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When Does One Pray When There Is No Day
Rabbi Dovid Heber, Star-K Kashrus Administrator

Refer to attached map

Click here for glossary.
 

There was a time not long ago when kosher food was available only in major Jewish metropolitan areas. Finding kosher certified products on the road was a daunting task. “Kosher Tours” were limited to a few select areas. Today, the Star-K and other kosher symbols appear on thousands of food products. Kosher food is available from Fairbanks to Fiji, and from New Zealand to Norway. Kosher tours are now available to Alaska and Antarctica. With so many north and south destinations easily accessible to kosher consumers, the observant Jew now faces an array of fascinating questions. In parts of Alaska, and other locations north of the Arctic Circle, there are periods of time during the summer when the sun never sets and during the winter when the sun never rises. When does Shabbos begin in the land of the midnight sun? Can one daven Shachris if the sun doesn't rise? When does Shabbos start and end in Anchorage on a day that does not get dark? A similar question is, when does an astronaut daven and begin and end Shabbos in outer space? A description of the Arctic Circle is necessary to understand the halachos that relate to these unique circumstances.

The Arctic Circle

The Arctic Circle (located at 66.56° N Latitude, see map) is an imaginary line that runs through Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, and Alaska.1From this general area and northward, there are days in the summer when the sun does not set and days in the winter when the sun does not rise.2 For example, in Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world located on the Svalbard Islands north of Norway,3 the sun remains above the horizon from April 20 through August 25.  During this time the midnight sun is visible for over four months.  Between October 27 and February 15, the sun never peaks above the horizon.4  In Alert, Nunavut in Canada,5 the sun does not set for almost five months of the year.  At the North Pole, the sun rises in March and stays up for six months until it sets in September, when it remains below the horizon for six months. At the South Pole6, the sun also stays up for six months (September through March) and stays below the horizon for six months (March through September).

Shabbos and Tefilla There are various opinions regarding what to do in such locations:

A. The Minchas Elazar 7questions whether a person’s Shabbos in the Arctic Circle lasts until the next sunset, which could be s everal months later.  For example, if a person arrives on Friday, May 15th and the sun sets late that evening, and then rises early the next morning and does not set for two months, it may be a very long Shabbos until after the sun sets again in July!  Because of this, as well as other doubts regarding times for davening, it is advisable8 that one should not live in or visit these locations during the months when the sun is always up or down.9

B. The Tiferes Yisroel 10 states that at the North Pole, one should use the times for Shabbos and davening based on the location from where he came.11  For example, if one goes from Baltimore to the North Pole, he begins and ends Shabbos and davens at the same time residents in Baltimore begin and end Shabbos and daven.

C. According to the Ben Ish Chai 12, when the sun is above the horizon for 24 hours, or it is completely dark for 24 hours, 6:00 a.m. is considered sunrise and 6:00 p.m. is considered sunset.13  In the “morning”, one wears tallis and tefillin, davens Shachris and performs most day mitzvos.  Shabbos begins 18 minutes before 6:00 p.m. on Friday.  Shabbos ends on Saturday at 7:12 p.m., 72 minutes after the “replacement sunset” of 6:00 p.m.  At this time, one could say the evening Shema.

D. The Moadim U’Zmanim 14 introduces a novel approach to deal with this problem.  In the summer, when the sun does not set, each new halachic day begins and ends when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky, usually around midnight.15  This is when Shabbos would begin on Friday and end on Saturday night.  One could only fulfill mitzvos that are performed during the day (e.g. Shachris).16  One could not fulfill most mitzvos that may only be performed at night (e.g. reading the Shema of night).17  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).18  In Polar regions, on a day in the winter when it remains completely dark with no sunlight for 24 hours,19 one could perform night mitzvos but not day mitzvos (e.g. Shachris) since there is no daylight.  These opinions address “extreme” locations, places that have days in the year without sunlight or without sunset.20  There are also regions that do not have the distinct day and night to which we are accustomed, but do have some measure of light during the prolonged winter, and do experience sunset during summer.  These areas are also of halachic concern because they do not experience a sunrise or a complete darkness during periods of the year.

