Monday, November 2, 2009

Davening at Neitz is Sometimes Just WRONG

The early bird may get the worm, but the late worm gets to live!!! Being early doesn't always mean better. While it is certainly true that one who davens right at neitz (sunrise, more properly called haNeitz) is doing something noble, one who davens right as he sees the sun rising may actual be worse off than someone who slept late. This is especially true this time of the year!

No, I am not talking about the silliness of having atomic clocks at a neitz minyan. While it is true that by davening at the exact time of listed sunrise (no matter how precise to the location one has calculated it for) is the most statistically improbable time for actual visible sunrise (based on barometric pressure and other weather disturbances), that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about someone who goes out and davens at the first visible sign of sunrise; the way it was done back in the times of the Gemara.

There is a phenomenon known as the Novaya Zemlya effect. Back in 1596 Willem Barentsz, the famous explorer, was sailing through the Arctic in search of a northeast passage. His unlucky crew got stuck in Novaya Zemlya (just north of Siberia), and had to stay there through the winter. As is the case above the Arctic Circle, the sun does not rise for a portion of the winter. The eager crew waited for sunrise and were anxious to be able to leave this frozen tundra.

Then in January of 1597 one of the crewmembers, Gerrit de Veer saw the sun peaking above the horizon. The fantastic thing about this was that this was TWO WEEKS before it was supposed to happen. Gerrit was the first person to record in writing what has now become known as the Novaya Zemlya effect.

The basic concept is that when there is a duration of warm weather immediately after a cold spell a mirage can appear on the horizon. This happens most often in spring and fall as the temperatures fluctuate a lot. The warm air creates a current near the horizon. It can be focussed right near the spot where the sun will rise (that is a warmer area). This current then acts as a lens and refracts the image of the sun from below the horizon to above it. Meaning, the sun looks like it rose even though it is really below the horizon. This sunrise often looks a little distorted, but someone with no knowledge of the effect would just think he was seeing a sunrise in a hazy patch in the sky.

While it seems clear that we take into account weather disturbances when calculating neitz, these are only the ones that are realtively small. Things like small weather disturbances and barometric pressure can affect visible sunrise and it seems that in the times of teh Gemara they based sunrise on visiblity. However, these only change sunrise by small amounts. The Novaya Zemlya effect can be very pronounced! So, before you get upset that you woke up early for nothing, make sure you know the difference between true and fake sunrise!!!

Another VERY VERY important fact that de Veer recorded. In fact, this one can even be life threatening!!! Eating polar bear livers can cause hypervitaminosis and can be fatal!!!


Brian Tkatch said...

And because they didn't have plumbing in the times of the gemara, toilets are just plain wrong too?! There is much literature on davening as closer to netz as possible.

BTW, the term is netz or netz hachama. "hanetz hachama" is a double-heh, which works, but is completely unnecessary.

You may want to learn the material before you go blabbering your personal biases for all to see.

Ari S. said...


To respond to your two points:

1) There is an EXTREMELY OBVIOUS difference between the lack of indoor plumbing and that of atomic clocks. The times desginated for prayer are rabbinic in nature, not biblical. When they constructed these times they did so based on the technology available to the masses of their time. There is significant precedent to the concept that things structured by Chazal retain their original form even if subsequently the reasons have changed. A great example of this is Hilchos Kesamim, specifically with regard to the size. Just like it would be unreasonable to reduce the shiur of a kesem in today's world, I would contend it is not necessary to use an atomic clock. Chazal did not structure any such matter with regards to indoor plumbing.

2) The phrase heineitz hachamah is the way it is expressed IN THE MISHNA ITSELF (Berachos ch. 1 Mishna 2)!!!!!!! Many assume it is not based on a heh meaning "the", rather, it is actually based on the phraseology in the verse from Shir Hashirim, "Heneitzu Harimonim." If you would look up a Shulchan Aruch O.C. 58:1 you would see that the Mechaber uses this phrases and the reference to Shir Hashirim is stated IN THE TEXT ITSELF!!!!! So, following in the footsteps of Shlomo Hamelech, as expressed in Tanach, and the Mishna upon which this entire discussion is based, I used the phrase heineitz.

"You may want to learn the material before you go ..."

Ari S. said...

One other point that I should have mentioned in the last comment, you mention there is much literature indicating the necessity to daven as close to heineitz as possible. If you would read the post itself you would notice that I mention that by using an atomic clock you actually reduce your chance of davening at actual sunrise.

Brian Tkatch said...

"Heneitzu"'s shoresh is netz (Sefer Shoroshim). The use is stylistic. The Mishnah and subsequently the Shulchan Aruch pay homage to the source. Nonetheless, the word is netz. To call haneitz the "proper" term is incorrect. It is not. The correct term is "netz hachama". The extra heh is stylistic.

As for the atomic clock. That is incorrect. Your argument is: Since noone factors in atmoshperic conditions which (may) make netz later, using an atomic clock will make person daven at the incorrect time.

The problems are, the therefore is incorrect, and your predicate is not true.

Even if noone factored in atmospheric conditions, the atomic clock is not incorrect, the part about not factoring it in is incorrect.

Regardless, the closer the person is to the equator, the less those atmospheric conditions matter. So, for example, in Eretz Yisroel, it probably doesn't matter. In America, where it can be a good few seconds off (when the temperature is not 69f) there are people who do indeed factor it in. I know of one person in town here who checks the weather each morning, and uses a chart to know the amount of seconds to add on.

IMNSHO, further, assuming the amount off is seven seconds, most of shemoneh esreh is davened after netz. Further, if the introductory pasuk is said slowly, it pretty much obviates the issue.

