spooky purple clock 88.
(photo credit: )
“Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short, the task is great, the laborers are lazy,
the wage is abundant and the master is urgent.”
Ethics of the Fathers
(Chapter 2, Mishnah 20)
Unlike the Protestant work ethic, the Jewish religion
does not see worldly success as proof of spiritual salvation. There is,
nonetheless, a deep appreciation for proper time management and a strong
aversion to waste, anchored in Halacha's prohibition against needless
destruction (bal tashchit).
Our time in this world is short, warn the
rabbis, and we must make the most of our waking hours.
time, therefore, definitely concurs with Jewish ideals, even if Protestant
sensibilities are its source. (Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of America,
is credited with first conceiving of daylight savings, and the British were the
first to implement it.) By synchronizing our waking hours as much as possible
with the sun, we preserve energy otherwise wasted to illuminate the dark. We
also escape the pitfall Rabbi Chanina warned against: “One who stays awake at
night... and turns his heart to idleness, has forfeited his life” (Ethics of the
Fathers Chapter 3, Mishnah 4).
Yet, in the Jewish state’s short history,
religious Jews have been the principal opponents of daylight savings. The
Interior Ministry, traditionally a portfolio held by religious legislators, was
originally empowered by law to decide when daylight savings would take place, if
at all, each year.
In the wake of the Arab oil embargo of 1973, Israel
reinstituted daylight savings after it was canceled in 1958. But in 1976, the
National Religious Party’s interior minister Yosef Burg did away with it
And in 1986, Shas’s interior minister Yitzhak Peretz delayed
implementation until a cabinet decision overruled him.
Nearly every year
since there has been sectarian tension over the issue. In 2005, after much
parliamentary give and take, a law was put in place backed by Shas MK David
Azulai to “spring ahead” on the last Saturday night before April 2 and to “fall
back” on the last Saturday night before Yom Kippur.
Due to the
idiosyncrasies of the Jewish calendar – which is based on both lunar and solar
calculations – this year Israel’s daylight savings period is the shortest in the
world, just 170 days compared to 245 in America and 218 days in EU
Israel’s Chamber of Commerce estimates that the economy will
lose NIS 10 million as a result of higher electricity demand and a fall in
retail sales and productivity as consumers and workers have fewer daylight hours
to spend and produce. There is also concern that more night driving will lead to
more accidents. Psychologists warn that shorter days increase the chances of
depression. The early shift to standard time also complicates coordination with
Europe and America on flight times and business dealings.
SO WHY do some
in the Orthodox leadership oppose extending daylight through Yom Kippur
the end of October like in the EU, or until the beginning of November
America? It can’t be because you have to stay awake longer during the
After all, isn’t the point of Yom Kippur to be awake and cognizant and
use this precious time for repentance? Nor can it be because of Shabbat
What religious value is there in “saving” an irreligious Jew
by shortening Shabbat, thus making it less likely that he will desecrate
holy day of rest? Isn’t this gain more than canceled out by the negative
impression supposed representatives of Judaism make on their irreligious
brothers by coercing them into cutting short the many benefits of
savings? A groundswell of public opinion is building against our
daylight savings. A grassroots Internet-based petition has already
over 100,000 signatures. Apparently, they know better than certain
what Rabbi Tarfon taught nearly two millennia ago: “The day is short and
task is great.”
We can use all the help we can get. Daylight savings is
precisely that kind of help.