Ask The Rabbi

Ask the Rabbi #78

Become a Supporter Library Library

Ask the Rabbi

30 Sept. 1995; Issue #78

  • Jews in Space
  • Sukka Shed
  • Answer to Yiddle Riddle
  • Subscription Information
  • Ohr Somayach Home Page

  • Jews in Space


    Mike Laitner of Leeds, England, wrote:

    Is a Jew allowed to be an astronaut?

    Dear Mike Laitner,

    Whether a Jew may "take up space" would take up too much space to answer definitively. However, Dr. Gerald Wittenstein, a 20-yr. veteran of NASA, and currently CEO of International Space Systems, Inc., has researched this question. Dr. Wittenstein graciously submitted the following at our request:

    Regarding davening, it is my understanding that when orbiting the earth the "home base" is Houston, Mission Control. You would pray according to the time in Mission Control. The food would need Kashrut supervision. I spoke to a dietician on Space Lab, who did not think this was impossible to overcome, if NASA would approve additional cost.

    Another consideration is Tzniut (modesty). Usually crews are composed of men and women in various stages of dress, and situations of physical contact. The spacecraft would need separate showers and toilet accommodations.

    Manned space flight currently does not have safety as a primary concern, and there have been losses of crew in flight and on the ground. The technology is quite exotic, with many possible sources of failure. This danger factor would have to be weighed against the commandment "be very careful to guard your life."

    As far as learning Torah, there are allocations for private time to allow one to continue one's learning.

    Thank you, Dr. Wittenstein. Of course, anyone actually planning a trip to Pluto should consult his local Orthodox Rabbi before blastoff.

    Which reminds me:

    A man returning from the world's first Bar Mitzva on Pluto seemed disappointed.
    "What's wrong?" asked his friend, "the band was no good?"
    "The band was very good," he answered.
    "The food was no good?" asked his friend.
    "Out of this world!"
    "Nu! So, what was the problem?" asked his friend.
    "There was no atmosphere."

    Sukka Shed


    Karen Willcox wrote:

    Could a roofless shed be made into a sukkah by adding an appropriate roof? Thanks for your help!

    Dear Karen,

    Schach - The roof of a Sukkah - must be something that grew from the ground but is no longer attached to the ground. Also, it may not be made from food (like sugar cane) or from an implement (like wood broken from a chair or bed).

    These limitations apply only to the schach, but not to the walls. Therefore, a roofless shed can be made into a Sukkah by adding a "kosher" roof - such as bamboo canes, wooden slats, or as the widespread custom in Israel - palm fronds. It's preferable that the material directly supporting the roof also be suitable for schach. Therefore if the shed is metal you should put a piece of wood on top of the metal surface, and put the banches on the wood.


    • Shulchan Aruch O.C. 629:1,7.

    Answer to Yiddle Riddle:


    Question: One day every year, the Halachot of Shabbat are different than the rest of the year. What day is it?

    Answer: The Shabbat during Sukkot. On Shabbat it is forbidden to carry from a "private domain" to a "public domain." Usually, a private domain must have at least three walls. On the Shabbat of Sukkot, however, a private domain can have less. Why? A Sukka is valid with as few as two walls, plus a post as the third wall. Since such a structure is a valid Sukka, therefore, it's also considered a private domain.

    This is the ruling of the Tur (Orach Chaim 630). However, the Beit Yosef quotes the dissenting opinion of the Rif. The Chayei Adam (146:3) rules that one may rely on the Tur only in extenuating circumstances.)

    The Rabbis of "Ask the Rabbi" wish all their readers a Shana Tova u'Mtuka - A Good and Sweet Year!

    • Written by Rabbi Moshe Lazerus, Rabbi Benzion Bamberger, Rabbi Reuven Subar, Rabbi Avrohom Lefkowitz and other Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.
    • General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    • Production Design: Lev Seltzer

    © 1995 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.

    Publications like this are available via E-Mail, as part of Ohr Somayach's "ask" list.
    To subscribe, send the message "sub ask {your full name}" to

    Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 685 full-time students. The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.
    Copyright © 1995 Ohr Somayach International. Send us Feedback.
    Dedication opportunities are available for Ask The Rabbi. Please contact us for details.
    Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.