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Ask the Rabbi - 280

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1 July 2000 / 28 Sivan 5760; Issue #280

Astro Not?


Irene from Arlington, Virginia wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

My 5 year old son dreams of becoming an astronaut someday, and I'd like to encourage him that Jewish children can grow up to be what they want to be. But how will he keep Shabbat in space? For example, how does one determine the start and end of Shabbat in space? If the space program is unable to give Jewish astronauts a complete "day off" on Shabbat, what type of activities will he be able to perform? Are fewer activities considered forbidden because, in space, so much more needs to be done just to maintain one's safety?

Dear Irene,

When I was five years old and people asked me what I want to do when I grow up, I replied that I want to work in a zoo. People laughed at me, and pointed out that nice Jewish boys are doctors, lawyers, and accountants, not zookeepers. Besides, they said, it's not feasible to work in a zoo if you're Jewish, because you would need to work on Shabbat; the animals need looking after on Shabbat, too.

Well, lo and behold, I now work part-time in a zoo, albeit not as a zookeeper. Instead, my job is to teach about Torah perspectives on the animal kingdom, which happens to be more fulfilling than cleaning out paddocks. Since I am working in education, Shabbat isn't a problem. The message that I take from this is that you should never crush a child's dreams; they can come true in ways that you don't expect.

Shabbat in space wouldn't necessarily be a problem -- many space programs are only a few days long, and could operate during the week. And maybe things will be different twenty or thirty years from now, and robots will be able to operate the spacecraft on Shabbat.

Regarding when Shabbat would be observed in space, one opinion is that Shabbat in space is observed according to the times in the place of "blast off," e.g., Cape Kennedy. Most of the laws for Shabbat in space haven't been ruled upon yet, as the questions have not yet been asked. Maybe your son can become the first "Space Rabbi!"

Thanks to Rabbi Nosson Slifkin
for preparation of this answer

Pop's Music


From: "Dancing With the Jews"

Dear Rabbi,

I should probably be ashamed for not knowing this, but what is the literal translation of the popular Jewish wedding song, "Hava Nagilah?" Come to think of it, they play this song at every wedding, Jewish or not. So what does "Hava Nagilah" mean?

Dear "Dancing With the Jews,"

Don't worry the real meaning is really deeper then it seems, even if you understand the words! "Hava nagilah" -- Come! Let's rejoice; "V'nismicha" -- and be happy; "Hava N'ranana" -- Come! Let's celebrate; "Uru Achim" -- Arise, Brothers! "B'lev Somayach" -- with a happy heart!"

Hava Nagilah was composed by Klausenberg chassidim. Initially it signified attainment of the attribute of simcha, happiness. Everyone wants to be happy, but many times we just can't seem to escape our everyday difficulties to stay that way for very long. To counter this, the chassidim stress preparing oneself to rise above these difficulties and keep one's spirits high. Later, the young Zionist movement adopted the song Hava Nagilah, and it eventually spread to signify celebration for Jews all over the world.

Who Knows 20?

In the song at the end of the Pesach Seder we describe the significance of the numbers from one to thirteen as they relate to Jewish life and thought. "Three are the fathers, Four are the Mothers...12 are the Tribes of Israel..." What about the next 13 numbers? And after those? What significance do they have in Jewish tradition?

This week, we challenge to answer: "Who knows 20?"
Write to

Here are some reader responses regarding previous numbers:

Who knows 17? The Menorah in the Temple was 17 handbreadths high, corresponding to the 17 words of the first verse of Bamidbar.

Rosalie E. Moriah

"Shmoneh Esrei L'Chupah," lit. 18 years (and then) to the marriage canopy. Keep up the great work you do!

Mrs. T. Ansh, Jerusalem

18 is life/chai.

R. Feiner

Who knows 18? 18 rings in one's backbone, 18 laws of treife were taught to Moshe. Who knows 19? 19 brachos (blessings) in the Shemonei Esrei (silent amida prayer). 19 days in the year that Hallel is recited

Ephraim B. Bryks

Who knows 18? I do! 18 is the last number of the "Who knows" questions (please).

The Public Domain
Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.



You recently wrote about the "messianic" significance of the number 666. I had a thought a while ago; let me share it with you: The gematria-value of six (each Hebrew letter has a numeric value) is the letter "vav." "Vav" is transliterated as "w" (think of the word "Washington," for example, spelled in Hebrew). So "666," or "vav vav vav," could be transliterated as "www" -- the WorldWide Web! Can the Web or Internet be said to posses any messianic potential? Better sign me... "Anonymous!"


Ohrnet responds:

There's only Won Word Which describes your comment: Wow! And, to answer your question, yes, one would expect the web to be harnessed for the good in the messianic times.

In Kings I (10:14) we see how King Solomon received 666 talents of gold annually.

Frank Ringsmuthm, Waite Park, Minnesota

Set Your Sights on Our Site:

The Ohr Somayach Website is very interesting...I hope to learn from shows me how little I know of my own heritage....

Ruth Foon, Birmingham, Michigan

Written by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer, Rabbi Reuven Subar, Rabbi Mordecai Becher, Rabbi Baruch Rappaport, Rabbi Moshe Yossef and other Rabbis at Ohr Somayach Institutions / Tanenbaum College, Jerusalem, Israel.

General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow

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