Travel Talk: Test Your Kosher Travel I.Q.


With the affluence and increasing mobility of the contemporary Orthodox world, frum Jews are traveling to places their ancestors had never even heard of. Orthodox Jews can be found taking a cruise to Bermuda, going on a safari in Botswana or embarking on a multi-day hike in Nepal.

Traveling does, of course, pose significant challenges for the kosher traveler. From determining zemanei tefillah to finding appropriate kosher cuisine, the experienced kosher traveler knows that to be prepared, he must learn the relevant halachot and plan ahead.

Below, we offer you, Jewish Action readers, a brief quiz to find out how much you really know about kosher travel. Good luck—and don’t forget to rate yourself at the end!

Spiritual Heights

1. Can you sit and pray while on an airplane?
a. Maybe
b. Sometimes
c. Absolutely not
d. Yes

Answer: D
According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the need for proper concentration (kavanah) outweighs the need to stand. Since on a plane it would be difficult to concentrate properly if you were to stand while praying, you may sit. You should, however, take the necessary three steps forward when beginning Shemoneh Esrei and three steps back when finished (Iggerot Moshe IV, no. 20).

2. When should you say Tefillat Haderech on an airplane?
a. One hour before takeoff.
b. One hour after takeoff.
c. Upon surviving the airline meal.
d. As the plane is taxiing down the runway immediately prior to takeoff.

Answer: D
Most airplane accidents occur either during takeoff or while the plane is landing. Thus, both of these are considered times of danger. An ideal time to say Tefillat Haderech is therefore during takeoff. Furthermore, it is halachically preferable that one be at least seventy amot out of the city when reciting this prayer. If you recite it immediately prior to takeoff, by the time you finish the tefillah, the plane will already be well past the seventy-amot requirement.

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

3. What is the International Date Line?
a. An imaginary line on earth that separates two consecutive calendar days.
b. Where the US Navy practices various maneuvers.
c. Where young frum singles from the US and Israel meet.
d. None of the above.

Answer: A
The International Date Line is an imaginary line that runs through the Pacific Ocean, 180 degrees away from the prime meridian. To the east of the Date Line, by international agreement, the calendar date is one day earlier than to the west. This location was chosen because of convenience; the Date Line passes through oceans and never runs through a landmass. Otherwise, bizarre results would occur. For example, for someone on one side of the street it could be 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, while for his neighbor across the street it would be 1:00 p.m. on Monday!

The Date Line is necessary because the day must “start” somewhere. Is New York three hours ahead of Los Angeles or is it twenty-one hours behind? The need for a date line first became obvious 500 years ago when Magellan’s crew members, who had kept a meticulous log, returned to Spain and discovered they were one day ahead of everyone else. From this incident, it became evident that a person traveling westward would gain a day, while one traveling eastward across the Pacific Ocean would lose a day.

4. Does the International Date Line have halachic significance? In other words, does international agreement affect the halachic calendar day?
a. Of course—“dina demalchuta dina,” the government has the right to make laws, and according to halachah these laws must be respected.
b. Of course not.
c. It depends on what time you go to sleep.
d. According to most halachic authorities, no.

Answer: D
Clearly, the location of a halachic Date Line cannot be based on convenience. This is especially true since the International Date Line has changed several times—both the Philippines and Alaska “switched sides” in the nineteenth century. According to the Chazon Ish, who based his opinion on a gemara in Rosh Hashanah 20b, the Date Line is ninety degrees east of Jerusalem, i.e., at 125 degrees east longitude, and runs through Australia, China and Russia. However, he also contends that the Date Line can’t split a landmass. In the cases of Australia and Asia, although parts of these continents are technically located east of the Chazon Ish’s Date Line, they are halachically considered west of it, and Shabbat in these places would be observed as usual, that is, the day the local resident consider Saturday. However, in New Zealand and Japan, which are east of the Date Line and therefore one day behind, according to the Chazon Ish one must keep Shabbat on the day the residents in these countries consider Sunday!

Basing his ruling on a midrash that states Jerusalem is “the center of the world,” Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tukitchinsky, author of Gesher Hachayim, puts the Date Line at 145 degrees west longitude. This line runs from the Gulf of Alaska through the Pacific Ocean east of Hawaii, placing Hawaii on the other side of the Date Line from the United States. Thus, according to this opinion, in Japan, Shabbat would be the day that the local population considers Saturday, while in Hawaii, Shabbat would be the day the residents consider Friday.

