somewhat incongruous to define the counting of the omer as a personal, and hence variable, act with the result that a person may complete his own reckoning either a day earlier or a day later than the day associated with the meal-offering.15A somewhat related question arises with regard to the observance of Chanukkah. Although the eight-day observance commemorates the miracle of the cruze of oil, the kindling of the Chanukkah lights each night during an eight-day period is not a unitary obligation, i.e., an observance which commences on the 25th of Kislev and continues for eight consecutive days without regard to calendrical considerations. Were that the case, the traveler who crosses the halakhic dateline during the week of Chanukkah would continue to kindle the Chanukkah lights for a complement of eight days commencing with the evening of his own first kindling. Since, however, the obligation is not unitary, but rather eight discreet obligations which devolve upon the individual on each of the days of Chanukkah, a voyager crossing the dateline will be bound to the same observance as the indigenous inhabitants of the locale in which he finds himself. Thus, a traveler journeying from east to west will miss one day and kindle Chanukkah candles for a total of only seven days, while a traveler journeying from west to east will observe an additional day and kindle the lights for an aggregate of nine days. Similarly, it would appear to this writer that a traveler journeying west to east on the last day of Chanukkah, or during the evening following the last day of Chanukkah, must also kindle the Chanukkah lights that evening since, subsequent to crossing the dateline, he finds himself in a locale in which the date is that of the last evening of Chanukkah. Cf., however, Rabbi David Schorr, Ha-Pardes, Nisan 5735.
However, with regard to circumcision, which must be performed on the eighth day subsequent to birth, and redemption of the first-born which must be performed on the thirty-first day, it would seem that the days are reckoned in terms of cycles of sunset and sunrise without regard to whether or not the dateline has been crossed. R. Isaac Liebes, Teshuvot Bet Avi, I, no. 111, adopts this view in a responsum concerning redemption of the first-born. It would appear that the same principle would govern determination of halakhic maturity upon attaining the age of thirteen years and one day in the case of a male or twelve years and one day in the case of a female. Cf., however, the discussions of those questions in R. Betzalel Stern, Teshuvot Be-Ẓel he-Ḥokhmah, I, nos. 75-76. For a discussion of the import of crossing the dateline with respect to some aspects of menstrual laws, see R. David Spira, Teshuvot Bnei Ẓion, I, no. 14, sec. 24.
A highly novel resolution of this problem is presented by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in his Yiddish-language Likkutei Siḥot, III, Parshat Emor (New York, 5724). This material was translated into Hebrew and published in a work entitled Hiddushim u-Bi'urim be-Shas (Jerusalem, 5739), no. 36. More recently, in honor of Rabbi Schneerson's eightieth birthday in 5743, Habad Lubavitch of Ontario, Canada published a collection of articles entitled Gevuratah shel Torah which contains an earlier and somewhat different version of this material in the form of a responsum composed by Rabbi Schneerson in 5709 as well as a number of brief letters written in 5718 and 5730, one of which appeared in a Lubavitch publication, Kovez Yagdil Torah, no. 3 (Jerusalem, Tammuz 5737), p. 22. The balance of this material earlier appeared in Likkutei Siḥot, VII (New York, 5732), addenda, pp. 284-287. All of these letters are also published in the addenda to Hiddushim u-Bi'urim be-Shas, pp. 355-357. These letters also appear in Rabbi Schneerson's recently published responsa collection, Yagdil Torah: Teshuvot u-Bi'urim be-Shulḥan Arukh (Kfar Habad, 5741), no. 105.
Ostensibly, the problem of counting the omer under these circumstances cannot be resolved by escaping between the horns of the dilemma. Rather, one or the other of the horns must be firmly seized. Either the counting of the omer is not personal and individual, but entails the counting of the particular day as it is established at a given geographic point, or the observance of Shavu'ot, unlike the observance of other festivals, is not uniform in any given place. In his more recent writings, Rabbi Schneerson does not hesitate to affirm that the second thesis is correct. Accordingly, he rules that the traveler should continue counting the days of the omer consecutively without interruption or repetition and observe the Shavu'ot festival on the morrow of his completion of the counting of seven full weeks. Thus, if the traveler has journeyed from east to west he will observe Shavu'ot on the seventh day of Sivan, i.e., one day later than the indigenous Jewish populace, and if he has traveled from west to east he will observe Shavu'ot on the fifth day of Sivan, i.e., one day earlier than his local neighbors.
