From the Desk - Davening in Alaska
Shalom Friends! I hope that those of you in Montreal are coping with this crazy weather!! Last Sunday, the Bar Mitzvah group enjoyed a wonderful experience - at Papermans! Some of the families were a little surprised to hear about this feature of our Bar Mitzvah program but, by the end of the tour, there was not one person who didn't appreciate what a valuable experience this was. We were very privileged to be led on the tour by Ross Paperman. Through his many remarkable anecdotes and reflections, Ross impressed on all of us the importance of honouring the deceased and finding strength and hope in the face of pain. Most particularly, he emphasized that being Jewish entails a sense of responsibility and community. I can't think of a better preparation for becoming a Jewish adult than this experience. We are grateful to Papermans not only for the essential service they perform in the community, but also for helping us to succeed in our mission of honouring our heritage and building for the future.
Next Shabbat (February 23rd) is another special Kehillah Shabbat at Beth Ora. This is the Shabbat on which we honour the women of our community. Don't let the weather hold you back - come along and join us for a special Shabbat full of communal participation and special surprises in honour of the Beth Ora women! If you know of any of friends who might like to come along for this special Shabbat, don't be shy to invite them! Wishing you all a good week and Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf Dovid, Rachelli, Yehuda and Avrami
What's the Deal with... Davening in Alaska? For the last few weeks at Seuda Shlishit, we have been discussing some of the laws about when men put on their tallit and tefillin and the earliest time for saying the Shacharit morning prayers. These calculations tend to depend on how much natural light there is outside. Specifically, the most relevant times are Alot Hashachar (dawn, when we have the first rays of light), Makir et chavero (the time at which there is enough natural light to recognise an acquaintance) and neitz hachama (sunrise). In response to all this, Parness Bitton asked what one does in places where there is sunlight all the time? In short, what's the deal with davening in Alaska? In answering this question, I benefited from an article written by Rabbi Dovid Heber for the Star- K Kashrut agency. To clarify the question with regard to specific locations: In parts of Alaska, and other locations north of the Arctic Circle, there are periods of time during the Winter when the sun never rises. If the sun doesn't rise, can one still pray Shacharit? There are a number of responses to this question:
Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira (1868-1937, Ukraine) says that there are doubts regarding the appropriate time for davening in these places. This, coupled with issues relating to Shabbat observance in such places which we have discussed in the past, leads him to advise that one should not live or visit these locations during the months when the sun is always up or down.
Rabbi Israel Lipschitz (1782-1860, Danzig) writes that, at the North Pole, one should use the times for davening based on the location from where he came.
Rabbi Yosef Hayyim (1835-1909, Baghdad) held that, when the sun is above the horizon for 24 hours, or it is completely dark for 24 hours, 6:00 am is considered sunrise. In the "morning", one wears tallit and tefillin and davens Shacharit.
The contemporary Jerusalemite, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch argues that in the Winter, when the sun is below the horizon, the new halachic day begins when the sun is closest to the horizon (usually around noon). In Polar regions, on a day in the Winter when it remains completely dark with no sunlight for 24 hours, one cannot pray Shacharit since there is no daylight!