Halacha for Sunday 9 Cheshvan 5774 October 13 2013

Setting Sail on a Ship Before Shabbat

This Halacha is dedicated for the saintly memory of the leader of the entire Jewish nation, chief halachic authority of our generation, light of our eyes, and father to us all, Maran Hagaon Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef ben Gorgi'a zt"l. This loss is too great to bear and we at Halacha Yomit mourn Maran's passing along with the entire Jewish nation. May Maran zt"l act as a righteous defender for his family, students, and the entire nation of Israel. May we soon merit the fulfillment of the verse, "Like a man whose mother comforts him, so shall I comfort you, and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." Amen. 

The following Halacha has ramifications in several areas which we shall, G-d-willing, discuss in the coming days.
Setting Sail on a Ship Close to Shabbat
The Baraita (Shabbat 19a) states: “Our Sages taught: One may not set sail on a ship within three days of Shabbat. Nevertheless, this only applies when one is travelling for a mundane purpose. However, if one is travelling for the purpose of a Mitzvah, one is permitted to do so (set sail within three days of Shabbat).” This means that the prohibition of setting sail on a ship within three days prior to Shabbat applies only when one is travelling for a mundane purpose, such as for a vacation and the like; however, if one is travelling for a Mitzvah, such as if one is travelling to Eretz Yisrael, one may indeed begin his sea voyage even within the three days prior to Shabbat. Most Rishonim quote this Baraita as Halacha as does Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 248, Section 1).
The Reason for the Prohibition of Setting Sail Close to Shabbat
The Rishonim disagree regarding the reason why setting sail by ship is prohibited close to Shabbat. The
Rif writes that the primary reason for this prohibition (which is how we rule halachically) is because during the first three days of one’s voyage by sea, it is probable that one will suffer from sea sickness, as the verse (Tehillim 107) states, “They shall celebrate and swerve like a drunkard,” and one will not be able to fulfill the Mitzvah of enjoying the Shabbat. This is why our Sages prohibited beginning one’s sea voyage so close to Shabbat unless one is travelling to perform a Mitzvah. However, when one is travelling to perform a Mitzvah, one is exempt from the Mitzvah of enjoying Shabbat, for “one who is involved with performing one Mitzvah is exempt from performing another Mitzvah” and our Sages thus did not forbid him to travelling close to Shabbat.
The student of the Rif, the great Rambam, writes likewise (Chapter 30 of Hilchot Shabbat) that one may not set sail on a ship within three days of Shabbat “so that one may relax and regain one’s composure before the onset of Shabbat so that one does not suffer too much.” Indeed Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch writes: “This that one may not set sail by ship within three days of Shabbat is due to enjoyment of Shabbat, for one suffers and is disoriented during the first three days of a sea voyage.”
The Law Regarding a Salt-Water Sea and a Non-Salt-Water River
Since the primary reason for this prohibition is because of a lack of enjoyment of Shabbat, the Rishonim as well as Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch write that this prohibition applies only when one is travelling by ship in a salt-water sea; however, if the ship is travelling through a sweet-water river, one may board the ship and set sail even on Erev Shabbat. This is because sea sickness results from the saltiness of the water along with the ship’s movement and in a river whose waters are sweet, there is not as much concern for this.
(There is another issue we must discuss regarding setting sail by ship close to Shabbat which is that one may only set sail on Erev Shabbat even in a sweet-water river only when there is over ten Tefachim or approximately 80 cm of space from the bottom of the ship until the sea bottom. However, if one is certain that there is not 80 cm of space from the bottom of the ship, one may not set sail on this vessel on Erev Shabbat due to the prohibition of boundaries on Shabbat (see Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 1, page 108).
The Law Nowadays
We have already written in the past that one should not set sail on a ship which is steered by Jews or when most of the passengers are Jews when it is certain that the passengers will remain on board on Shabbat, since experience has shown that Shabbat is desecrated needlessly for non-life-threatening purposes. Likewise, on many ships, the faucets and doors are electrically-operated in a way that a Torah-abiding individual would not be able to board such a vessel when he knows it will operate on Shabbat as well. Only if one is completely certain that the above concerns and other such issues do not exist, such as when the ship is steered by non-Jews and most of the passengers are non-Jewish, may one set sail on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday (see Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 1, page 107).
We shall broaden this topic in the next Halacha.

Ask the Rabbi

8 Halachot Most Popular

The “Asher Yatzar” Blessing vs. Birkat Hamazon

Question: In the previous Halacha, we have discussed if one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing on food and before he does so, he uses the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, one should recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing first and......

Read Halacha

Question: If one becomes obligated to recite an after-blessing after eating any food (for instance, by eating a Kezayit, approximately twenty-seven grams, of fruit) and before reciting the after-blessing, one used the facilities and becomes obligated to recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing, which blessing must one recite first: Should one first recite the “Asher Yatzar” blessing or the after-blessing on the food one ate?

Answer: This question has already been discussed by the Maharshal (Rabbeinu Shlomo Luria, one of the foremost Acharonim who lived approximately five-hundred years ago in Eastern Poland and authored the Sefer Yam Shel Shlomo and others) in his responsa (Chapter 97) and writes that if one becomes obli......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon in the Place One Has Eaten

Question: Is one obligated to recite Birkat Hamazon specifically where one has eaten bread or may one recite this blessing elsewhere? Answer: One who eats a bread meal must recite Birkat Hamazon in the place where one has eaten and one may not go to a different place and recite the blessing there......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Motza’ei Tisha Be’av and the Tenth of Av

Following halachic nightfall on Tisha Be’av which is approximately twenty minutes after sunset (somewhat later in the United States), one is permitted to eat and drink. It is customary to recite Birkat Ha’Levana (blessing on the new moon) following Arvit prayers on Motza’ei Tisha B......

Read Halacha

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5781, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

When Av Begins, We Diminish Our Joy

Yesterday, Shabbat, we marked Rosh Chodesh Av. Next Sunday (beginning from Motza’ei Shabbat), will mark Tisha Be’av. May Hashem soon switch this month to one of joy and celebration. The Jewish Nation’s Fortune During the Month of Av Although we customarily implement some mourn......

Read Halacha

Tisha Be’av Falls Coincides With Motza’ei Shabbat- Clothing for Tisha Be’av

The Baraita in Masechet Ta’anit (30a) states that our Sages prohibited five things on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s self with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages said (Ta’anit 30b): “One......

Read Halacha

Reciting Birkat Hamazon While Travelling by Car

Question: If one is eating while travelling by car, may one recite Birkat Hamazon while continuing to travel? Answer: In the previous Halacha we have explained that our Sages have instituted that one must recite Birkat Hamazon while seated in order for one to have optimum concentration while bles......

Read Halacha