What permanent daylight saving time could mean for the Jewish community

(Image by mohamed_hassan from Pixabay)

A bill making daylight saving time permanent could have sizable implications for observant Jews, whose daily schedules are tied to the rising and setting of the sun.

On March 15, the United States Senate unanimously approved the Sunshine Protection Act in a voice vote, according to Reuters. If approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Joe Biden, the bill would take effect in 2023. Starting next year, the Sunshine Protection Act could end America’s twice-yearly ritual of changing all its clocks. Supporters touted the bill’s potential to bring brighter afternoons, allow children to play outside later in the day, increase economic activity and lower seasonal depression.

“I was like, could that actually happen?” said Rabbi Yanky Baron of Chabad of Ellicott City, on his reaction to learning of the legislation. “This is the way things have been. We operate based on daylight saving times, and for something to just be jolted out and changed, I think it’s monumental. Something which we’re used to, it definitely [would] take us out of the norm.”

While Baron speculated that the move to permanent daylight saving time could be a significant help for people who typically need to rush home on Fridays before the start of Shabbat, he added that the switch could be an encumbrance on the practice of daily morning prayers.

“Let’s take, for example, the morning prayer; that we daven every single morning is based on sunrise,” Baron said. “So take for example a family in Michigan. The earliest time they could daven was, till now, was around 8 o’clock, which is already pushing it, right? Because 8 o’clock is [getting] close to the time people are heading out to work.

“But now they have to wait till a time like 9 o’clock in the winter,” Baron continued. “That would definitely put them in a predicament.”

Rabbi Eli Yoggev of Beth Tfiloh Congregation noted that permanent daylight saving time would allow him more time to prepare for Shabbat.

“My initial reaction was happiness, because I can have more time to prepare for Shabbat on Friday afternoons,” Yoggev said. “In the winter it can get very, very short days. And you often don’t have, you never have enough time to prepare for Shabbat, but especially in the winter it can be difficult. So adding on an extra hour actually is pretty helpful, from that perspective.”

At the same time, Yoggev also acknowledged that the change could create some new challenges for morning prayer.

Baron speculated that, to adjust, rabbis might allow davening to begin a bit earlier than is currently the norm, but he doubted it could be more than “a hair breadth.” He added that observant Jews may need to start speaking to their employers about coming in to work later than usual, but he felt confident that the Jewish workforce had the leverage needed to convince employers to adjust if necessary.

To any observant Jews who might be worried about the possible change to permanent daylight saving time, Baron had this to say: “My message would be that just as God in his infinite wisdom orchestrates perfectly every facet of creation, similarly God guides the steps of each and every one of us. So at no point should a Jew feel compelled to compromise on his or her observance, knowing that God will enable in all circumstances that they be sustained financially.”

Daylight saving time began in Germany during World War I as a way to save on fuel consumption, according to a report by an NBC affiliate. Much of Europe followed soon after. The U.S. instituted the practice once during each of the two World Wars, subsequently abandoning it each time after the conclusion of the conflict. It was not until the passage of the Uniform Time Act in 1966 that daylight saving time became standard in the country.

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