It’s Time For Religious Jews To Rethink Taking Flights That Are Too Close To Shabbos

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Thursday night’s El Al flight 26 from Newark to Tel Aviv was delayed from 9:10pm until 1:07am. Its arrival into Tel Aviv was delayed from 1:32pm until 5:22pm. Candle lighting time in Jerusalem was at 6:20pm.

There were many religious Jews on the flight and emergency vehicles whisked the passengers to Jerusalem so that they would make it before Shabbos:


This type of delay is not uncommon.

Unless there’s a true emergency, there’s no good reason for booking this flight. Delays up to 4 hours can happen on the runway and there won’t necessarily be a way to exit a plane in that situation. It’s just not a safe assumption that you’ll be able to take advantage of emergency vehicles in case of a delay.

Earlier this year an El Al diversion caused a flight that was scheduled to land in Tel Aviv 3 hours before Shabbos to land in Athens after candle lightning time. El Al had to divert again due to Shabbos commitments, but they don’t have to give passengers enough time to get off the plane before Shabbos. The ensuing mess could have been avoided if religious Jews didn’t book flights that land too close to Shabbos.

I hope that Shabbos observing Jews can take these stories to heart and try to avoid taking flights that are scheduled to land within 6 or 7 hours of candle lighting time, unless there is a true emergency. That allows enough time for a 4 hour delay and time to get from the airport to your destination or it gives you the ability to wait 4 hours on the runway and then deboard at your origin airport without needing to cause a scene.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that El Al flights that land close to Shabbos or that depart within a couple of hours after Shabbos ends will require other Jews to do work on Shabbos.

It’s just a thought before the new year of 5779 begins tonight. May we all have a sweet new year!

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74 Comments On "It’s Time For Religious Jews To Rethink Taking Flights That Are Too Close To Shabbos"

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why should we start rethinking it, people should listen to the Rabbanim who say not to travel if theres a possibility there will be problems with shabbos or too close to shabbos


U da man, Dan!


Thanks Dan, good to see some religious posts here too 😉


If people wouldn’t listen to R’ Moshe, maybe they’ll at least listen to Dan! 🙂


Wishing Dan and the extended family here that follows 😉 A ksiva vchasima toiva Leshana toiva umesuka


Ou are so right!
Shana tova


100% right


Dan, thank you for stating something that should be a given, but apparently for some people, are not:

Don’t Take a Flight too close to Shabbos, there are too many problems that could happen.

I would consider these people Poshea and Not Ones (with the exception of a legitimate emergency).


There are rulings from the previous generations that if someone travels too close to shabbos and then encounters a delay, causing him to be mechelal shabbos, that he would be considered a shogeg or even a mezid and not a oines.


I agree fully, Dan. When I fly to my nonstop domestic destination on erev shabbos, I understand that although my chances of my early morning flight delaying me on shabbos being slim, I realize that if I have to spend shabbos in a random town in NC, GA, or AL or be mechalel shabbos- the fault is fully my own. I do realize that delays occur, potential plane diversions, or flight changes can cause me to push the clock to the limit- and certainly would be unacceptable for me to expect emergency service vehicles to cater to my religious requirements. Those arriving on that flight in Israel should have walked, used Uber, or broken shabbos- rather than utilizing services meant for true medical emergencies


Totally agree. But I also want everyone to notice tremendous kidush Hashem with all the yidden sitting at the airport with ambulances trying to help other yidden an hour before shabos

Aryeh Sonnenberg

It’s a kiddush Hashem for Zaka to pick up body parts, too, lehavdil.

Harley Kesselman

No way. Total misuse of emergency vehicles here.


Sorry. Disagree.
Zaka are very happy to help people in ALL types of dire situations.


That was not a dire situation. They could have paid for a taxi or checked in to a nearby hotel or enjoyed the hachnosos orchim of a nearby community.


to all jews


People should also think about driving in traffic before Shabbos especially whe the weather is bad.


Shana Tova Dan!

