Read this article in Yiddish
Every Passover Seder night at my house, we – as well as many other Jewish families across the country – encounter the same scenario.
According to Jewish law, the Seder can’t begin until the start of the new day, which is roughly an hour after sunset. Because Passover always falls out after we’ve switched to daylight saving time, it means the Seder doesn’t begin till an hour later than if it would, were we still in standard time. This year, that will be 7:57 p.m. here in New York.
For many of us conducting the Seder with young children, this poses a dilemma. We want them to experience the Seder night – to ask di fir kashes [the four questions]; to help act out each of the four sons – the smart one, the wicked one, the simple one and the one who doesn’t even know what to ask – and to dramatize the ten plagues with fanciful props.
But for the children at our table, who are all under five years old, 7:57 is way past their bath- and bedtime. Even if we were to get them bathed and into pajamas by that time, they wouldn’t last past the first cup of grape juice.
But observant Jews in Georgia may be able to start their Seders an hour earlier, if a bill that eliminates daylight saving time passes in the state’s House of Representatives. It’s already passed in the state senate, 46-7, with strong support from both parties, and the state house has until midnight on March 31 to pass it.
As my colleague, Benyamin Cohen, wrote in a report about the bill, eliminating daylight saving time would mean earlier sunrises and earlier sunsets. That translates into it being light outside when walking to services on a winter Saturday morning, summer Shabbats that don’t stretch past 9 p.m. and the ability to start the Passover Seder while young children are still wide awake.
If the House passes the bill and Gov. Brian Kemp signs it into law, Georgia would – starting with the next time change – join Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which all operate on what’s known as “standard time” year-round.
This got me to thinking: why doesn’t the New York State legislature introduce a bill that puts an end to daylight saving time here in New York, the state with the greatest number of Orthodox Jewish families in the country? Passover would be so much easier if we could start the Seders an hour earlier.
It’s not only about enabling our young kids to participate. It would also solve a problem we’ve had with guests who want to go home before midnight. At our Seders we not only read the entire Haggadah; we also sing traditional Yiddish Peysakh songs like Afn Nil (On the Nile River), sung here by Tova Ben-Zvi and Mu Asapru, Mu adabru, the way Theodore Bikel sings it.
Add to that the delicious festive meal, replete with the sharing of personal news and tidbits about our families and friends, and you’ve got a Seder that often goes till midnight. But if the Seder were to start at standard time, it would also end an hour earlier, allowing our guests to leave at 11.
And getting rid of daylight saving time would be a boon for us not just on Passover, but on every Shabbos during the summer. When we’re on daylight saving time, candle lighting is often around 8 p.m. and dinner doesn’t begin till 9. If we kept standard time, we could enjoy our Shabbos dinner an hour earlier and avoid the heartburn of going to bed after a late meal.
Some synagogues have actually been working around the problem of late summer Shabbos dinners by simply telling congregants to light Shabbos candles an hour before sunset. The problem with that is we sit down to the Friday night meal while the sun is still shining, which feels kind of weird. If it’s supposed to be a Friday night meal, I don’t want the rays of the setting sun to be streaming through the window while we’re reciting kiddush.
(While the rabbis allow people to start Shabbos early, the same does not apply to Jewish festivals like Passover.)
So a yasher koach to the Georgia state senate for passing the bill! May it pass in the house as well, may the New York legislature follow their example and hopefully, by next Passover, leshana habaa b’standard time!
Let’s dump daylight saving time so our young kids can enjoy the Seder