Too busy for the Sabbath
February 1 2003 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Too busy for the Sabbath | Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003

Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003

Too busy for the Sabbath

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Jews around the world celebrated when Ilan Ramon became the first Israeli in space. After months of delay, Ramon joined six American astronauts aboard the space shuttle Columbia for a flawless launch Jan. 16.

They joined the rest of us in mourning when the shuttle came apart on re-entry and was lost on Feb. 1.

Ramon was a colonel in the Israeli air force assigned as a payload specialist to carry out a number of research projects in the "Spacehab" research module.

Prior to the mission's tragic end, major publicity was given to the Israeli astronaut's plans for the mission. He took along a miniature Torah scroll that was given to physicist Yehoyahin Yosef by a rabbi when both were prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during World War II. Yosef contributed to one of the mission's experiments. Ramon also carried a "good luck" dollar bill from the late Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a prominent leader of the Hasidic Lubavitch community. Lubavitchers believe the Rebbe's bills, first given for charity, have protective powers.

They may have to rethink that position.

I was most intrigued with Ramon's quandary about the Sabbath. Though he admitted to being rather non-religious, he planned to celebrate a shuttle Sabbath in space as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people.

The Sabbath begins at sunset each Friday evening, at a precise time determined by the rabbis. But the space shuttle sees 16 sunrises and sunsets every day. When does the Sabbath begin on the shuttle?

Ramon consulted Rabbi Zvi Konikov, a prominent Jewish leader along Florida's "Space Coast." Konikov consulted other rabbis, and ruled that Ramon should observe the Sabbath according to the time at Cape Canaveral, since he launched from there.

Ramon then said he would observe the Sabbath on Houston time, since astronauts keep their clocks in sync with mission control at the Houston Space Center.

But, when the first Sabbath rolled around, Ramon reported that he was too busy for the observance, after all.

There's bound to be a lesson there.

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2/1/2003 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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