Sanity please

It is assur lehalacha to travel so close to Shabbos.
People should become familiar with the halochos of traveling Erev Shabbos.
No heter to RISK being mechalel Shabbos to go to Uman or Israel.


Can we add to the title: And to all non-religious Jews to rethink not being religious.
Why take it for granted? Perhaps there’s some deals person here on the fence, and your title will tip the scale, all in a non-invasive way.


Just saying, I never knew ‘deboard’ (in the post above,) is a word – I have only ever heard ‘deplane’. But, yes, I looked it up and apparently it is.
So whether or not people like the article, I definitely learnt something knew 🙂


The “technical” term is ‘alight’ – but that’s very rarely used.


It is no longer recommended to take flights that land close to Shabbos.

Just me and my memories

35-45 years ago when we drove from Brooklyn to my grandmother in NE CT on Fridays my father would have a cow if we weren’t on the road at 9am. Traffic wasn’t nearly as bad then as it is now and he got upset that we were leaving so late.


My father-in-law who was a great zaddik would make sure to arrive in the city where he was for Shabbat before chazzot and then ‘hang out’ only knocking on the host’s door an hour before Shabbat so that the busy hostess would not be put out.


Hopefully this becomes a non-issue as Reb Dan shlita continues to update us about the increasing number of non-stop flights from North America to TLV, eliminating the need to fly on Erev Shabbos in the first place

Ksiva vchasima tova


Its time for religious jews to stop being extremists. Nothing will happen if you don’t follow all the rules 100% of the time. Gd won’t punish you for driving on friday night because of a delayed flight.


Name says it all



Another side...

As the old answer to this goes… Maybe you are right, and then those who follow the rules 100% of the time did so for naught. But if you are wrong and they are right, they will be okay and you will be a lot of “hot water.”


Should have listened to my Mother… No way you travel if your are not scheduled to be at your destination by Thursday. No arguing.


Am I correct, that Flight 26 is being discontinued (at least for Thursday departures) starting next month?


I’m a Jew, but perhaps Orthodox Jews reading this post should worry more about the ethical and moral consequences of taking advantage of award program loopholes (e.g., 2x Amex Offers double browser tab even though it’s against the Terms of Service) than an El Al flight being delayed through no fault of their own.


While I understand the importance of following some religious ritual, I don’t think using ambulances is appropriate. Ambulances should be used only for emergencies. If I hear an ambulance, I do everything I can to give them way, as I assume somebody’s life is at risk. Same applies to police cars and firefighters. Why would they have right of way over me, if it’s not a true emergency? I remember reading about a soccer player who hired an ambulance to transport him after a game to his wedding, to avoid the traffic. That, justifiably, got a lot of flak. Not saying it’s the same situation, but both are non emergency uses in the end.


You also need to credit elal for making every effort to get people there before Shabbat, they added extra fuel to the plane to go faster , the flight was 1/2 shorter, we took off 1 hour after the JFK flight and arrived before them. As we celebrate Rosh Hashanah we may have legitimate complaints about elal but we need to show hakarat hatov


Many years ago (when El Al was a decent airline) when my flight from Newark on a Thursday was delayed before boarding we were told that if the plane would not arrive in Israel at a decent time before Shabbos the flight would be postponed until Saturday night. The article does not state whether the passengers were giving the option to remain in Newark until after Shabbos and fly then.

Carl M. Sherer

Wouldn’t have helped. If they’d taken off after Shabbos, even if they had stayed in the airport, they would have had the same issue with Rosh HaShanna.

Carl M Sherer

Kol HaKavod for posting this Dan! I think people take El Al’s ‘no Shabbos flights’ ‘policy’ at face value, and don’t realize that it doesn’t always work out that way.

Just last week, I convinced someone to take a flight that lands at 3:30 am on Friday morning instead of one that lands at 2:30 pm on Friday afternoon… in November….

Gmar Chasima Tova to you and your family!


First of all, I give elal credit for their shortee fight time, getting the plane here in just over nine hours. Also I wanted to point out that candle lighting time in Jerusalem was 619 not 638!