The Halacha - Because of the various opinions, one should discuss the halacha with his rav. (Refer to attached map) The following guidelines were written with the input of Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlit"a, Rabbinic Administrator of the Star-K:  [Note:  Specific times listed are approximate and for purposes of  example.  There are numerous other examples beyond the scope of this article. Anyone visiting these regions must calculate specific times with his rav.]

Summer - Below the Arctic Circle – The most frequent question arises when people visit or live in Anchorage, Alaska; Stockholm, Sweden; or Oslo, Norway in the summer.  Unlike the areas previously addressed, these locations are below the Arctic Circle (below the Arctic Circle means south of the Arctic Circle; above the Arctic Circle means north of the Arctic Circle closer to the North Pole) and experience sunrise and sunset 365 days a year.  However, during part of the summer it never gets fully dark.  When can one daven Maariv and when is Shabbos over during this time of the year?  One may daven Maariv and begin Shabbos after plag hamincha (one and one quarter halachic hours before sunset) but he should repeat Shema just prior to chatzos halayla (the darkest period of time).  Shabbos ends shortly after that, at chatzos halayla.21  For example, on June 22 in Anchorage, Alaska, the sun sets at 11:43 p.m. and rises at 4:20 a.m.  One may daven Maariv and begin Shabbos after 9:42 p.m. (plag hamincha).  One should repeat Shema at 1:55 a.m., prior to chatzos halayla.22  Shabbos ends at 2:02 a.m. Sunday (chatzos halayla).23  One may recite the complete havdalah after chatzos halayla. Alternatively, one may recite havdalah upon arising Sunday morning (only the brochos of Borei Pri Hagafen and Hamavdil).24

Winter - Below the Arctic Circle – These areas experience very short days.  However, twilight is exceptionally long and one waits longer25 than in our area to end Shabbos in order to ensure the stars are visible.  For example, in Anchorage on December 18, the sun rises at 10:12 a.m. and sets at 3:40 p.m. One must wait 1 hour and 29 minutes after sunset and end Shabbos at 5:09 p.m.  The day is so short that one may not begin Shachris until 9:00 a.m., and Shabbos begins at 3:22 p.m.

Winter - Above the Arctic Circle at Locations with Sunlight - Almost all inhabited locations above the Arctic Circle, where the sun does not rise in the winter, experience a period of sunlight around noon.26  One may perform day mitzvos during a segment of this period of sunlight.27 In these locations, one may daven Shachris and perform most daytime mitzvos (e.g. Hallel) after there is enough light to distinguish between the colors of tchailes (blue/ green) and white28, until chatzos hayom (when the sunlight begins to decrease).  One should daven Mincha a half hour after chatzos hayom. When the stars come out, Shabbos ends and one may daven Maariv.  Twilight (i.e. the time when the sun is below the horizon but there is still sunlight) is longer than what we are accustomed to.29  For example, in Barrow located at the northern tip of Alaska, on December 1 the sun does not rise.  However, at 1:15 p.m. there is the most sunlight of the day 30 (theoretical chatzos hayom).  Therefore, one may daven
Shachris and perform daytime mitzvos between 10:40 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.31 (during these pre-dawn light conditions) and daven Mincha at 1:45 p.m. (1/2 hour after chatzos during the post sunset conditions).  Shabbos ends at 4:23 p.m. when the stars come out.

Winter in Completely Dark Locations & Summer North of the Arctic Circle - Unusual and difficult questions arise when someone travels to these areas.  As previously addressed, there is a dispute as to when Shabbos begins and ends in these locations.  Ideally, due to the various doubts, one should avoid living in or visiting these problem areas.  However, if one must visit these locations,32 the following halachos apply:

1. Winter - In Completely Dark Locations33 - One begins and ends Shabbos at the time indicated by the stricter opinions.  This means that one begins Shabbos before chatzos hayom on Friday.34 Shabbos ends 72 minutes after the “6:00 p.m. shkia35 Saturday.  One davens Maariv and recites the evening Shema between 7:00 p.m. and midnight.36  After 6 a.m. and when it is morning in the location where one comes from, one would say K’rias Shema without brachos and Shachris Shemona Esrai, “Al tnai.”37

