Russia’s Daylight Savings Time to Cause Havdalah on Sunday


havdalahAccording to, the sighting of three stars in Moscow that end Shabbos beginning Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, May 15, through Shabbos Parshas Eikev, July 31, according to Rabbeinu Tam, would take place after 12:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. Children, as well as many adults, go to sleep well before midnight, regardless of daylight outside. On Motzaei Shabbos, Havdalah would be delayed to Sunday morning. The fasts of Shiva Asar B’Tammuz and Tisha B’Av end well past midnight. This, of course, depends on varying customs and halachic practices. Nevertheless, the dependence upon physical observation of three nighttime stars is a universal consideration in Halacha, for Shabbos and for the counting of Sefirah, both of which are Biblically mandated.

Daylight Savings Time in Russia sets the clock for sunset one hour later, thus registering nightfall yet later in the evening, if not actually into the early hours of the morning. Russia strongly desires to be in synchronization with European Union countries for a variety of reasons and benefits. Russia’s Daylight Saving Time starts at 2:00 a.m. local time on the last Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 a.m. local time on the last Sunday of October each year. Clocks are moved forward and back on the same dates (but at different actual times) as the European Union. Russia’s clocks are two hours ahead of local mean solar time (or the time according to the sun) in the summer and one hour ahead of Standard Time in the winter. This results in the late nightfall hour that is of major concern to observant Jews.

In 2007 local politicians in the Kemerovo Region called for the government to abolish the Daylight Saving Time routine in Russia, due to health reasons. In July 2008, the Federation Council Committee on Industrial Policy endorsed a bill proposing abolishing Daylight Saving Time in Russia. Sergey Mironov, chairman of the Federation Council, introduced the bill out of concern for the health of Russians who suffer negative physiological effects of Daylight Saving Time.

Despite arguments that Daylight Saving Time has economic benefits, health concerns come first. The daylight saving initiative is believed to be a health hazard for people in Russia, possibly creating an unnatural rhythm in the human body clock. The daylight saving practice is also linked with the increased risk of adverse psychological and physical effects among Russians.

Supporters for the abolition of Daylight Saving Time present evidence that, according to health experts, there was an increase in ambulance calls, suicides, accidents, and deaths from heart attacks, in the first two weeks after the Daylight Saving transition. The mortality rate resulting from health complications also increased during the transition from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time towards the colder months of the year. Scientists around the world have argued about the effects of Daylight Saving Time on human health for years.

Throughout the Soviet rule, Daylight Saving Time was ignored. However, with the fall of the Soviet Empire and the desire of the new Russian Governments to be in concert with the European Union, the aggressive adoption of Universal Time cast Moscow’s clock time two hours ahead of “mean solar time.” Coupled with Daylight Saving Time, the observant Jewish community was considerably discomforted. With the current possibility of Daylight Saving Time being discontinued, the observant community looks forward to more comfortable Shabbos beginnings and endings.

Daylight Savings Time and Halacha

The events in Russia present an opportunity to review time in Halacha, such as how long an hour is. The Gemara at Berachos 26b teaches that Minchah can first be recited six-and-a-half hours into the day and the last time for Shacharis is midday. If the six-and-a-half hours for Minchah were of standard 60-minute sequences, Shacharis would overlap Minchah in certain places and times. A good example is New York City on June 21, the longest day of the year.

On that day, dawn begins at 3:01 a.m., sunlight at 4:13 a.m., and sunrise at 5:25 a.m. That day’s earliest possible time for Minchah would be 9:31 a.m. would be six-and-one-half hours after dawn. According the Vilna Gaon, zt”l (1720-1797), and the Baal HaTanya, zt”l (1745-1813), the latest time for Shacharis would be 10:27 a.m. (All times are from The halachic concept of “two that contradict” would mandate that such conflicting time frames cannot exist. Therefore, we are compelled to adjust our hours to more or less than 60 minutes in order to conform to orderly time frames for tefillos.

The first post-Talmudic focus of this dilemma is from the Rambam, zt”l (1134-1204), in his commentary in Berachos 1:3, who states that an hour is one-twelfth of the total of daylight hours. Plainly, such hours on a summer day and winter night are longer than their parallel hours during a winter day or summer night. The latitude of location further affects this calculation. This postulation remained totally unopposed until the Pnei Yehoshua, written by Rabbi Yehoshua Falk, zt”l (1680-1755), who suggested that since the Mishnah determines times according to the sleep habits of royalty, something that presumably does not change by season, the concept of halachic hours according to the length of the day would not apply.

This proposition remained generally unchallenged until Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l (1895-1986), wrote in his Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 2:20), that royalty did indeed change their sleep habits according to season, for if not, they would sometimes lose half-a-day.

{Macheberes-Rabbi G. Tannenbaum/Noam Newscenter}


  1. “would take place after 12:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings.”

    Sunday morning begins at 12:01 AM.

    12:00 is still Saturday night.

  2. Oh, please. I used to live in Moscow and still live in the FSU. I have warm memories of the long summer Shabbosim and in fact miss them.