To be sure, Shavu'ot, unlike other festivals, is not inherently associated with a specific day of the month. It uniformly occurs on the fiftieth day following the first day of Passover. Since, in the calendar presently in use, Nisan uniformly contains thirty days and Iyar uniformly contains twenty-nine days, Shavu'ot always occurs on the sixth day of Sivan. However, in earlier periods of Jewish history, when the Bet Din sanctified the months on the basis of witnesses testifying to the sighting of the new moon, it was entirely possible for both Nisan and Iyar to be either twenty-nine or thirty days in length. Thus, in those times, Shavu'ot might occur on either the fifth or seventh day of Sivan as well as on the sixth day of Sivan—precisely the dates on which, arguably, the traveler crossing the dateline must observe the festival. The fact that Shavu'ot might have occurred on the fifth or the seventh day of Sivan in days gone by is, however, not dispositive with regard to the problem confronted by the traveler who crosses the dateline. When the Bet Din declared both Nisan and Iyar to be twenty-nine or thirty days in length, the date of Shavu'ot was determined as occurring on the fifth or the seventh of Sivan for all of Israel. The fundamental question posed by the dateline problem is whether the observance of Shavu'ot is individual and contingent upon each person's own reckoning of sefirah, or whether it is universal and hence uniform for all Jews in a given geographic locale.
Although there is cogent reason to question whether the counting of the days of the omer is a matter of individual reckoning or whether it is entirely objective and standard, there is strong reason to assume that, even if the reckoning of the omer is personal in nature, the observance of Shavu'ot is nevertheless uniform for all Jews. To wit: a minor who reaches religious maturity during the omer or a proselyte who becomes a convert to Judaism during that period is certainly obliged to observe Shavu'ot together with all of Israel even though those individuals are under no obligation to count "seven full weeks." Moreover, according to many early authorities, there is no longer a biblical obligation to count sefirah in the present era. Nevertheless, the biblical obligation to observe the festival of Shavu'ot has certainly not lapsed. Rabbi Schneerson counters this objection by asserting that it is not the obligation to count the seven weeks of the omer period which determines the observance of Shavu'ot, but the variable and varying situational basis upon which that counting is predicated which determines the date on which Shavu'ot must be observed.
Rabbi Schneerson further opines that, although the traveler who crosses the dateline must observe Shavu'ot on either the fifth or the seventh day of Sivan, he must nevertheless omit the phrase, "the time of the giving of our Torah (zeman matan Toratenu)" from the liturgy of the festival since the giving of the Torah is commemorated on the sixth day of Sivan, the date on which the Torah was actually given and not on the fifth or the seventh of Sivan.16See Shulḥan Arukh ha-Rav 494:1; cf., however, Magen Avraham 494: introduction, and Divrei Neḥemyah (addenda to Shulḥan Arukh ha-Rav), Kuntres Aḥaron 581:1.
In his earlier responsum, written in 5709, Rabbi Schneerson's conclusions are much more tentative and indeed somewhat at variance with his later enunciated views. In his earlier version of this material, Rabbi Schneerson explains the nature of the perplexity concerning the proper mode of counting the omer and advises his interlocutor to count the omer two separate ways, i.e., to count both the day of the omer according to his own reckoning and also to count the day in the manner in which it is counted by the local populace. In a letter written in 5718 he adds that there should be an interval between the two acts of counting lest the counting appear to be contradictory in nature. In that letter, Rabbi Schneerson further rules that a person finding himself in this situation should not pronounce the blessing prior to counting the omer.17Cf., R. Menachem Kasher, No‘am, XVIII (5735-36), 357, who is of the opinion that the traveler journeying from east to west may pronounce the blessing and count the omer using the following formula: “Today is the third day of the omer according to the reckoning of the western part of the world and today is the fourth day of the omer according to the reckoning of the eastern part of the world.” Similarly, a traveler journeying from west to east may pronounce the blessing and count the omer using the formula: “Today is the third day of the omer according to the reckoning of the western part of the world and today is the fourth day of the omer according to the reckoning of the eastern part of the world.” Citing Dvar Avraham, I, no. 34, Rabbi Schneerson explains that the blessing cannot be pronounced, even though one of the two acts of counting must be correct, because a "doubtful" or inconclusive act of counting does not constitute "counting" which, by definition, must be precise and accurate.18Cf., however, Ba‘al ha-Ma’or, Pesaḥim, end of chapter 10.