Several posekim, most notably the Bnei Tziyon, are of the opinion that the halachic Date Line runs through the middle of the Pacific Ocean at 177 degrees east longitude, close to the universally accepted Date Line. (There are several other opinions, but it is beyond the scope of this article to record all of them.)

It is important to discuss these issues with your rabbi during the planning stages of any trip that would entail passing the halachic Date Line. It is highly recommended that one avoid being in a doubtful area on Shabbat, and many posekim decry the practice of taking a vacation in such a place.

5. If you flew over the halachic Date Line into a new day on a fast day, does the fast end automatically?
a. Yes
b. Depends how hungry you are.
c. Depends where you (or your rabbi) believe the Date Line is located.
d. Depends which direction you are flying.

Answer: C
There is room for leniency. Some halachic authorities contend that when the issue concerns a rabbinic law—such as fasting on a minor fast day—minority opinions as to the location of the Date Line should be taken into account. For example, if you were to depart from China for Japan (which is a day behind, according to the Chazon Ish) on Asarah Betevet, would you have to fast the next day? Depending upon your rabbi, the answer may be that since there are halachic authorities who maintain the Date Line is, in fact, thousands of miles to the east of the internationally-recognized one, the next day would not be considered Asarah Betevet in Japan, and you are therefore exempt from fasting.

6. If you donned tefillin in the morning and davened Shacharit, and subsequently flew westward into a new day, should you put on tefillin again?
a. Of course.
b. Absolutely not, it might be a berachah levatalah (a blessing said in vain).
c. Only if you are sitting in coach.
d. Yes. You should put tefillin on again and say the Shemoneh Esrei again as a tefillat nedavah.

Answer: D
There is a disagreement among posekim regarding the obligation of tefillin and prayer. What creates the obligation: the actual calendar day or the daily phenomenon of sunrise? Most posekim maintain the latter. Thus, in this case, while according to most, you would not be obligated to put on tefillin again because you did not personally experience the natural phenomenon of a sunrise and a sunset—a new physical day—there is no restriction against donning tefillin more than once a day. Should you want to be stringent, you may opt to recite a tefillat nedavah, a prayer that is recited to replace a missed one. Even one who knows for certain that he has fulfilled his obligation may say a tefillat nedavah if he so desires, as long as two conditions are met: One, that he concentrates fully on the prayers and two, that he adds something “new” in the prayer, e.g., an additional request for himself. A person who is uncertain as to whether he has fulfilled his prayer requirement may say a tefillat nedavah even without meeting these two conditions but should make a stipulation that if he is not obligated to pray, the present prayer is a nedavah, whereas if he is obligated to pray, then the prayer should fulfill the obligation.

Shabbat on the Road

7. When a married man is away for Shabbat, should he light candles?
a. No. He can rely on his wife’s lighting, but only if she is home. If she is away, she can’t fulfill the obligation for him.
b. Yes, he must light his own candles.
c. No. He should just make sure to have all the lights in his room turned on.
d. Maybe. Depends on whether or not he has candles.

Answer: A
A married man does not have to light candles because his wife’s lighting exempts him from the obligation. He should, however, keep a light on in his hotel room to make Shabbat more enjoyable for himself, thereby fulfilling the halachic requirement of ensuring there is a serene, tranquil environment on Shabbat (the halachic obligation of shalom bayit). If, however, his wife is not home, and therefore will not light candles in the house, her lighting elsewhere does not exempt him from having to light candles. This is because there is a halachic obligation of kevod Shabbat (creating an exalted and dignified atmosphere on Shabbat), which applies to both husband and wife. If neither of them is in the house, they must each fulfill the obligation by lighting separately (Chovat Hadar 88, note 20).

8. When a single man goes away for Shabbat, should he light candles?
a. He can rely on his mother.
b. He can rely on the moonlight.
c. He should light his own candles.
d. He should recite the prayer Bameh Madlikin.

Answer: C
He must light candles himself and may not rely on his mother. This is because “ishto kegufo,” only a wife and husband are halachically considered to be “one person.”

