Does time continue to elapse while in hyperspace, or have you entered a dimension beyond time, and therefore not bound to stop one hour before Shabbos?
We’re going to examine the data surrounding hyperspace travel to answer the hypothetical question: Could our Hero’s Journey (Luke, Ben, Han, and the rest, in Star Wars:A New Hope) to Alderaan have occurred on an erev Shabbos? Let’s start by understanding that the Talmud takes issue with starting a long journey on Fridays. Here’s the original source:
אמר אייבו משום רבי אלעזר בר צדוק אל יהלך אדם בערבי שבתות יותר מג’ פרסאות
אמר רב כהנא לא אמרן אלא לביתיה אבל לאושפיזיה אמאי דנקיט סמיך
Aivu said in the name of Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok: A person should not walk on Shabbat eves more than a distance of three parasangs [parsaot]. Rather, he should reach the place where he will stay on Shabbat early enough to ensure that he will have meals prepared for Shabbat. Rav Kahana said: We said that restriction only with regard to a case where he is returning to his house. However, if he is going to an inn, he relies on the food that he took with him.
איכא דאמרי אמר רב כהנא לא נצרכא אלא אפי’ לביתיה אמר רב כהנא בדידי הוה עובדא ואפילו כסא דהרסנא לא אשכח:Talmud Sukkah 44b
Some say that Rav Kahana said: This restriction that one may not walk a distance of more than three parasangs on Shabbat eves was required even with regard to one traveling to his house, and all the more so with regard to one traveling to an inn, as he cannot assume that he will find food there. Rav Kahana said: There was an incident that happened with me where I traveled a distance to reach my home on Friday and I did not find even small fried fish [deharsena] to eat in the house.
Rashi notes the following about these rulings: the problem with long journeys is not having food ready for Shabbos, whether it is a journey concluding at ones home or at an inn. Either way; if there isn’t a proper meal waiting at one’s destination, then the Talmud is restricting a long journey that won’t permit sufficient time to prepare a proper meal in honor of Shabbos.
This rule is canonized in the Shulchon Arukh as follows:
אין הולכין בע”ש יותר מג’ פרסאות כדי שיגיע לביתו בעוד היום גדול ויוכל להכין צרכי סעודה לשבת בין שהולך לבית אחרים בין שהולך לביתווה”מ כשהוא ביישוב במקום שיוכל להכין צרכי שבת אבל אם במקום שהוא שם א”א לו להכין צרכי שבת או שאינו מקום יישוב בטוח מותר לילך אפי’ כמה פרסאות ואם שלח להודיעם שהוא הולך שם לשבת מותר לו לילך כמה פרסאות בכל גוונא
One may not travel more than 3 parasangs for a journey home unless there is ample time to prepare meals for Shabbos, regardless if the home is his own or some else’s home. This rule applies in residential areas where there is a reasonable assumption that one could prepare a meal for Shabbos. However, in lieu of such circumstances or in a rural environment, one may travel even further, and especially if he has informed someone to expect him, then extended travel is permitted in every case.Shulchon Arukh Orach Chayim 249:1
The Mishnah Berurah adds the following comments to the halacha quoted above:
א) יותר מג’ פרסאות – מתחלת היום והוא קרוב לשליש היום כפי מהלך אדם בינוני י’ פרסאות ביום ובנוסע בעגלה או רוכב על סוס דנוסע במהרה יוכל ליסע הרבה יותר מג’ פרסאות עד שליש היום ומהב”ח משמע להקל בנוסע בעגלה ליסע אפילו אחר חצות היום ובלבד שיעמוד לשבות בעוד היום גדול בכדי שיוכל להכין צרכי שבת:
This distance is based on the distance one regular person would travel in one third of daytime travel, normally 10 parasangs in a full day’s journey. Were one to travel via wagon or riding on a horse, which is faster travel, one could cover a greater distance in one-third of a day’s journey. [One Opinion] implies that there is a leniency to travel as far and as long as possible in order to reach a place that is completely prepared for a Shabbos visit
ב) לביתו – היינו למקום ששובת שם:
That is, the place where one will spend the duration of Shabbos
ג) שהולך לביתו – ואף שהוא מכוין שבביתו יהיה לו יותר עונג שבת מ”מ אסור שמא לא ידעו כלל מביאתו ולא הכינו בשבילו. ובמדינות אלו רוב בני אדם מכינים צרכי שבת בריוח ולכן אין נזהרין בזה כלל בין כשהולך לביתו או להתארח בבית אחרים [ממ”א בשם אגודה] ובהרבה אחרונים ראיתי שכתבו דמ”מ צריך ליזהר לכתחלה שלא ילך או יסע עד סמוך לערב מפני שכמה פעמים נכשלים עי”ז ובאים לידי חילול שבת כי בעל אושפיזא או אפילו בביתו כשבא סמוך לשבת מוסיפין לבשל בשבילו ומחללין שבת וגם כמה פעמים יארע דלא יגיע למלון ולביתו מבעוד יום עד שחשכה ממש וכמה חילול שבת יש בהוצאה והכנסה ויציאה מחוץ לתחום ושביתת בהמתו ולכן כל זה ישים האדם ללבו וימהר לשבות אפילו בכפר ולא יסיתנו היצר לומר עוד היום גדול והדרך טוב אך אם אירע שהלך עד חשיכה והיה בבה”ש בתוך תחום עיר מותר להלוך בתוכה כבסימן תי”ו וצריך לירד מעגלה וסוס עיין סימן רס”ו ושם יבואר אי”ה
Even though home sounds like a nice place to be for Shabbos, if nobody was expecting you to be there, then there may not be enough food for you to properly enjoy Shabbos. However, in places where they prepare food in abundance, it doesn’t matter where you go for Shabbos because you’ll always have a meal. Nonetheless, the concern isn’t only that one will have a proper meal. Everyone who travels the day before Shabbos should not delay their journey until right before its onset because this often leads to unintentional violation of Shabbos due to delays that keep you from your destination until after dark, and then there will be many violations due to carrying belongings and exiting the Sabbath boundaries, causing animals to work for you, [among other potential violations]. Best practice is to not believe that you have ample time, but instead pretend that there isn’t sufficient time, and err on the side of caution. Worst case scenario, as long as you are in the residential area of your final Shabbos resting place, you may continue on to that home even after sunsetCommentary of Mishnah Berurah to SA OC 249:1, cited above
For our purposes, we will concede the Mishnah Berurah’s conclusion, namely, that the law to not travel on erev Shabbos is to make sure 1. that you have a nice Shabbos with pleasant meals and 2. that you don’t violate it.
