Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Rabbi Ben-Zion Firrer asked whether Torah Law must be observed in space, since Deuteronomy 12:1 says one should follow the Commandments "all of the days which you are alive on this earth."

What defines "on this earth" as it relates to the halachic necessity of performing mitzvot?

Presumably the earth's atmosphere would count as "earth," but why? You are not literally "on [the] earth" when you are in the atmosphere.

And what about Space outside the atmosphere? Do the Commandments not apply there?

From a logical standpoint, it seems absurd that one might be allowed to murder or worship idols while aboard an airplane, or a rocket ship, for that matter. But does halacha itself account for these situations in any reliable way?

share|improve this question
2  
One perspective mentioned in the answer I linked above is that of Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who reasoned that (according to the answer): "since one cannot survive in the environment of space without bringing earthly oxygen and water with him, he is still 'on this earth' for purposes of this, now, very real discussion." –  SAH Mar 13 '13 at 18:31
1  
I wonder if this can be interpreted along the lines of Ramban's position that Eretz Yisrael, in particular, is the primary place for observing all mitzvot. Perhaps that's what "on the earth" means here, too? –  Isaac Moses Mar 13 '13 at 18:36
    
I remember seeing that Rav Menashe Klein held if one was on the moon itself he would say kiddush levana. –  sam Mar 13 '13 at 18:39
    
@sam, that's not exactly a Mitzva –  Isaac Moses Mar 13 '13 at 18:41
4  
What about shooting someone while jumping? –  Shmuel Brin Mar 13 '13 at 19:37

1 Answer 1

I could theorize that according to R. Firrer, the 'halakhic Earth' would be defined as anywhere that one is still subject to the Earth's gravitational field. Actually reading the article, however, implies that either 1. as soon as something is not touching Earth, it is no longer governed by its halachos (which, as you point out, is ridiculous) or 2. anything that has left Earth would still be Earth-bound material until it touches the moon, at which point "halakhic Earth" status gives way to "halakhic moon" status (maybe you could make kiddush levana upon seeing a person who walked on the moon, until he walks upon Earth...)

Honestly, though, R. Firrer's opinion is quoted by R. J. David Bliech as being 'extreme', and I'm sure that no posek would agree to his "radical point of view", including R. Goren, who R. Firrer quotes as saying that time bound commandments are not applicable outside of earth, where there is no measurable time.

That being said, regarding serious discussion of the "halakhic Earth" (or "hashkafic Earth"), both R. Soloveitchik and R. Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes L'Yaakov Beraishis 1:1, 5761 edition) have been reported as saying that it includes any reachable part of the physical universe. R. Schachter tells the story that some students came to R. Soloveitchik who were very bothered by the fact that someone could leave Earth and touch the moon, due to the pasuk השמים שמים לה' והארץ נתן לבני אדם - the Heavens belong to Hashem. As this story is quoted in Beis Yitzchak 5754 (translated here), R. Soloveitchik responded

The term "heavens" can be explained in two ways — as something high and/or distant, as it says "It is not in the heavens" (Deut. 30:12), according to which the moon is considered a part of the "heavens." Alternatively, the term can be defined as including everything that is beyond human understanding, including the entire spiritual realm. According to this second understanding, the stars and most distant galaxies — and certainly the moon — are considered part of "earth." Therefore, [according to this latter interpretation,] there is no contradiction between traveling in space or scientific studies of the cosmos and the verse "The heavens are for the Lord and the land for mankind."

The way that I heard this story from R. Schachter, he connected it to the words of the Ramban on the first pasuk of the Torah, who says that "שמים" in the Torah refers to heavenly beings, but anything that is physical, including everything that is discussed in detail in the first chapter of Beraishis, is included in ארץ. This is what R. Kamenetsky is said to have believed as well:

We learn from these words of the Ramban [on Gen. 1:1], and in particular from what he concluded in the continuation of his words on verse 8, that everything that exists in the creation in the entire world, including the sun, the moon and all the heavenly hosts, are not called "heavens." The "heavens" are only things that have no physical bodies, such as angels, hayos and the merkavah. However, anything that has a physical body is included in the name "earth" in verse 1 (translated here too)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.