2. Summer - North of the Arctic CircleWhen the sun remains above the horizon for 24 hours, one begins and ends Shabbos at the time indicated by the stricter opinions.  This means that one begins Shabbos before 6:00 p.m. on Friday.38 Shabbos ends around midnight 39 (30 hours after it began).  For example, if someone from Baltimore travels north to Pond Inlet, Nunavut in Canada 40 on June 28, Shabbos begins on Friday at 6:42 p.m.41 Shabbos ends at 1:15 a.m. early Sunday morning42, or whenever the place he comes from finishes Shabbos, whichever is later.  One should wait until 2 1/2 hours before “chatzos halayla” (when the sun is at the lowest point) Friday night to recite kiddush.43 One davens daytime tefillos at the same time as the kehilla from which he came, and it is preferable that he also wait to fulfill the other opinions.  For example, if one travels from Baltimore to Pond Inlet on June 28, when the sun does not set, one davens Shachris between 7:15 a.m.44 and 9:15 a.m.45 (being careful to recite Shema before 7:15 a.m.)46, and davens Mincha after 2:15p.m.47  One davens Maariv on weeknights and recites Friday night kiddush after 10:45 p.m.48 Depending on where one came from, one may have to wait until Shabbos morning to recite the Friday night kiddush.49

Outer Space

It is clear from the above that the calculation of davening times and when Shabbos begins and
ends would be complicated for Jewish astronauts in outer space.  Therefore, a rav should be consulted. Ideally, one should not travel to outer space.  If one must go, an astronaut would follow the opinion of the Tiferes Yisroel for davening, and according to some opinions keeps Shabbos anytime it is Shabbos anywhere on Earth. 50  If this is too difficult, one could rely on the Tiferes Yisroel for Shabbos.  If one orbits the earth and stays above the area that is between 45oN and 45o
S, one would daven each tefilla once per day (despite the continuous sunrise and sunset).  One would keep Shabbos when it is Shabbos directly below the rocket on earth.  Depending on the season and location, Shabbos could be as early as 2:00 a.m. Friday Universal Time and as late as Sunday 12:30 p.m. Universal Time.  V’tzarich iyun.

Kosher Food

Once one has determined halachic times for areas above the Arctic Circle, one must locate kosher food.  The Star-K has discovered that kosher food is available in the most remote geographic places. One can find kosher certified products near the beginning of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline at the Prudhoe Bay General Store.  The Food Services Supervisor at the U.S. South Pole Observatory informed us that Star-K certified products have reached the South Pole!  A physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Barrow, Alaska reports that many kosher products are available there.  Furthermore, many years ago, the Jewish station-head gathered nine other Jewish men to form a minyan.  We hope these guidelines will serve a useful purpose for future Barrow and Arctic minyanim!

Refer to attached map

The author wishes to thank Rabbi Eli Reidler and Dr. Yossi Scheller for their invaluable assistance.


1. Another halachic issue that affects parts of Alaska is the International Dateline.  For a full discussion, see Kashrus Kurrents “A Traveler’s Guide to the International Dateline.”  For a discussion regarding halachic issues on cruise ships, see “Don’t Miss the Boat: Halachic Guidelines of Kosher Cruises.”

2. In the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are opposite of ours.  Summer begins in December and winter begins in June.  Locations south of the Antarctic Circle (66.56°S) have 24 hours of sunlight days in their summer and 24 hour sunless days in their winters.  Also, in this part of the world the sun appears in the northern sky during the course of the day (in the United States, it appears in the southern sky).  It should be noted that almost the entire continent of Antarctica is south of the Antarctic Circle.

3. The Svalbard Islands include landmasses between 74° and 81° N, up to 9° south of the North Pole. Longyearbyen, with a population of over 1500 inhabitants, is located at 78° N.

