With air travel as unpredictable as it is, I’m usually pretty nervous about booking a flight on Friday.
The Talmud doesn’t have much to say about air travel, but today’s daf does offer some guidance as to the factors that might influence your decision about whether to travel on the eve of Shabbat:
Aivu said in the name of Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok: A person should not walk on Shabbat eves more than three parasangs.
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.
Rabbi Elazar sets a Friday travel limit of three parasangs (about ten miles) to ensure a safe arrival prior to the onset of Shabbat. Rav Kahana limits this teaching to cases where the traveler is heading home and will need time to prepare for Shabbat after they arrive. But if an inn is the destination — a place that provides lodging but no food — it’s OK to depend upon the provisions you have with you. In other words, since there is no Shabbat cooking to be done upon arrival, the three-parasang limit doesn’t apply.
Rav Kahana’s opinion makes Friday travel more of a possibility, taking into account not just the distance you have to travel but what you need to do when you arrive. But before booking that Friday flight, it’s important to know that some remember Rav Kahana’s teaching differently:
The 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.
In this reading, it’s even more important to leave plenty of time to get to an inn on Friday night because there’s no guarantee of finding food there. But even if home is the destination, one ought to be careful, as this personal experience of Rav Kahana attests.
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 to eat in the house.
My advice? Travel on Thursday if possible. But if you have to travel on Friday, follow Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok’s teaching: Only book flights on Friday whose flight times are shorter than the time it would take to walk ten miles. And, if you’re responsible for your own meals, consider bringing what you can in your carry-on.
Read all of Sukkah 44 on Sefaria.