Harley Kesselman

Absolutely shameful that they misused emergency vehicles like this. If shabbos is important to you, dont fly close to it. Delays can and do happen in the air for any reason.


This is the second time you’ve stated your ignorant and fallacious opinion. STOP. Stop judging why and how they ended up in this situation, and stop with your nonsensical opinion. Are you frum?

Regardless of the circumstances, they were faced with the option of being mechallel Shabbos or being transported in emergency vehicles. I’m certain that no lives were risked in the process, as there is no way the EMTs and other responders would have allowed them to utilize their vehicles if there were even a remote possibility of harm or endangerment to anyone. Additionally, it would have been prohibited, were it to place anyone in harm’s way, as pikuach nefesh docheh Shabbos. So we know it wasn’t dangerous, it only appeared distasteful to you. In that case, yes, use the vehicles!

D you think the definition of Chillul Hashem is “performing something that seems distasteful to some onlookers in order to prevent an issur of chillul Shabbos”? If so, re-read the Rambam, Mechaber, Tur, and everyone else. Because you’re mistaken. In fact, according to the Rambam, this is a clear-cut case of Kiddush Shem Shamayim Befarhesia.

With that said, Halacha generally dictates that one must be careful with flying so close to Shabbos, so I hope (and assume) that the frum people on board had their reasons for being on that flight.


Excuse me Zalmy, but the above post was not only considered distasteful to the one poster above, but as a frum Jew I’m disgusted too (and it appears several share a similar opinion). Quit calling other opinions nonsensical, as there are various valid viewpoints on this issue. Let’s review the situation. The passengers had the potential outcome of being mechallel shabbos or potentially reaching their destination utilizing emergency vehicles. The option of staying on the airport floor or an airport hotel for 25 hours was and always was a viable option. Is that a comfortable or preferred arrangement?-Probably not, but it remained an option, and someone who values shabbos will deal with his/her PERSONAL consequences of choosing that flight and potentially sleeping on the floor to honor the shabbos. Regarding harming or endangering others by utilizing emergency services- neither of us really know the opportunity cost of taking many EMS cars out of service, so we can’t honestly address it fully. What I do know is that after the emergency vehicles dropped off the passengers, the arrival of shabbos was imminent; likely resulting in causing other Jewish EMS drivers to drive back on shabbos (I’m surprised you didn’t think about that). The challenge in Israel is that most of the EMS personnel are Jewish (likely unobservant, but still halachically Jewish being mechallel shabbos because of those travelors).

The Rambam, Tur, and many of our Rabbonim made great sacrifices to keep the mitzvah of shabbos, mikvah in freezing lakes, and 1 lulav and esrog set for the entire city. They didn’t have “lifelines” of using city emergency services meant for those with medical emergencies with a 50/50 shot of making it in time. They would have found it most appropriate to remain at the airport in a modest, humble, and least risky fashion. I appreciate reading your viewpoints.

missed it

Just to point out that the vehicles used were from ZAKA. You should google what they do..they are mostly not EMT’s and except in cases of natural disasters they dont offer services to the living…


Missed it, did the Jewish drivers from Zaka have to drive home on shabbos after dropping the passengers off? Did they prevent other drivers on the road from getting to their intended destination on time for shabbos? Everything has a chain reaction


What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?

I don’t know, and I don’t care.


Some of the offenders don’t just have a lack of temporal understanding but a lack of religious understanding. While spending shabbos or Yom tov in eretz yisroel or lehavdil uman may be important, shabbos is infinitely more so, and not everyone seems to fully absorb that.

Shaul Yaakov

Using emergency vehicles in this case was a disgrace. Elal should had offered accommodations in TLV for people who couldn’t make it back to Jerusalem.

Shmuel Bloch

All Jews please

Shmuel Bloch

All Jews

Mayer Grunbaum

What do care if they used emergency vehicles???? Obviously it was an emergency and mabe they will learn for next time


I do care. Ambulances, police cars, firefighters, they all are exempted from many traffic rules and have right of way, because it’s assumed they are used for potential life saving purposes. Now, if it’s Ok to use an ambulance for the purpose of the article, do I have the right to use one so I make it on time to an important business meeting? Why would my “emergency” rank lower than that of the article?


