On the Sunday after Pesach (25 Nisan), Pinchos had a flight
from Melbourne, Australia back to Los Angeles where he
resides. As he made his way to the airport, the sun was
already setting. After checking in his luggage he went to a
corner and davened ma'ariv. For Sefiras HaOmer
he counted 11 days.
He boarded the plane, and after a fourteen hour flight he
touched down in Los Angeles. The sun was shining. It was
Sunday afternoon. When he went to Shul that night for
ma'ariv, for Sefiras HaOmer the Chazan counted
Pinchos was confused. He was sure he had counted 11 days the
night before. Had he made a mistake?
Pinchos had made no mistake, but he had flown over the
International Date Line, thereby going back one day so that
when he arrived in Los Angeles it was Sunday again. This
obviously must have some halachic ramifications, and many of
the poskim of our generation go to great lengths
discussing what to do in such instances.
HaRav Betzalel Stern zt"l (in his responsa Betzeil
Hachochma) advises that one should avoid travelling
across the dateline during the days of Sefirah. In the
above- mentioned case he says that one should count again
(the 11th day) in Los Angeles without a brocho, and
from then on he can continue to count with a
There is however a more problematic case. If someone traveled
west from the U.S.A. to Australia (or Asia) during
Sefirah, he will move forward one day when crossing
the dateline. Therefore if, for example, he left Los Angeles
on Sunday night (the halachic beginning of Monday), when he
arrives in Australia 14 hours later it will be in the middle
of Tuesday, not Monday. In this case HaRav Betzalel Stern
says that although it is still the 12th day of the Sefirah
in Australia when he arrives however, since he has
experienced only 11 sunsets and sunrises (because when it
became light for him on the way to Australia it was Monday
morning and the sun didn't set before he got to Australia
where it was already Tuesday), he should count the 12th day
in Australia without a brocho, and carry on counting
without a brocho.
He adds that it might be of benefit thereafter to say two
"countings" every night, i.e. to count both 12 and 13 on the
night after he arrives, since 12 is the number of days he has
experienced since beginning his counting of Sefirah,
and 13 is the number of days that have been counted in
the place where he is now.
This is but one of the many questions that can arise in
regard to the International Date Line. Even when traveling
during the rest of the year there can be interesting cases
If one crosses the dateline and thereby changes Monday
morning into Tuesday morning, does he have to put on
tefillin again (since he has not put on tefillin
on Tuesday yet) or to say Shema or daven
again? There are a host of similar and related
Also, if one leaves the U.S.A. on the night before Taanis
Esther and arrives in Australia on Purim night (in which case
all the way would be in darkness) -- where did his Taanis
Esther disappear to?
There is another interesting point related to the issue. The
International Date Line of the non-Jewish world as we know
it, runs through the Pacific Ocean and was designed
conveniently so as not to split any country in half in a way
that in half it would be Tuesday and in the other half
Monday. It is therefore not a straight line, but zigzags
around New Zealand and other countries.
According to halacha, this is -- not unexpectedly -- not the
true dateline. There have been many letters written by many
rabbonim over the years to explain exactly where the Torah
Date Line is. Many hold that it cuts through Australia.
Theoretically this would mean that people in the eastern part
of Australia would keep Shabbos on what is known there as
Sunday. However, the common practice throughout Australia is
to keep Shabbos on what is known as Saturday.
The Chazon Ish explains that one does not divide a single
land mass into two days (see Chazon Ish, Orach Chaim,
64). This would mean, however, that as soon as one leaves the
mainland of Australia on the eastern side, one is travelling
"into" the previous day, since the Torah Date Line is on the
eastern shore of Australia.
There are, therefore, some people who are machmir not
to go out on a boat into the ocean on Sunday, because as soon
as they leave the shore it becomes Shabbos for them!
Also when travelling east from Australia (towards America) on
Sunday, the practice is to refrain from doing any melocho
de'Oraisa (Biblical prohibition) from the time one
crosses the shoreline until nightfall, as this time would be
Shabbos according to some poskim. Furthermore in New
Zealand, which is east of Australia, it would definitely be
Shabbos on the so-called Sunday there, according to the
Chazon Ish. In practice many chareidi Jews travelling to New
Zealand from Australia keep all melochos de'Oraisa on
It is interesting to note that these questions were actually
first discussed by the Mirrer Yeshiva which had fled during
World War II to Japan and later to Shanghai. Their questions
first arose with regard to Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur that year
was on Wednesday in the rest of the world, and their question
was whether the so-called Wednesday (corresponding to 10
Tishrei) in Japan was, according to halacha, actually Tuesday
(corresponding to 9 Tishrei). Since Japan is near the Torah
Date Line and in a questionable zone, if it is really on the
eastern side of the dateline then one would have to fast on
the so called Thursday, since it would really be 10 Tishrei.
Many rabbonim ruled that they should fast on Wednesday,
however the Chazon Ish said: "Eat on Wednesday and fast on
Thursday." Some bochurim in fact fasted for two whole
[Note: There are many opinions on these matters and each
person should consult his rav for practical guidelines and
Rabbi B. Z. Rosenbaum is a chaver hakollel, Beis
Hatalmud in Melbourne, Australia.