With regard to observance of Shavu'ot, Rabbi Schneerson, in his first responsum (5709), rules that a traveler journeying from America to Australia must regard the day which is observed in Australia as the first day of Shavu'ot as being only "doubtfully" Shavu'ot insofar as he is concerned since according to his individual reckoning it is the last day of the omer. Accordingly, he advises his interlocutor to refrain from activities prohibited on the Yom Tov, but to count the 49th day of the omer and to don phylacteries on that day. The traveler must, of course, observe the second day of the festival as a holy day in every respect. Rabbi Schneerson, however, rules that the traveler need not observe a third day as the "doubtful" second day of Shavu'ot. He reasons that the observance of the second day of the festival in our day is described in the Gemara, Beizah 4b, as a continuation of the practice which was extant when a fixed calendar did not exist. But, argues Rabbi Schneerson, since the eighth of Sivan was never observed by the indigenous populace in the locale in which the traveler finds himself, there exists no custom to that effect which must be continued.19A similar rationale is advanced by Bet Yosef, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 624, with regard to the absence of a two-day observance of Yom Kippur. However, it should follow that a traveler journeying in the opposite direction, i.e., from Australia to the United States, must indeed observe Shavu'ot for a three-day period, viz., the fifth, sixth and seventh days of Sivan, and, in accordance with Rabbi Schneerson's ruling, don phylacteries on both the fifth and seventh of Sivan.
In his original responsum (5709), Rabbi Schneerson also considers the possibility that there may be a double obligation both with regard to counting the omer and observance of Shavu'ot, i.e., one obligation to count the omer and to observe Shavu'ot on the basis of each individual's personal reckoning and a second obligation predicated upon the established day in any given locale. According to this analysis, the dual counting of the days of the omer and observance of Shavu'ot on multiple days would not be born of doubt but would constitute a normative requirement.
In yet another letter, written in the summer of 5718, Rabbi Schneerson advises that the omer be counted in accordance with the individual's own reckoning but that the benediction be omitted. He is, nevertheless, more firm in asserting that Shavu'ot be observed in accordance with the individual's own reckoning but counsels that the concurrence of two other competent halakhic decisors be secured.
An entirely opposite view is expressed by R. Ya'akov Yitzchak Weisz in a brief responsum published in his Teshuvot Minḥat Yizḥak, VIII, no. 50. Minḥat Yizḥak rules that, as is the case with regard to other festivals, Shavu'ot must be observed solely in accordance with the reckoning of the geographic locale in which one finds oneself. Minḥat Yizḥak adopts the same position with regard to the counting of the omer and expresses incredulity at the suggestion that a traveler from east to west might still count the forty-ninth day of the omer after the meal-offering of the produce of the new harvest has been offered in Jerusalem. The question of the proper method of counting the omer is also raised, but not firmly resolved, by R. Joseph Cohen in his Harerei Kodesh, a commentary on R. Zevi Pesach Frank's Mikra'ei Kodesh, Pesaḥ, II, no. 63, note 1 (p. 214).
Since, according to Minḥat Yizḥak, counting of the omer is akin to celebration of festivals and is determined in accordance with the local reckoning, a person journeying from west to east will perforce count the identical day of the omer on two consecutive evenings. Yet, in a note appended to his original responsum, Rabbi Schneerson declares the counting of the same day of the omer on two consecutive days to be an absurdity. According to Minḥat Yizḥak's analysis, such a practice is, in the situation described, entirely cogent.
Minḥat Yizḥak fails to discuss the question of whether a traveler counting the omer in the same manner as the local populace may recite the benediction. The accepted practice, as codified by Shulḥan Arukh, Oraḥ Hayyim 489:8, is that a person who has forgotten to count one of the days of the omer must continue counting the subsequent days but does not pronounce the benediction since it is no longer possible for him to count "seven full weeks." It would then stand to reason that a traveler journeying from east to west would no longer pronounce the benediction since he perforce has skipped one day of the reckoning. It should also follow that a person contemplating such a journey during the omer should not pronounce the benediction even on the days prior to crossing the dateline since he is fully aware of the fact that he will not count the full complement of forty-nine days.