4. Although the sun is below the horizon, it is close to the horizon at noon and light may be visible (similar to our experience immediately following sunset when the sun is below the horizon, yet there is still light).  This will be addressed further.

5. Located at the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, 82.5° N and only 507 miles from the North Pole, Alert is home to a Canadian military station and is the northernmost permanently inhabited settlement in the world.

6.There is a permanent observatory at this location (90°S), where scientists reside and conduct research throughout the year.

7. Chalek Daled (4) Siman 42. Similarly, see Hosafos Harad”al on Pirkei d’Reb Elazar 52:1.

8. See Tshuvos Zecher Simcha Siman 30 in a teshuva written to his son in 1886 where the author, Rav Simcha Halevi Bamberger, advises not to go to such locations and questions, “Why should one put himself in a safek situation regarding Shema,Tefillah, and Shabbos?”

9. The Mor U’Ktzia 344 says that this case is comparable to one who is lost in the desert and is not sure when to observe Shabbos (see Shulchan Aruch [and Shaarei Teshuva] OC 344:1).

10. Mishnayos Yachin U’Boaz Brachos: End of Chapter 1.

11. Others explain the Tiferes Yisroel means that each 24 hour period, starting with the time from where he left counts as day.  For example, if he arrived at 6 p.m. Sunday, 24 hours later would be 6 p.m.Monday, and then four days later would be Shabbos (Friday evening).

12. Teshuvos Rav Pa’alim Sod Yesharim 2:4. He bases his opinion on the Divrei Yosef and brings a proof from the flood during the days of Noach.

13.These times are based on natural/astronomical time. An adjustment for Standard Time (the time on clocks) may slightly change these times.  This depends on the longitude and time zone of the location.  Also, this method will work in most areas north of the Arctic Circle and south of the Antarctic Circle.  It should be noted that at and close to the poles (90°), this way of calculating is not applicable, due to the way the sun rotates in these regions and the lack of time zones.

14. Chalek Bais (2) Siman 155 in the glosses.  The Sefer Bain Hashmoshos, page 55, seems to agree with this opinion.


15. This time is “theoretical” chatzos halayla (halachic midnight).  He bases his opinion on the following astronomical fact: On any given day in Baltimore, or any city below the Arctic Circle, the sun appears in different parts of the sky. At chatzos hayom (halachic noon - halfway between sunrise and sunset), the sun is directly to the south and at its highest point for that day.  At chatzos halayla the sun is at the greatest angle below the horizon (over the opposite side of where it appeared at chatzos hayom). North of the Arctic Circle, when the sun does not set, it does not remain in the same area of the sky all day.  Rather, at times it is higher in the sky peaking at noon, and at times lower in the sky reaching its low point at midnight, at which time it once again begins to ascend.  For example, in Longyearbyen in thesummer, the sun is 11° above the northern horizon at approximately midnight local time, “theoretical” chatzos halayla.  We view this moment as if both sunset (when the sun reaches its lowest visible point) and sunrise (when the sun begins to ascend) occur.  The old day ends and the new halachic day (e.g. Shabbos) begins.There is no night.  How does one calculate theoretical chatzos halayla if the sun is up for 24 hours?  One way is to see when the sun is due north, or when it is at the lowest point in the sky.  Alternatively, one calculates chatzos halayla for any location directly south below the Arctic Circle.  This time is also chatzos halayla for the location directly north above the Arctic Circle.  For example, in the summer, theoretical chatzos halayla on Ward Hunt Island, Canada, located northwest of Alert, at 83.1° N (the northernmost point in North America and the starting point for many North Pole expeditions), occurs at the same moment that chatzos halayla occurs in Philadelphia (directly south). The same method is used for theoretical chatzos hayom.

16. Normally, one may recite Shema until the end of the 3rd“halachic hour” (sha’os zmanios). A “halachic hour” is 1/12 of the time from sunrise to sunset (according to the Gr”a).  In the summer, if the day is 15 hours long, a “halachic hour” is 75 minutes long.  In the winter, if the day is 9 hours long, a “halachic hour” is 45 minutes long.  In Arctic regions, when the day is
24. hours long, each “halachic hour” is 2 hours long (1/12 of 24 hours).  One says the morning Shema during the first six hours (three halachic hours) after chatzos halayla, and davens Shachris during the first eight hours after chatzos halayla.  One davens Mincha after an hour has passed (one half of a halachic hour) following chatzos hayom.