Couldn’t they have just stayed in two Aviv or bnei brak? Seems like that would have been the better solution than misusing emergency vehicles.


I am just wondering what caused a 4 hour delay. Was it weather, congestion, or equipment problems? Were passengers given the option to postpone their trip until Saturday night?


Saturday night wouldn’t be better, it would be equally risky as it is close to the start of Rish Hashana


Clearly ElAl tried to do the right thing under the circumstances and they deserve Hakarat Hatov for that. Can you imagine the outcry if they had done nothing to offset the delay? Those who book a flight arriving Friday afternoon, knowing full well the pitfalls of air travel these days, have to take the responsibility for their own decisions. They should have gone to a nearby hotel in Tel Aviv. Using emergency vehicles to ferry people to Jerusalem was a disgrace and a poor decision by Zaka. What if those vehicles were needed to respond to a trafffic accident, heart attack, or some other real emergency? That’s the reason they exist and why people support Zaka.


Totally agree. Zaka is not for non-emergency use. And no, this was not an emergency.


Is Chillul Shabbos not an emergency? Or you assume there was something else that could have been done? See Carl M. Sherer’s response below and my comment above.


Chillul shabbos is not considered an emergency. In fact, one is allowed to break shabbos for saving a human life. Being uncomfortable on an airport floor for 25 hours is not the same as having an ambulance for a heart attack victim or a labor and delivery. Those 25 hours on the floor can maybe remind the person about the value of being more wise the next time around


I purposely fly out of NYC at 7pm on Thursday night so there are less religious Jews to delay the flight due to other religious beliefs.


it goes along with your lack of concern for shabbos all related


Maybe you’re just a Greek “Orthodox” Christ??…

Carl M. Sherer

People apparently don’t realize that it takes nearly as long to get to Tel Aviv from the airport as it does to get to Jerusalem… because of traffic. Bnei Brak has few hotels worthy of the name. In emergencies, El Al houses people at one of the dati kibbutzim near the airport, but it sounds like there were too many frum people on this flight to accommodate them all.


Thank you for your explanation.


Dan , your right on. Kol hakovod you are doing a good public service

Jason Smith

So for a domestic flight, how many hours is considered “too close to Shabbos”?


Jason, for domestic I believe it’s all relative. Are we talking winter shabbos or summer shabbos? Nonstop or connections? Traveling with a family and several bags, or single with a small carry on? When I was in yeshiva, I traveled home nonstop single on the erev shabbos/yomtov flights with a small carry on, JFK-FLL. I never had a problem leaving earlier than 11AM, as I lived within 2 miles of FLL if something occurred. I may have done a lot of stupid things in my yeshiva/college years, but I was mature and responsible enough that if I landed too late in FLL then I’d have sore feet walking- but that was on me! No ambulances, no police escorts, no blaming mother-nature or airlines.

For Succos we plan on flying nonstop EWR to LAX, leaving EWR at 7AM arriving in LAX at 10:30AM’ish on Erev Succos. Certainly flying west has some time advantages for the frum traveler on Fridays or Erev Yomtovim.


Perhaps we should also rethink donating to ZAKA if they use their ambulances as taxi services!


El Al Flight 881, a 747, left Tel Aviv Friday at 8:15pm en route to Liege, Belgium.

This flight operates regularly on Friday night or early Saturday morning. For the last six weeks, the departure times have ranged from 8:39pm to 12:41am.

Apparently this is a cargo flight. The plane turns around and leaves Liege at about 10 a.m.

So is it kosher for Israel’s flag airline to fly on shabbos? Are the crews and ground personnel not religious? Does the cargo include kosher food?


Time to continue this article. Ly008 and ly 002

Alexander Scutaru

It’s shulchan aruch halacha from back to ship travel that you do not book trips so close to Shabbos.