The question of pronouncing the blessing prior to counting the omer on subsequent days is expressly addressed in another, somewhat earlier source. R. David Spira, Teshuvot Bnei Ẓion, I (Jerusalem, 5698), no. 14, sec. 23, in a brief comment, does indeed rule explicitly that the traveler who crosses the halakhic dateline in the course of traveling from east to west can no longer recite the blessing upon counting the omer. Although Bnei Ẓion is not quoted by any of the heretofore cited authorities, it is quite evident that his position is identical to that of Minḥat Yizḥak. Bnei Ẓion's opinion is, however, cited by She'arim ha-Mezuyanim be-Halakhah 120:2, note 5.
Rabbi David Schorr, in an article appearing in the Nisan 5735 issue of Ha-Pardes, adopts a position that is essentially identical to that of Minḥat Yizḥak but adds that a person crossing the dateline from east to west must count the omer a second time on the day of his crossing. He reasons that, since a person is required to count the omer in accordance with the reckoning of the omer in the locale in which he finds himself, that obligation devolves upon him immediately upon crossing the halakhic dateline.20A similar view is advanced by R. Samuel Havlin, Moriah, Sivan 5744. If this position is accepted the previously discussed problem is obviated since, in fact, no day has been omitted in the counting of the omer. Against this view it may be argued that an individual is subject to but one obligation with regard to the counting of any single cycle of night and day during the omer period. The specific obligation, to be sure, is objectively determined by geographic location but, once the obligation has been correctly discharged, no further obligation can devolve upon the individual during the course of that day.
The situation of a traveler journeying from west to east is significantly different. Such a traveler does not miss any day in the reckoning of the days of the omer. On the contrary, if he is required to conform to local practice in counting the omer on the evening subsequent to crossing the dateline, he must count exactly as he did the preceeding evening before crossing the dateline. The weeks which he has counted are thus certainly "full" ones. Accordingly, there appears to be no reason for him not to resume recitation of the benediction as he resumes consecutive counting of the days of the omer subsequent to having counted the same day a second time. Indeed, there might be strong reason for the traveler to pronounce the benediction even on the two consecutive days that he, in his counting, pronounces to be the same day of the omer since on both days he is fulfilling the normative requirement of counting the omer in accordance with the reckoning of the area in which he is located.
Bnei Ẓion's ruling with regard to a person traveling in the opposite direction, i.e., from west to east, is more complex. Bnei Ẓion declares that a traveler finding himself in such a situation cannot pronounce a blessing upon counting the omer on the evening following the crossing of the dateline from west to east since he has already proclaimed that particular day of the omer in an identical manner on the previous evening. This view is also cited by She'arim ha-Mezuyanim be-Halakhah. Bnei Ẓion further expresses some reservation with regard to whether the traveler may resume recitation of the blessing on subsequent evenings but appears to incline to the position that the two days are to be deemed a single "long day" (yoma arikhta).21See also Rabbi David Schorr, Ha-Pardes, Nisan 5735, who similarly states that the traveler journeying from west to east in the midst of the omer is exempt from counting the omer on the evening following his crossing of the halakhic dateline since he has already pronounced the number assigned to that day in his counting of the omer the previous evening. See also R. Samuel Havlin, Moriah, Sivan 5744. This position, however, is not entirely consistent with the basic thesis upon which it is predicated, viz., that the obligation regarding sefirat ha-omer is objective and determined by geographic locale. Since each day must be counted by assigning to it the proper number at the place of counting, the fact that a given day was previously counted at a different locale should not serve to exempt the traveler from counting the day in the manner which is correct in the locale in which he subsequently finds himself. Indeed, consistent with Rabbi Schorr’s own position as earlier cited, it may be argued that the traveler journeying from west to east must repeat the act of counting upon reaching the eastern side of the dateline by pronouncing the day to be one day earlier in the omer than he had pronounced it to be while yet on the western side of the dateline. It should be noted that She‘arim ha-Meẓuyanim be-Halakhah, ostensibly citing Bnei Ẓion, explains that no new counting of the second day of the reckoning of the omer need be performed on the evening subsequent to crossing the dateline because the two days are deemed to be a single “long day.” In point of fact, Bnei Ẓion does not offer this concept as a rationale exempting the traveler from counting, but as a reason for permitting him to resume pronouncement of the blessing on subsequent evenings; nor, indeed, does this rationale adequately dispel the basic problem.