17. The Moadim U’Zmanim says one should daven Maariv after plag hamincha, 2 1/2 hours before theoretical chatzos halayla.  This is based on the fact that at any location one may daven Maariv, after plag hamincha, 1 1/4 halachic hours before the end of the day.

18. This time is “theoretical”chatzos hayom.  In the winter, when it is completely dark for 24 hours, the sun’s position is moving at different angles below the horizon.  At theoretical chatzos hayom, the sun is closest to the horizon and then begins to descend moving further away from the horizon, similar to what occurs in our area after sunset.  Hence, in the winter, theoretical chatzos hayom is considered sunset and marks the end and beginning of the new halachic day (e.g. Shabbos begins at chatzos hayom on Friday).

19. The sun remains more than 16.1° below the horizon.

20. For a full discussion of this topic and other opinions, see Sefer Achuzas Sadeh pgs. 105-109 and a detailed article by Rabbi J. David Bleich in Tradition 36:3 (Fall 2002) pgs. 60-102

21. At this time, the sunlight begins to increase.  This moment is considered tzais hakochavim (ending Shabbos) and alos hashachar (dawn) of Sunday morning.

22. If this is too difficult, one should repeat Shema 72 minutes after sunset (12:55 a.m.).

23. The level of darkness is equivalent to that of Baltimore 27 minutes after sunset. At this time, the sunlight begins to increase. This moment is considered tzais hakochavim (ending Shabbos) and alos hashachar of Sunday morning.

24. Another option is to recite havdalah (only the brochos of Borei Pri Hagafen and Hamavdil) after sunset (in the example cited this occurs at 11:43 p.m.), or in difficult circumstances after plag hamincha (9:42 p.m.).  However, if one recites havdalah at either of these times, one may not perform melacha until Shabbos is over (2:02 a.m.).

25. Until the sun is 8.6° below the horizon.  At this time, it is as dark as it is in New York in June, 50 minutes after sunset (see Igros Moshe OC 4:62).

26. These halachos apply in the winter to areas below 82.6° N, since even on December 21 complete darkness is only experienced in regions above 82.6°.  Areas above this line are addressed in the next section.

27. This may be done for the following reason: Halachically, day begins at alos hashachar, dawn.  In our area, dawn occurs 72 minutes before sunrise.  When necessary, one may daven Shacharis and perform most daytime mitzvos beginning at this time.  If one is in a location where the sun does not rise for 24 hours yet there is light, halachically there is alos hashachar light for several hours during the day.  This “sunlight” is equivalent to the amount of light someone in Baltimore experiences before sunrise and constitutes day.

28. When the sun is 7° below the horizon.  This time is called “misheyakir.”  If the sun does not get this high, various daytime mitzvos may be performed when the sun is 16.1° below the horizon and higher.

29. Twilight ends when the sun is 8.6° below the horizon.

30. Barrow is at 71° N.This sunlight (at theoretical chatzos hayom) is equivalent to the amount of light experienced in Baltimore 12 minutes after sunset.

31. Between misheyakir and chatzos.

32. It should be noted that flights from New York to the Far East may fly over Polar regions, and these sheilos regarding davening times may be relevant.

33. Presently, there are no permanently inhabited regions in the Northern Hemisphere where these halachos apply. According to most opinions, these halachos would apply in December in the area of the northernmost land in the world (e.g. Oodaaq Island, Greenland, 83° 41’ N and other islands in this region). They would certainly apply in June to areas in parts of Antarctica.

34. Based on the opinion of the Moadim U’Zmanim.


35. At the theoretical tzais hakochavim of the Ben Ish Chai.

36. To fulfill the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai, one davens Maariv after 7:00 p.m. (an hour after theoretical shkia) and before midnight (chatzos halayla). These times are approximate. One may also be bound by the current time of the place where he came from.