Ari S. said...

Tanaitic Hebrew often has word forms that do not conform to the original biblical Hebrew. As any linguist will tell you, language evolves and, as such, the word's proper form will become the latter one and not the former. I used the word as it is in the primary sources; Mishna, Talmud, Rishonim and Acharonim. To suggest, as you did that this is not the preferred method is as ludicrous as stating that the proper word is harama and not Terumah because based on biblical grammar it should be harama even though the Mishna and subsequent sources refer to it as terumah. I fully recognize that in today's world the vast majority refer to it as netz (hence the usage of the word neitz in the text and heineitz only mentioned parenthetically). The purpose of that parenthetical phrase was to show the reader the proper way this term is used in halachic literature.

With regards to your second issue. I am aware that many try to pray as close to neitz as possible. And even after seeing your admittedly haughty opinion, I continue to feel that the usage of atomic clocks is silly for these purposes. I, as did the Chazon Ish, feel that this zman was created by Chazal with the accuracy available to the masses at their time. It is also clear from Talmudic sources that it is the beginning of shemonah esrei that is to be done at netz, so your concession that it can be off but at least you will have most of shemona esrei does not hold water. Factoring in conditions may be a way to increase, what I feel to be, unnecessary accuracy, but since it is completely impossible even nowadays to be exact you will not have he desired results and, as I maintained in the post, by using an atomic clock you have decreased the probability of bein exact.

Ari S. said...


I also wanted to mention in the previous comments that there is no need to utilize such strong rhetoric (i.e. "blabbering your personal biases ..., etc.). I welcome questions and criticisms and this blog is maintained in a very good natured fashion. I am not opposed in any way to strong questions with regard to the content of the posts, nor am I against vigorous debate. In fact, I encourage such debate and searching for the truth of the Torah. My responses to you were uncharasterically strong in nature due to the tone set forth in your original comment. I am sure that if the two of us were to meet in person we could enjoy a lively discussion over these topics over coffee and both of us would have a wonderful time. I apologize if something in the original post hit a nerve, that was not my intent. Looking forward to further amicable discussions with you.


Brian Tkatch said...

I used strong terms because of your insulting words: ""the silliness of having atomic clocks at a neitz minyan." and the incorrect sidenote "(sunrise, more properly called haNeitz)", and the possible apikorsus of your northern hemispheric comment elsewhere.

Normally, i leave blogs alone, like a barking dog. But as i explained to a friend, you know enough to be dangerous. Hence, i wanted to leave a comment for anyone else stumbling on your blog
to guard themselves against your comments.

Shtikler said...

I believe the ה is a ה of שימוש (certainly not a ה הידיעה). And I don't know what is meant by "stylistic" but I find it hard to believe the משנה and שולחן ערוך would pay homage to that פסוק which has nothing to do with sunrise. Nevertheless, I have posted at our sister-blog, Dikdukian and we can let the experts decide there.

Ari S. said...

It is a shame you feel that way. In that case, I refer the reader to the content of my earlier comments. Also, by ramping up the rhetoric and misappropriating harsh terms, such as apikorsus, you actually weaken your argument.

Anonymous said...

I think that the more machlokes you have "lshem shomayim", in this extremely important "yaharog v'al yaavor" issue, the better Jews you both will become. C'mon lets go. Let the slurs continue!!! Who cares about V'ahavta Lreyacha Kamocha!! This is MUCH more important!!!!

Ari S. said...


Thank you. As seen above I have been tying get the conversation focused on content and go away from baseless slurs. Your help is much appreciated.

Ari S. said...

To clarify, I enjoy vigorous debate (as my chavrusos will attest to), but as I mentioned above am not into the harsh attacks. Unfortunately, I myself used stronger language than I normally do because I was, quite honestly, taken aback by the attacks on me. Brian, if offended then I certainly apologize and the offer to schmooze over coffee still is on the table. Also to clarify, when I stated that I refer the reader to the content of my comments I meant content as opposed to any rhetoric. I take the charge of apikorsus seriously and wanted to make sure the reader would see what I was talking about and make an objective opinion and not think poorly of me just because a charge was made. Thank you again.

Yitzchak S. said...

Ari S.,

I am with you: the word is Haneitz, as confirmed on the Dikdukian blog.

Also, I have always questioned the value of posting sunrise times to the second at Hashkama minyanim. Considering the many factors that can change the actual time of visual sunrise, there is no way our calculations can be accurate to the nearest second. At best the posted times should be rounded up to the nearest minute (as does on their monthly calendars.). Otherwise, you take the chance of davening too early, which is probably worse than davening a little late.

Brian Tkatch said...

"Considering the many factors that can change the actual time of visual sunrise, there is no way our calculations can be accurate to the nearest second."

The three major contributing factors are temperature, air pressure, and relative humidity, which are readily available, and the affects on apparent sunrise are calculable.

Please, say you don't know, or say you don't see people taking it into account. But saying, "there is no way" is not only incorrect, it is insulting to those of us who do take these factors into account, or those of us who append 45 seconds to netz (in the summer) to take care of those affects.

Ari S. said...

Yitzchak S.,

Thank you. According to the NOAA website, it is pretty much impossible to give an exact moment for sunrise in advance. Due to the various factors, one would need to continuously recalculate throughout davening in order to have 100% accuracy. As we all know, using a weather forecast is not perfect because weather forecasts are far from truly accurate. I admire the effort and concern that people take to try their hardest, I just, respectfully, question the necessity. I will say, though, that one is yotzei shacharis even if he davens just prior to sunrise. In fact, if the accuracy is not 100% necessary then by davening so close to it he may actually be yotzei davening at haneitz.