Halacha & Space

Historical Background

On Thurs., Jan. 16, '03, after a most successful takeoff, the space shuttle Columbia (flight STS - 107) entered its orbit around the earth. One of the crew members was Ilan Ramon, , the first Israeli astronaut.

On Shabbat, Feb. 1, '03, the space shuttle Columbia broke up upon entering the atmoshpere. Its seven crew members, among them Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space, perished.

 

The Institute for Kiddush Hachodesh Studies at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh bitterly mourns the death of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut in space. Even though he was not religious, he sanctified G-d's name by proudly displaying his Jewishness. He was a faithful representative of Am Yisrael in space, when he requested kosher food and took a Sefer Torah to space. His questions, posed to Rav Konikov shlita, regarding his halachic status in space, are what served as the impetus for opening this site.

Ilan, we are proud of you.

May the words of Torah that are publicized in this site serve in memory of your soul.

Please follow this site. Please G-d, we will continue to update in memory of Ilan Ramon z"l.

 

Photo of Ilan Ramon

Observing Torah and Mitzvot in Space

During the week that Am Yisrael read Parshat Beshalach, the parsha in which Bnei Yisrael were first commanded about Shabbat in the desert, Ilan Ramon took off into space. During Bnei Yisrael's travels in the desert, the temporary cessation of the manna indicated the Shabbat in a concrete manner; the manna descended from heaven six days a week, on the sixth day a double portion fell, and on Shabbat the manna did not fall. When Bnei Yisrael entered the Land of Israel, the concrete symbol of the manna disappeared, and the unbroken chain of tradition is what leads us, to this very day, to know when Shabbat occurs. For an astronaut in space, however, there is no "tradition." When the shuttle orbits the earth once every ninety minutes, sixteen times a day, the astronaut keeps seeing sunrises and sunsets. The question, "When is Shabbat?", rises once again in our days, after it arose during the Second World War, when the refugees of the Mir Yeshiva went from China to Japan, and crossed, according to some authorities, the halachic international dateline.

On account of the spaceflight of the Jewish Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, a number of halachic questions have come to the fore. This is not the first time that halachic authorities have dealt with this issue. However, in the wake of Ramon's questions to Rabbinic authorities, the questions are no longer theoretical but become questions of practical halacha.

The Institute for Kiddush Hachodesh Studies, under the auspices of Kerem B'Yavneh Yeshiva, has initiated the opening of this site which is solely dedicated to "Halacha and Space." This site is the first of its kind on the Internet. (It is hosted by the website of Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh.)

Site editor

Shai Walter, director of the Institute for Kiddush Hachodesh Studies.
(English editor: Rav Meir Orlian)

Comments: kerem72@netvision.il

Questions regarding halacha and space

With man's venturing into space, a number of Rabbis became aroused to this topic. The first moon landing in 1969 gave additional impetus for considering issues of halacha and space. (See the articles below written by Rav Menachem Kasher.)

With Ilan Ramon's spaceflight, flight STS 107 of the space shuttle Columbia, this question arises again; this time, however, as practical halacha.

Ilan Ramon contacted the manager of the Chabad Center of Spacecoast, Florida, Rabbi Chaim Zvi Konikov shlita, and requested him to clarify certain halachic details relating to his spaceflight.
Rabbi Konikov appealed to additional Rabbis for clarification of this halachic question.

Conditions for the use of this site

This site is intended for public use. However, it is absolutely forbidden to use the contents of this site for commercial purposes. The rights are reserved for the authors or their kin. The editor of this site has been granted specific permission to publish its contents. Anyone who quotes from this site is kindly requested to give credit to the respective authors and to the site.

The responsa that are published on this site are brought as direct quotes from their authors, with minimal editing. The halachic content of the responsa has not been amended, and contains no review by the site editor.
The responsa appearing in "Halacha and Space" are not halachically binding, and do not replace consulting with rabbinic authority.
The aim of this site is to provide a halachic platform from which to deal with questions regarding halacha and space.
The site editor is aware of the awesome halachic difficulty which exists in this area due to its innovative nature within the halachic world. He further appeals to the reader to consider these issues with caution, seriousness and awareness of the reality of space travel.
Rabbis are invited to send their responses to the address below and to be in telephone contact with the site editor.

Articles and Responsa

Responsa concerning this particular flight are published on this site, as well as other articles which were written on this topic in the past:

Coming soon: Articles and responsa on the topic, "Matter in space according to halacha."

 

Additional bibliography

Rabbi Dov Chaim Chavel, "HaDarom", Volume 30
Rabbi Dov Chaim Chavel, "HaDarom", Volume 35
Rabbi Shlomo Goren, "HaTzofe" newspaper, 10 Av 5729
Azriel Rosenfeld, Tradition 7:1 1965
Azriel Rosenfeld, Proceedings of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists Vol. 2, 1969 & Vol. 6, 1980

 

Acknowledgments

Rabbi Chaim Zvi Konikov (Chabad Jewish Community Center, Spacecoast, Florida, USA)
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Halperin, Head of the Institute for Science and Halacha, Jerusalem
Rabbi Baruch Kepetch, Author of "Yemei Nechemiah", Jerusalem
Rabbi Menachem Silver, Spring Valley, USA
Rabbi Gavriel Zinner, Author of "Nit'ei Gavriel", Boro Park, N.Y., USA
Rabbi Meir Mark, Chabad House, Reut
Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Rosen, Petach Tikva
Belchrovitch Family, Jerusalem (for the Responsa of Rav Menachem Kasher zt"l)
Rav Moshe Firrer, Petach Tikva (for the Responsa of Rav Ben-Zion Firrer zt"l)

 

Institute for Kiddush Hachodesh Studies
Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh
D. N. Evtach 79855
Israel
Telephone: (08) 856-2007 ext. 0 (Internationally: +972 8 856-2007 ext. 0)
Fax: (08) 856-4652 (Internationally: +972 8 856-4652)
Email: kerem72@netvision.il