37. This means one davens Shachris Shemona Esrai “on condition”, stating,“If I can daven Shachris (i.e. the halacha is like the Tiferes Yisroel and Ben Ish Chai), this is my Shachris. If I cannot daven Shachris (in the dark, since the halacha is like the Moadim U’zmanim), this tefilla is a nedava (gift).” One can also daven Mincha “al tnai” when it is the zman of Mincha where one comes from and when it is between 12:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. [A tefillas nedava cannot be recited on Shabbos or Yom Tov, so one would not daven Shachris or Mincha Shemona Esrai (even al tnai) in a place where it is dark for 24 hours]. One cannot say Hallel with a bracha or perform a Milah on any day when it is dark for 24 hours.

38. Based on the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai.

39. At chatzos halayla early Sunday morning, when the sun is at its lowest point in the sky, based on the opinion of the Moadim U’Zmanim.

40. Located at 73° N, 78°W.Times indicated are Eastern Daylight Savings Time (DST - hence the times are one hour later than Eastern Standard Time).

41. Based on the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai [18 minutes before the Daylight Savings Time “shkia”]. One may have to start Shabbos earlier if it is Shabbos already in the location where he came from.

42. Based on the opinion of the Moadim U’Zmanim (an hour was added for Daylight Savings Time). An example where one follows the times of his community (based on the Tiferes Yisroel) is if one travels from Los Angeles northeast to Longyearbyen on June 28, Shabbos ends at 6:20 a.m. Sunday morning (at the moment Shabbos ends in Los Angeles).


43. To fulfill the opinion of the Moadim U’Zmanim, one waits until plag hamincha to recite Kiddush and begin Shabbos.
44. Based on the opinion of the Ben Ish Chai, who says in this location during DST, we consider 7:15 a.m. as sunrise.

45. Sof zman tefilla of the Moadim U’Zmanim.  This time is four halachic hours after the beginning of the day, which was chatzos halayla.

46. Prior to sof zman krias Shema of the Moadim U’Zmanim.  This time is three halachic hours into the day.  47 Mincha gedola according to the Moadim U’Zmanim. 1/2 a halachic hour after chatzos hayom.

48. Plag hamincha according to the Moadim U’Zmanim.

49. If someone from Los Angeles traveled to Longyearyen on June 1st, one would wait until 4 a.m. Shabbos morning to recite Kiddush (when it is 7 p.m. Friday in Los Angeles).  If one travels west and crosses over many time zones, it is preferable to also fulfill the opinion of the Moadim U’Zmanim by waiting for the proper time to recite kiddush (after plag hamincha).  For example, if someone from Bnai Brak travels to Barrow on June 1, according to the Tiferes Yisroel, Shabbos begins at 8:15 a.m. Friday, Barrow time, at the moment Shabbos begins in Bnai Brak (where it is already Friday evening).  Nonetheless, one should preferably wait until 11:55 p.m. Friday night to recite kiddush, thus also fulfilling one’s obligation according to the Moadim U’Zmanim [who says Shabbos begins at “chatzos halayla” which occurs on this day at 2:25 a.m.  One may recite Kiddush at plag hamincha (11:55 p.m.), 2 1/2 hours (1 1/4 halachic hours) before chatzos halayla]. Determination of davening times to fulfill all opinions may be difficult, v’tzarich iyun.

50. The beginning and end of Shabbos on Earth depends on issues addressed in this article, as well as the location of the International Dateline.  If one takes all opinions into account, it is theoretically Shabbos somewhere on Earth for almost three days.  Shabbos begins at10:00 p.m.Thursday,Universal Time (also called Greenwich Mean Time – the time in London), at latitudes with total darkness & 145°W, the furthest point east in the world, using the International Dateline of the Gesher Hachaim.  Shabbos ends at 4:00 p.m. Sunday, Universal Time, at latitudes with no sunset at 125° E, the furthest point west in the world using the International Dateline of the Chazon Ish.


Refer to attached map



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