9. What should you do if you are stuck in a place where there is no wine available for Kiddush on Shabbat?
a. Use bread.
b. Use chamar medinah (a formal drink).
c. Let bygones be bygones.
d. For the Friday night meal, use bread. For the Shabbat morning meal, use chamar medinah.

Answer: D
Some Rishonim are of the opinion that chamar medinah may never be used for Kiddush. Since Friday evening Kiddush is Biblically mandated, we abide by the stringent opinion and do not permit the use of chamar medinah. Shabbat morning Kiddush, however, is rabbinically mandated, and one can, therefore, be lenient. Thus, chamar medinah can be used for Shabbat morning Kiddush (Shulchan Aruch 272: 9).

10. May you carry in a hotel on Shabbat if you are staying in a city without an eruv?
a. No
b. Only in Hotel California.
c. Yes, provided that the hotel has valid mechitzot (halachic walls). This would exclude ranch-style motels where there is no common hallway.
d. Depends on whether or not you use the eruv in your own community.

Answer: C
You may carry within a hotel since it is considered to be the private domain of the owner or owners. (As a private domain, it does not have the halachic status of a chatzer, which is communally owned and would require an eruv chatzeirot.)

11. What should you do if you check into a hotel late Friday afternoon and realize that the rooms all have electric door locks?
a. Stay in your hotel room all Shabbat.
b. Ask for room service.
c. Sleep in the hotel lobby.
d. Ask a non-Jew for assistance.

Answer: D
It is permissible to ask a non-Jew to open the room door because you are allowed to ask a non-Jew to do something that is rabbinically forbidden for the sake of your enjoyment of Shabbat. However, lechatchilah you may not rely on amirah le’akum—the prohibition against asking a non-Jew to do work for a Jew on Shabbat (Mishnah Berurah 255:1). This means that you should not purposely make arrangements to stay at a hotel with electric door locks and assume you will rely upon non-Jews for assistance over Shabbat.

12. If you get to the hotel right before Shabbat, can you ask a non-Jew to help unload your luggage from the car in order to get ready for Shabbat?
a. No, of course not.
b. Yes, of course.
c. Depends if your luggage is muktzah.
d. Depends how distressed you will be without your luggage all Shabbat.

Answer: B
During bein hashemashot (twilight, between sundown and nightfall) you may ask a non-Jew to perform any melachah as long as it is necessary for Shabbat (Shulchan Aruch 261:1). This is because halachically bein hashemashot has the status of a doubtful period; that is, it is questionable whether it is day or night. Because of its doubtful status we can be lenient concerning rabbinic prohibitions such as amirah le’akum.

Kosher on the Go

13. Can you eat in a vegan restaurant without a hechsher (kosher certification)?
a. Yes
b. Only if you really dislike meat.
c. No
d. Only on Rosh Chodesh.

Answer: C
There are many halachic problems that arise when eating in such an establishment. For example, bishul akum (food cooked by a non-Jew); insect infestation, et cetera.

14. What kind of hechsher can you rely on when you travel?
a. Any certificate with Hebrew letters.
b. Any hechsher is acceptable since when you are traveling, it is halachically considered a sha’at hadchak (pressing time).
c. Just take your own food.
d. It depends on the country you’re traveling to.

Answer: D
It is imperative for you to do your homework before setting off on a journey. There is a wide range of hechsherim and most people are blissfully unaware of the differences among them. You should try to contact the rabbi where you will be visiting as well as the Chabad house to find out about local certifications and appropriate places to eat.

Additionally, before trying to discern distinctions between hechsherim, you should first be aware of your own standards. Discuss this with your rabbi before you leave on your trip.

How did you score?
3 -5 correct: Go back to yeshivah.

5-10 correct: Not bad. But don’t go to Thailand without first brushing up on your kosher travel skills.

More than 10 correct: Excellent. Go find your passport!

Rabbi Epstein directs the Asian Desk of the Kashrut Division’s New Companies Department at the Orthodox Union. He is married with six sons, and lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of Halachos for the Traveler (Jerusalem, 2000), which addresses the specific problems that confront the kosher traveler.

This article was featured in the Summer 2007 issue of Jewish Action.
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