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Jun 24, 2013

Daylight Savings Time extension and the halachic and legal problems that arise

Yesterday the government Cabinet approved the proposal of Interior Minister Gideon Saar to extend Daylight Savings Time until the end of October. The bill has to go to the Knesset for final approval, though it is expected to pass easily.

The discussion around the proposal has focused on mainly being harmful to religious workers. In October sunrise will be so late that it will make it difficult for people who need to get to work early to have davened prior to going to work. Some people might even be forced to choosing between davening and being late for work and between going to work and skipping davening.

There is a psak that would solve the dilemma, but it seems to be unpopular in many places. That is, technically, one could daven before sunrise. Of course, there is an earliest time one could daven, but I don't think that earliest time would ever present the same problem.

People don't like this solution, calling it a b'dieved. I have heard a rav say that davening before sunrise is just as b'dieved as davening after sunrise. So anyone willing to daven at 7:00 or 8:00, for example, should theoretically have no halachic objection to davening before sunrise either. But I know that this is not the accepted custom and while some do that, many prefer not to.

Interestingly, I did learn something new because of this. While of course it was always halachically preferable to daven at sunrise, I have always thought that the preference for davening at sunrise is in relation to davening later. Most won't daven earlier, even though it is an option. According to what I read in Srugim, it used to be exactly the opposite - the sunrise prayers were really the late minyan, not the early minyan. According to that, people commonly davened earlier, and the halachic preference for sunrise was in reference to davening earlier, not later. I guess that would be because in the days of working in agriculture, they had to be working in the fields very early, so they davened even before sunrise. Later, when other fields of employment became more popular, with agriculture going on the decline, things got turned around, people did not need to be up and out so early any longer, and sunrise became the early minyan for most people and regular davening became the later minyanim.

I thought that was an interesting revelation. Does anybody know if this is historically accurate?

Another development is a request for a new law proposal due to the effects of the DST extension. The head of Machon Keter - an organization dealing with economic issues according to the Torah, the DST extension, as already explained, will present a problem for people who need to leave early to go to work. Even allowing them to daven early - prior to sunrise, in the second half of October, anybody who needs to leave their house before 6 AM will still have a problem.

Rav Ishon, the head of Machon Keter, says that the law allows an employee to daven at his workplace during the workday, with prayer times being arranged in accordance with the needs of the workplace and the requirements of the religion of the employee. However, unlike certain breaks that are guaranteed by law so the employee can get some air for a few minutes, while the employer has to give the employee time to pray, he does not have to pay the employee for his praying time.

Rav Ishon requested a new law proposal to adjust that, so that any employee who has to leave his house within a range of 40 minutes prior to the earliest time one is allowed to daven would be allowed to daven during work hours and would also be paid for that time.
(source: Kikar)

I see the need to protect the worker, so that he/she should not have to be put in a situation of needing to decide between working and davening - plenty of employees would decide they cannot afford to lose 20 minutes or 40 minutes of pay and might decide to continue working instead of davening. However, I do not see why the employer has to pay for it - what did he do wrong that suddenly he has to foot the bill, when he never had to before?

I would suggest that maybe Bituach Leumi should have to pay for that davening time, instead of the employer. Also, if employers know they will have to pay for non-work time, they might be reluctant to hire religious employees. Having the payment for this time taken away from them and put in the hands of the government, who is really at fault for the issue anyway, would resolve that,a s now the employer is taking no loss.

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  1. Just in terms of halachic issues, there are a lot of American and European quasi-chareidim who work. What psak do they follow about davening in October?

  2. I'm not sure that this is such a problem.

    In the middle of winter, the latest sunrise is about 6:40. If we don't change the clocks until the end of October, the latest sunrise will be about 6:50. The extra ten minutes makes a difference, but not as big a deal as some people are making it out to be.

    In the middle of winter, many minyanim daven before Neitz, (i.e., any minyan that starts before 6:25 unless they daven very slowly). So those minyanim would have the same issue at the end of October as they currently do in the middle of December.

    In many other parts of the world it is the norm to daven before Neitz, even though this is Beidevid - In Toronto, the latest Neitz is after 7:30, so even 7:00 minyanim daven before Neitz. In those locations, people are more worried about earliest Talis-Tfilin than davening before Neitz. (My father-in-law's shul has a minyan that stops at Yishtabach so that people can put on Tfilin)

    Also, in Israel if people have to get to work early, many people have the option to daven with a minyan near their work.

    There are also halachic benefits of extending Daylight Savings Time, it is easer to say Shma Bzman (if you have teenagers in the house, you'll understand how difficult it is for some people to get up in time to say Shma). And SHma Bzman is a Mitzva Deorita - far more important than Davening before Neitz.

  3. Latest tallit and tefillin will be around 6.10 (in Jan it is around 5.55) and this is a more significant problem than neitz.
    Those advocating the change are generally Ashkenazi white-collar types that want the extra hour of light in the evening and are happy to start the day a little later. problem is - the people that this really affects are the traditional sephardim who often work in blue collar positions that start earlier in the morning and will now have to choose between work and davening, or they will need to daven on the job instead of in a regular minyan.
    The fact is that we are not in W Europe or N America - the latitude and longitude of Eretz Yisrael is such that changing the clock "with the rest of the world" does not necessarily fit the reality here. Now whilst I agree that the end of September is "too early", the end of October might well be too late....

    1. whats the right day? mid-october? the difference in timing between mid-october and end of october is probably no more than 10 minutes (without looking at a calendar to verify). the clock usually moves about 5-7 minutes per week.

    2. Yes - probably mid-October. The rule of thumb should probably be that the latest Neitz in the year happens in the dead of winter rather than late summer/ early autumn

    3. I haven't really thought it out, but with the lower latitude of Israel compared with most of America and Europe, isn't there less, rather than more, variation in extremes of sunrise/sunset?

  4. I do not see the big deal. As long as they have the opportunity to daven and even eat something at work .
    they are not losing out. Their work day should be the same. What difference will it make where they daven.
    The only problem I see if someone would be an Avel and need to say Kaddish and where he works he can't get a minyan. Because he is in some far out place. (It is likely he has a car and can drive somewhere to get a minyan.)
    What do frum Bus drivers do when they have the early run?

    This is a big deal about nothing especially if employers will respect their workers desire and need to daven. On the other hand the worker should not take advantage of this either. Let them do what they need to do and put in their hours. No more no less.

  5. When I lived in Yerushalaim and worked in Tel Aviv, I would often commute very early (on the 5:25am local bus to the CBS, followed by the 5:50am bus to Tel Aviv). Then I would arrive early to work and daven there - we had a small shul and usually had a minyan for shacharit (always had a minyan for mincha, and sometimes for maariv).


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