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How do you keep Shabbat in a place where the sun always shines?

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Topic: Shabbat, Helsinki

Peter Spill from England wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

When I was in Helsinki in the summer months it virtually never got dark and I had trouble getting to sleep. I asked myself the question: "What happens on Shabbat if it never gets dark. How does one determine when Shabbat goes out?" My Rabbi told me that Shabbat is not technically over until three stars have come out. I asked this question of four Rabbis in my home town and none of them could give me an answer.

Dear Peter,

The Talmud defines "night" as the period of time that begins with "Tzeit Hakochavim" (when stars are visible). The Shulchan Aruch qualifies by stating that you must be able to see 3 small stars. This is further qualified by halachic authorities who rule that the sighting of stars constitutes night only if there is no red glow that follows sunset. [One of my sons recently came in on a Saturday evening and told me that he saw 3 stars so Shabbat was over. I looked out the window and it was clearly light outside. Puzzled, I asked him where he saw the stars. He told me that he had just tripped and bumped his head, and saw them right in front of his eyes :-) ].

So what happens in a place where the sky never darkens? The problem here is not that the day never ends, but that we cannot tell when the day has ended because there is no Tzeit Hakochavim. Therefore:

  1. You begin Shabbat after sunset (even though there is no darkening of the sky for the few minutes that the sun sinks below the horizon).
  2. Kiddush for Friday "night" needs to be recited before "halachicmidnight." Halachicmidnight is at twelve 60minute hours after the time that the sun was directly overhead.
  3. After midnight it is certainly Shabbat and the "light" is considered "morning." Since you are not allowed to make kiddush in the morning until after Shacharit, if you did not say kiddush by now (because the sun did not "set" below the horizon until after midnight), then you would not say it until after Shacharit.
  4. You continue to refrain from weekday activities until Saturday night after midnight -- by then Shabbat is certainly over.
  5. Here again you first pray weekday Shacharit, and then recite Havdallah. This is because you are not allowed to make Havdallah in the morning before Shacharit.

After doing this, you'll probably want to plan your next visit to Helsinki for the Springtime instead.


  • Talmud - Brachot 2a, Shabbat 35 and Megillah 20.
  • Shulchan Aruch - Orach Chaim 293:2.
  • Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagen - Biur Halacha, Orach Chaim 293:2.
  • My son Sruli.
  • Rabbi Harfenes in the book "Yisroel VeHazmanim", section 21.

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