Shabbat and Daylight Savings Time

November 3, 2017

This Shabbat, candle lighting is at 5:22 pm, and Shabbat officially starts 20 minutes later at 5:42 pm. However . . . next week, Shabbat candle lighting is at 4:14 pm. Yikes! That’s A LOT earlier. What’s the difference? Of course: Daylight Savings time is over this Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, and we set the clock back an hour! Daylight savings time is a sticky issue – it wasn’t enacted until WW I, although it was proposed by Benjamin Franklin as early as 1784. The main idea is to maximize sunlight during typical waking hours. In traditional Jewish communities it’s seen as both a complication and a liberation. In the summer, when Daylight Standard time makes Saturdays longer since the sun sets late, it minimizes the potential activities after Shabbat is over, since even to get to a movie on Saturday night, a traditional Jew would have to get to a 10 pm or even 11 pm screening! However, since the days are also long on Friday, and candle lighting is SO late, if a traditional family prefers to eat Shabbat Dinner after the sun is set – that might be quite a late dinner! On the other hand, when we shift to Daylight Standard time, as we do this weekend, the nightfall is sooner. Saturday nights are a breeze – next week (after the clock change) Shabbat is over by 5:16. Going out on Saturday night is no problem at all. There’s even time for a shower before getting ready!

In Israel, of course, in a Jewish State, there are all the same issues. The clock changes were always around the same times that they are in America. However, the Israeli government made a major change in 2005 when they changed the clock MUCH earlier in the year. The Knesset (Parliament) decided that the clock change would happen immediately before Yom Kippur. Since Yom Kippur is a fast day that ends as the sun sets, the idea was to change the clock so people would have to fast an hour less during waking hours on the day of Yom Kippur. Nice idea right? Of course it was applauded in the observant Israeli world. Secular Jews, however found fault with it. It remains a matter of controversy to this day. This year, Israelis changed the clocks last week on September 29.

Of course it is controversial even here in America – perhaps not for religious reasons though. One of the original ideas was that it would minimize the use of energy in the evening since the summer sun would set even later. The opponents of the clock changes claim that with modern technology and our typical use of energy at night anyway, it no longer makes a difference and it’s better to avoid the depressing days when it gets dark before 4:00. Go figure.