MRR 243-248



The question can best be indicated by this illustration: A man dies in Paris at 1:00 A.M., Sunday morning. The son lives in San Francisco, where the day of death is Saturday afternoon. Is his Yahrzeit Sunday or Saturday? (Asked by H.B., Pittsburgh.) ANSWER:

T HE VARYING time zones and the variations in the days as affected by the date line have a considerable bearing on the Jewish traditional practices of mourning since these practices follow a specific time schedule. For the sake of clarity, it might be well to mention the various steps in the observance of times of mourning.

First, there is the intensest period, the day or two before the burial (aninut) . Then, the seven days (shivah) after the burial. Then the somewhat relaxed mourning of the thirty days (shloshim) which include the seven. Then the more relaxed mourning for the rest of the year. In addition to these fixed times, there are various regulations as to when the person observes mourning if he lives in a different city from where the death and burial took place, and also with regard to what time he is informed of the death.

If, for example, he lives a short day’s journey from the place of death and burial (and where the head of the family is) and he arrives there while the shiva is still going on, he simply joins them and completes the shiva with them. If, however, he comes from a longer distance, or if the shiva is over when he arrives, he must count seven days for his own (independent) mourning. There is also some variation with regard to the time when a mourner is informed of the death and burial. If he is informed within thirty days, this is called a she-muah kerovah, “a near report,” (i.e., near in time). If he hears after thirty days, it is called a shemuah rechokah, a “far report,” i.e., remote in time. If it is a “near report,” i.e., within thirty days, he must go through the full mourning, shiva, thirty days, etc. If it is a “far report,” he need only observe mourning for an hour. There is some variation with regard to “reports” as to whether it is for father and mother or for other relatives, but these variations do not concern us in this discussion. There are other time elements discussed in the legal literature. If, for example, the body is taken away to a distant place for burial, when does mourning begin?

In modern times a new element has been added to this ongoing discussion. In recent years, due to the widespread scattering of Jewish communities over the globe ( particularly after World War I) the varying time zones in different parts of the globe have been studied with regard to their impact on Jewish observance. Many of these questions concern the problem of when is the hour or day of the Sabbath or the holidays, but some of them have been discussed in their relation to mourning. Greenwald in his Kol Bo, p. 311, discusses the following question: A man’s father lives in Europe and he himself lives in the United States. He receives a report of his father’s death at the close of the thirtieth day after the burial. In Europe, where his father died, the thirtieth day was completely over. In America, where the son lives, the thirtieth day had six hours to run. If we go by the time prevailing where the death occurred, then it is after thirty days and is a “remote report” and the son needs merely to sit down for one hour of mourning. If we go by where the son lives when he receives the report, the thirty days are not yet over and it is a “near report” and the son must go through the full seven, thirty days of mourning. Which, then, is to be the criterion, the time prevailing where the death occurred or where the report was received?

Greenwald refers to the fact that he was in corre-spondence with Rabbi A. S. Pfeffer in New York, and Pfeffer records this correspondence in his responsa Avne Zikaron, Vol. II, #87. Pfeffer cites a number of anal-ogies from older literature in order to find a basis for the answer. The chief analogy cited from previous discussions led to an exactly opposite answer to the one which Pfeffer and Greenwald ultimately came to in regard to mourning. The analogy had to do with leaven possessed by a Jew before Passover. The rule is that by noon of the day before Passover (the fifth hour of the day) the leaven must be disposed of, either by formal sale or destruction, etc. If it is not disposed of it comes under the category of “leaven kept over the Passover,” which may not be sold or used. Now the question which was discussed with regard to the leaven is as follows: The man was in Europe. The leaven that he owned was in New York. It was the day before Passover and he ordered the leaven sold or disposed of. The time when this was done by his agent was already past noon in the place where the owner then was (in Europe) and, therefore, the leaven was to be forfeited; but it was still well before noon in the place where the leaven was (i.e., in America) and therefore it could still be used, even eaten. Do we go by where the leaven is and, therefore, although the owner is where the leaven should by now be forfeited, the leaven can still be used and sold, since where it is, is still before noon.

After citing this example Pfeffer and Greenwald in-dicate that with regard to mourning the situation is exactly the opposite; because leaven is an object and its usability depends on the location of the object while mourning, on the other hand, is a personal obligation and therefore depends on where the person (the mourner) is. Hence the specific question which they discuss as to whether the report of the death came when the thirty days had passed (i.e., where the death occurred) or before the thirty days were not yet passed (in America where the mourner was) is decided as follows: We must judge the time variation by where the mourner is. Hence in this case, it is still a “near report,” thirty full days not having passed, and the mourner in America must go through the full process of mourning. Then Greenwald adds that the same applies to all personal obligations. A man observes the Sabbath, not by what it is in another time zone, even if he is a traveler from that time zone, but by when the Sabbath is where he is now.

This opinion is bolstered by the situation of a Palestinian who is visiting in America. Being a Palestinian, he is obligated to rest only one day of a holiday, whereas outside of Palestine people must rest two days of a holiday. When the first day is over, this visiting Palestinian may work, the holiday being over for him. But he cannot resume work at the hour when the first day is over in Palestine because there are still eight hours of the first day in America where he is now. So he must wait until the first day is over in America, where he is, before the holiday is over for him. Therefore, in the case of the example given in the question which is asked here, the father died on Sunday morning and the son must observe mourning when it is Sunday in his place in San Francisco. Since Yahrzeit goes not by the day of the death but by the date, it may be clearer to put it this way: If the father died on the second day of Sivan, the Yahrzeit is always on the second day of Sivan, even though in some years the second of Sivan in San Francisco happens to be the third day of Sivan in Paris where the father died. In all personal obligations a man must go by the time of his environment. So it is, also, with regard to the Sabbath and holidays. The same decision is made by Koppel Reich of Budapest (Duda’e Hasadeh, p. 39 ff.).