Having established a canon halacha, let’s take a look at hyperspace travel and how hyperdrive functions in the canon Star Wars universe.
Hyperdrives allow starships to travel faster than the speed of light, crossing space through the alternate dimension of hyperspace. Large objects in normal space cast “mass shadows” in hyperspace, so hyperspace jumps must be precisely calculated to avoid collisions.https://www.starwars.com/databank/hyperdrive
Patrick Johnson wrote a book about the physics of Star Wars, and felt that the ideas were applicable to our own reality. In an excerpt on Quora, the author explains how string theory could apply to hyperspace, essentially opening up “wormholes” across the fabric of space and allowing for travel faster than the very linear speed of light. Once someone would enter the “wormhole”, they would traverse the galaxy at different dimension than our regular, somewhat linear, three dimensions. Using the Ellis wormhole theory, one could leave Tatooine for Alderaan (as in the original Star Wars: A New Hope) on erev Shabbos without communicating to Bail Organa know that he should be looking forward to spending Shabbos with some old friends and new ones, because barely any time would pass from boarding the Millennium Falcon (abbreviated hereon as MF), entering hyperspace and arriving in Alderaan.
However, other theories point to a more linear, beyond light speed hyperdrive engine being used on the MF. If that were true, then we’d have to have an idea about how fast it would travel in order to reach Alderaan on a comfortable erev Shabbos voyage. Apparently, someone had thought about how long the trip from Tatooine to Alderaan would have been. The author’s calculation was about 50,000 light years from Tatooine (in Hutt Space in the Outer Rim) to Alderaan (Core World). Using one fact from the movie, where Han Solo says that the MF moves at a rate “one half past light speed”, would have made the journey less and less possible if took less than one day. While I appreciate the work this author has contributed to the study of hyperspace, he did not look into the matter sufficiently.. The author would have realized that Han Solo was referring not to his speed per se, but the class of engine he used to jump to hyperspace.
According to Star Wars canon, the jump only took a few hours. The cantina events at Mos Eisley would have occurred earlier in the day in order for everyone to have reached Alderaan before Shabbos, which would have been under total halachic saction because the journey would have been short over hyperspace, and the MF had the fastest hyperdrive engine class ever produced. From the new canon novelization of A New Hope, it states:
Meanwhile, the old man had been lecturing Luke from the moment the ship had settled into hyperspace. They, Chewie, and the droids had migrated from the cockpit to the central hold area. Han told himself he was only hanging around nearby to make sure they didn’t get any ideas about throwing their lightsabers around.Star Wars: A New Hope
Luke arched his back, and the pose was so strange Han couldn’t keep his chuckle in. The kid must have heard it because he scowled and switched the lightsaber off. “Oh, this is pointless. What can I really learn on a ship in a few hours?”
Exactly. Han dropped his mask back down over his face and returned to the circuitry in front of him.
“I do not expect you to master everything in mere minutes, and you should not expect that of yourself, either. That is a path to frustration, anger—and both are dangerous.”
We can see that the new canon has answered the hyperspace question. This will allow us to answer our question about hyperspace travel on erev Shabbos: The distance from Tatooine to Alderaan becomes immaterial when you consider the speed at which the MF is able to transport them across the galaxy. Assuming the “few hours” of travel is equivalent to the “one-third day’s” travel, it’s completely feasible for our heroes to have left for Alderaan without letting anyone know they were coming (smart move when you’re trying to hide from the Imperial Star Destroyers), because, as Han himself says, it’s not like Alderaan was going anywhere…
Now the burning question of what were our heroes to do when arriving to the system and not finding Alderaan (spoilers ahead?)? That will be left for another time…