Chanukkah Lights for Travelers
The majority of commandments, both biblical and rabbinic, are in the nature of personal obligations which devolve upon an individual wherever he may find himself. Of course, the observance of some of the commandments is restricted to the Land of Israel, particularly in the case of agricultural mizvot pertaining to the produce of the land; others are contingent upon the existence of the Temple. A few, e.g., mezuzah and the requirement of a ma'akeh, or protective barrier, around a roof obviously cannot be fulfilled unless one occupies a dwelling or other structure. The homeless are perforce exempt from such mizvot.
The obligation concerning the kindling of Chanukkah lights would, at first glance, appear to belong to the category of personal obligations. Other than the obvious inconvenience in fulfilling this mizvah which would undoubtedly be experienced by those who have no domicile, there appears to be no intrinsic reason why maintenance of a home should constitute a condition of this obligation. Yet at least two early authorities apparently maintain that a person who has no domicile is exempt from this mizvah. The Gemara, Shabbat 23a, speaks of an individual who gazes upon already burning lights but does not participate in the kindling itself. The Gemara declares that such an "observer" is nevertheless obligated to pronounce the benediction "who has performed miracles for our fathers in those days at this season." Rashi, troubled by the fact that, ostensibly, all persons are required to kindle Chanukkah lights, states that the Gemara's reference is to one who has as yet not kindled the lights in his own home or to a person "who is situated on a ship." Rashi clearly implies that a traveler, i.e., a person finding himself on a riverboat, need not kindle the Chanukkah lights21aCf. R. Benjamin Silber, Az Nidberu VI, no. 75, and R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Ẓiẓ Eliezer XV, no. 29, who maintain that Rashi does not regard the passenger on a ship as exempt from the obligation, but simply as incapable of fulfilling it. but must pronounce "the observer's benediction" (birkat ha-ro'eh) if he sees the lights kindled by others in their homes. Similarly, Tosafot, Sukkah 46a, states that the blessing "who has performed miracles" was ordained primarily because of people "who do not possess homes" and hence "it is not within their power" to perform the kindling ceremony.
Actually, the phraseology employed by Tosafot is somewhat ambiguous. R. Zevi Pesach Frank, Mikra'ei Kodesh, Hanukkah-Purim, no. 18, understands the phrase, "it is not within their power to fulfill the mizvah" (ein be-yadam le-kayyem ha-mizvah) as meaning that such persons are entirely exempt from the commandment. The phrase, however, readily admits of another interpretation, viz., that these individuals may be incapable of kindling lights for reasons which are entirely pragmatic in nature, e.g., without benefit of shelter, it may not be possible for them to kindle a light which will remain burning for the requisite period of time. According to this interpretation, such persons are not at all halakhically exempt from the mizvah but are prevented from discharging their obligation by virtue of force majeure. Hence, were it possible to overcome such impediments, the obligation would be fully incumbent upon them. The latter interpretation of Tosafot is espoused by R. Benjamin Silber, Az Nidberu, VII, no. 67. Rabbi Silber also argues (albeit unconvincingly) that Rashi's comments must be understood in a like manner. According to his understanding, Rashi does not intend to state that a passenger on a boat is exempt from the mizvah, but only that a passenger who has embarked on a voyage is likely to lack the necessary provisions for kindling Chanukkah lights. In disagreement with Rabbi Frank, Rabbi Silber maintains that even a homeless person or a person "finding himself in a desert" is obligated to kindle Chanukkah lights.
Rabbi Gedalia Rabinowitz has drawn this writer's attention to the comments of Rabbenu Nissim, Shabbat 23a, which support the view that a domicile is not a necessary condition of the obligation. Explaining why a guest in another person's home is obligated to kindle the Chanukkah lights, Rabbenu Nissim writes, "… do not say that the law pertaining to the Chanukkah lamp is identical to the law of mezuzah, i.e., that whosoever has no house is exempt from the mezuzah." Quite evidently, Rabbenu Nissim's view is that the mizvah of kindling Chanukkah lights constitutes a personal obligation which is not contingent upon occupation of a domicile.
