Vasikin is When?

The sundial on the Zoharei Chama Synagogue as it appears on a 2014 Israeli stamp.

The KosherJava site now has a new vasikin calendar generator tool. This allows vasikin minyanim to generate customized vasikin charts. Offsets for various pre-sunrise davening points can be set. There are separate weekday, Shabbos, Yom Tov and Rosh Hashana / Yom Kippur offsets for each davening point. The format of the charts is Excel, but it is optimized for printing eye pleasing charts.
I would like to thank Howard Reichman who requested a vasikin calendar for the Los Angeles LINK Kollel vasikin minyan that ended up with the development of this zmanim tool. Howard graciously funded the next 7 months of hosting for KosherJava.com.

Tefila Rules Added to KosherJava Zmanim Library

Kosel Picture 1932
Davening at the Kosel. This picture was taken by my grandfather Sidney (Nesanel) Siegfried on Aug 1, 1932 כ״ח תמוז תרצ״ב. This article was posted exactly 90 years to the day (Gregorian date) after the picture was taken.
The new TefilaRules class has been added to the KosherJava Zmanim Library. This will be included in the upcoming v2.4.0 release. The TefilaRules class was added in an effort to help zmanim calendar authors who sometimes require knowing if תחנון tachanun is recited on a specific day in order to set tefila times (such as mincha starting X minutes before shkiah, and a few minutes later if tachanun is not recited). It is also useful for siddur app creators. With many different minhagim (mostly chasidishe) about when tachanun is recited, the class currently supports 12 different options that can allow setting the rules for a majority of minhagim.
Yahrzeits such as 7 Adar, (Moshe Rabbeinu’s yahrzeit) or holidays celebrated by specific communities such as Purim Mezhbizh (Medzhybizh) celebrated on 11 Teves or Purim Saragossa celebrated on the 17th of Shevat (the Wikipedia date seems to be in error), are not (and likely never will be) supported by this class.
Other tefila related rules such as the existing Mashiv Haruach etc. rules were moved over from the JewishCalendar class to this new class where they have a more natural fit. The methods that were migrated over, were deprecated in the JewishCalendar class and will be removed in v3.0.0.

Key Methods in the TefilaRules Class

The following are the key methods in the new TefilaRules class.

Sample Code

TefilaRules tr = new TefilaRules();
JewishCalendar jCal = new JewishCalendar();
HebrewDateFormatter hdf = new HebrewDateFormatter();
hdf.setHebrewFormat(true); // Hebrew formatting
jCal.setJewishDate(5783, JewishDate.TISHREI, 1); // Rosh Hashana
System.out.println(hdf.format(jCal) + " - Is tachanun recited: " + tr.isTachanunRecitedShacharis(jCal));
jCal.setJewishDate(5729, JewishDate.SHEVAT, 21);
System.out.println(hdf.format(jCal) + " - is mashiv haruch recited: " + tr.isMashivHaruachRecited(jCal));
jCal.setJewishDate(5783, JewishDate.ADAR, 17);
System.out.println(hdf.format(jCal) + " - Is tachanun recited: " + tr.isTachanunRecitedShacharis(jCal));
tr.setTachanunRecitedWeekOfPurim(false); //default is true
System.out.println(hdf.format(jCal) + " - Is tachanun recited: " + tr.isTachanunRecitedShacharis(jCal));

Output:

א׳ תשרי תשפ״ג - Is tachanun recited: false
כ״א שבט תשכ״ט - is mashiv haruch recited: true
י״ז אדר תשפ״ג - Is tachanun recited: true
י״ז אדר תשפ״ג - Is tachanun recited: false

Zmanim Map 3.5 adds Date and Algorithm Selection

Vintage Map with CompassThe Zmanim Map was recently updated to version 3.5. This new release adds a number of new features (listed below), and some technical changes over the previous Zmanim Map 3.0 release. With this release, the main focus of the map has shifted to the zmanim tabs. The direction to Yerushalayim tab with davening directions using both the rhumb line and great circle route to Yerushalayim is still present, but is no longer the default tab.
Zmanim Map v3.5

