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Global Shabbos – Everywhere Simultaneously
Departing After Shabbos, Arriving On Shabbos
(Sanhedrin 58b)

 

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Since the earth is round, the sun does not shine everywhere at the same time. When the sun shines in Eretz Yisrael, it is dark in California and vice versa. Hence, Jews in Eretz Yisrael and California keep much of Shabbos at different times. This gives rise to a question discussed by many: Since Shabbos commemorates Creation and Hashem resting on the seventh day, wouldn’t it be fitting for Jews everywhere to keep Shabbos simultaneously? And since we were first commanded to observe Shabbos at Marah, wouldn’t it be appropriate for Jews everywhere to keep Shabbos according to the time zone of Marah?

 

Shabbos For Each Jew

The Radbaz (Responsa 1:76) explains that this question is based on the assumption that Shabbos is a day of rest for the whole world. The truth is, however, that each Jew is commanded to keep Shabbos individually at his particular location, as Shabbos is a “sign between Me and you.” Each Jew, therefore, must observe that sign at his specific location. It must be the seventh day after six days of work for him.

 

Sabbath On Monday

The Radbaz finds support for this notion in our sugya, which explains that a non-Jew who observes Shabbos is liable to the death penalty – even if he observed it on Monday. Since Shabbos is the seventh day after six days of work, if a non-Jew worked six days and observed Shabbos the following day, that day is regarded as his Shabbos and he is punishable by death if he properly observes it.

The Radbaz also finds support in the Gemara (Shabbos 69b), which discusses a person in a desert who has lost count of what day of the week it is. The Gemara says, “He counts six days and sanctifies the seventh.” Here again we see that Shabbos was given to each Jew in his location and was not intended to be observed all around the world at the same time.

Rashi and the Ran, however, maintain that this halacha is only a rabbinic injunction designed as a remembrance of Shabbos. Consequently, it isn’t pertinent to our topic, which concerns the biblical observance of Shabbos.

 

Different Places, Different Times

In his Tzafnas Paneach, the Maharit contends that Creation did not occur everywhere simultaneously. Rather, when Hashem, for example, said, “The earth should sprout vegetation,” the earth began to sprout vegetation at a certain point, spreading from there throughout the world over a span of 24 hours.

The Chasam Sofer expresses a similar view, stating that Hashem did not rest at the same time everywhere; rather, He rested from creating the world at each location whenever the sixth day ended at that location. If Hashem rested at a different time everywhere, obviously it follows that we should keep Shabbos at a different time everywhere (cited in Mishpetai Uziel, Orach Chayim 29).

Thus, all agree that every Jew must observe Shabbos on the seventh day at his location. The only question is: What is the source of that obligation? According to the Radbaz, the obligation stems from the fact that every individual Jew is commanded to observe Shabbos and the time for this mitzvah is determined according to his location. According to the Maharit and Chasam Sofer, a Jew’s obligation to observe Shabbos stems from his location. Whenever the sixth day ends there, Shabbos starts

 

Echoes of The Concorde

Concorde flights ended in 2003, but if they are ever resurrected, a person could technically board a flight in Tel Aviv right after Shabbos and land in New York Shabbos afternoon. What should a person do if he took such a flight? On the one hand, he has already observed Shabbos, but on the other hand, it is still Shabbos where he landed. Recent halachic authorities have discuss this question, pointing out that the answer is dependent on the dispute between the Radbaz and the Maharit and Chasam Sofer.

According to the Maharit and Chasam Sofer, a Jew’s obligation to observe Shabbos is dependent on his location. He must, therefore, observe Shabbos everywhere where it is the seventh day, even if he has already observed it elsewhere. According to the Radbaz, however, Shabbos was given to each Jew individually and the commandment is to observe only one day of rest. Thus, if he already observed one day of rest week, he has no further mitzvah to observe another.

(It should be noted that this entire discussion only concerns observing Shabbos d’Oraisa. As a rabbinical injunction, all agree that such a person must observe the local Shabbos.)

The Imrei Emes (cited in Piskei Teshuvah 3:252) maintains that since this person has already observed the mitzvah of Shabbos in its entirety, he cannot be obligated to observe it again that week (see ibid. concerning Yom Kippur and Pesach). On the other hand, the author of Responsa Be’tzel HaChochmah (4:83) tends to hold that as the person is now at a location where it is Shabbos, he is obligated to observe it. (See also Torah Sheleimah, Bereishis 430, and Or LeTziyon 14.)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.