Fortunately, this question does not frequently arise in situations involving homeless persons. However, the question does arise with great frequency in cases of individuals who find themselves traveling throughout the night by car, train or airplane. In a note appended to Mikra'ei Kodesh, Rabbi Frank's grandson, R. Joseph Cohen, reports that a similar question was posed by soldiers in the Israeli armed forces who found themselves on military maneuvers during Chanukkah.
Among latter-day authorities, the first to address this question is R. Shalom Mordecai Schwadron, Teshuvot Maharsham, IV, no. 146. Maharsham somewhat tentatively opines that passengers on a train must kindle Chanukkah lights.21bThis is also the opinion of Arukh ha-Shulḥan, Oraḥ Ḥayyim 677:5. See also Ẓiẓ. Eliezer XV, no. 29. Maharsham affirms that in the absence of occupancy of a dwelling no obligation exists, but argues that a train car used for eating and sleeping constitutes a "dwelling." He distinguishes Rashi's comment with regard to a passenger on a ship by stating that Rashi refers only to an open boat lacking walls and a roof.
Rabbi Frank's discussion of this problem focuses upon the definition of a dwelling. Drawing upon the rulings of Arukh ha-Shulḥan, Yoreh De'ah 286:26 and Mishnah Berurah 366:13 regarding mezuzah and eruvei ḥazerot, Rabbi Frank distinguishes between what these authorities term "temporary" dwellings versus "permanent" dwellings. Arukh ha-Shulḥan and Mishnah Berurah maintain that ships divided into staterooms or compartments are "dwellings" requiring mezuzot and eruvei ḥazerot. In actuality, it appears that it is not permanence per se which is the controlling factor but the fact that staterooms provide privacy and clearly demarcated areas for the exclusive use of each passenger. Privacy and the right to exclude others are deemed to be the distinguishing characteristics of a "dwelling." Rabbi Frank maintains that, mutatis mutandis, the same criteria should apply with regard to the definition of a "dwelling" for purposes of Chanukkah lights. Thus, a passenger occupying a stateroom on a ship or compartment on a train would be required to kindle Chanukkah lights, while a passenger on a ferryboat, an airplane passenger or a person occupying a coach seat on a train or bus would be exempt. This position seems to be at variance with that of Maharsham. Maharsham apparently maintains that the essential attribute of a "dwelling" is protection against the elements and, since he fails to distinguish between private compartments and public coaches, Maharsham apparently maintains that all persons traveling by such conveyances are obliged to kindle Chanukkah lights.22R. Joseph Eliashiv is quoted in Halakhot ve-Hanhagot mi-Maran Ba‘al ha-Kehillot Ya‘akov (n.d.) p. 37, as ruling that airplane passengers should not pronounce a blessing upon kindling Chanukkah lights because a “suspended tent” (ohel zaruk) is not deemed to be a tent. R. Ya‘akov Kanievsky is reported to have disagreed with that line of reasoning, and to have stated simply that a blessing should not be recited because an airplane is no different from a ship. This position is, of course, based on Rashi’s comments indicating that Chanukkah lights need not be kindled on a ship.
R. Abraham Yafe-Schlesinger, Teshuvot Be'er Sarim, II, nos. 5-6, similarly rules that airplane passengers are obligated to kindle Chanukkah lights. Rabbi Yafe-Schlesinger suggests that they request permission to use the airplane galley for this purpose and that, in order to minimize inconvenience and commotion, they light only a single candle.23A person who on previous occasions has kindled multiple lights may, however, require nullification of his “vow” to continue to do so.
This opinion is endorsed by Rabbi Yafe-Schlesinger's father-in-law, Rabbi Betzalel Stern, Teshuvot Be-Ẓel he-Hokhmah, IV, no. 127. Rabbi Stern also suggests that a passenger may provide himself with a glass in which he may fully enclose the candle and place the glass upon the folding tray provided for the convenience of airplane passengers. In the event that flight attendants insist that the flame be extinguished, Rabbi Stern advises that the passenger inform the attendant that he is not permitted to extinguish the candle but, if absolutely necessary, the attendant should himself or herself quench the flame. Such a situation, argues Rabbi Stern, is comparable to kindling the Chanukkah candle and the candle subsequently becoming extinguished of its own accord. In such circumstances the mizvah has been fulfilled and the candle need not be rekindled (kavtah eino zakuk lah). Of course, as Rabbi Stern himself freely concedes, use of the airplane galley, if permitted, is certainly preferable.