  • The date can now be selected by the user. In previous versions the date was always the current date on the user’s computer (though the map always supported passing the date on the URL using the undocumented date=1969-02-08 parameter). The current date is still the default, but the user can now change the date.
  • The calculation algorithm is now selectable. The Zmanim API supports both the USNO and NOAA algorithms. The map has always used the USNO algorithm, and this remains the default, but users can now use the NOAA algorithm.
  • The Zmanim tab is now the default tab. This reflects user feedback indicating that most people use the map for zmanim.
  • An About tab now provides a mini user guide and general information about the map.
  • The timezone look-up now uses the Google Time Zone API. Previously the map had been using the Geo Names web service. Since the elevation service also uses Google, the change to a single stable source will hopefully result in fewer outages.
  • The currently selected tab persists across location changes, so if you were viewing zmanim for a location, and changed the location to see how the zmanim were affected, you will no longer have to change tabs after each move.
  • Candle Lighting was added for Fridays. Erev Yom Tov will not show candle lighting at this point.
  • Performance improvements, minor enhancements, bug fixes and refactoring

Davening Direction from Alaska

As mentioned briefly in the “Why Some Zmanim Never Occur” post, the Lubavitch Jewish Center of Anchorage, Alaska has an interesting davening (prayer) direction question. As explained in the “Bearing to Yerushalayim and Zmanim Map” (additional technical information is available in the “Technical Information about the Bearing to Yerushalayim Map” post), there are two opinions about the proper direction to face during Tfilah (prayers). The Levush and others are of the opinion that one should face the rhumb line direction to Yerushalayim, while the Emunas Chachamim and others are of the opinion that one should face the initial bearing of the great circle route. Both of these opinions would clearly use the shortest rhumb or great circle lines to Yerushalayim. As an example, a person standing on Har Hazaisim (Mount of Olives) a mile east of Har Habayis would not daven east using the logic that continuing east for approximately 21,175 miles[1] would reach Yerushalayim via global circumnavigation, when Har Habayis is just one mile to the west. The shul in Anchorage is located at a longitude of -149.861°. The antipode of Har Habayis is on the -144.764851 longitude line – 180° of longitude from Har Habayis. People on different sides of this line will daven in opposite directions. The Anchorage shul with a longitude of -149.861° is 169.69 miles (273.1 km) west of the -144.764851° longitude line[2]. For this reason, the shul should daven not east, but west (255.78° from the north, or slightly south-west) if using the common rhumb line calculation, or north (355.67° from the north, or slightly west of north) if using the great circle calculation. Alaska is the only location in the world that has the -144.764851° longitude line cut across dry land, and is therefore the only non-ocean location to face this issue.


Notes:
1. Based on a rhumb line along the 31° 50′ circle of latitude as opposed to 24,901 miles at the equator) using a WGS84 Reference ellipsoid.
2. Rhumb line calculation as calculated by Movable Type using the same latitude for both points. The ellipsoidal shape of the earth is factored into this calculation. The short distance means that the 169.66 mi (272.98 km) great circle distance is very close to the rhumb line distance.

Zmanim Calendar Generator Can Now Output Fewer Zmanim

Sunrise Calendar>After numerous requests, the Zmanim Calendar Generator can now output a less extensive list of zmanim. While the “full” calendar option (the default) generates an Excel spreadsheet with 108 columns of zmanim, the “standard” output generates a spreadsheet with 15 columns containing the most commonly used zmanim. The exact list of what constitutes commonly used zmanim is likely to be tweaked over time. The spreadsheet was initially designed for developers as a sample of the various zmanim available in the API. Developers can compare the output of their zmanim using the API, or a ported version of the API to the spreadsheet for accuracy. Based on feedback, many people use it to generate shul calendars and wanted a less daunting list of zmanim.