Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyot

This holiday, many visitors to Israel are preparing to keep 2 days of Yom Tov, in contrast to the Israelis around them. And many Israelis visiting or even living abroad are planning only one day of Yom Tov.

Here's what I don't understand. If keeping the minhag of your home country is because of minhag avoteinu b'yadenu, then the current practice makes no sense.

The reason that the Jews in Bavel (Babylonia) kept 2 days was because they didn’t know when Rosh Chodesh of that month really was, since that time was set by the sighting of the new moon in Jerusalem. Even with the signal fires, the messages wouldn’t always go through, sometimes because of natural occurrences, sometimes because of Shomronim (Samaritans) deliberately lighting false fires to confuse the dates.

Well, why didn’t they just send a messenger? Well, obviously, a messenger couldn’t make the trip on time. If he could, there would be no need for the much speedier signal fire system.

So what about a traveler who lived in Jerusalem but was spending Sukkot in Bavel? Could he travel any faster than the messenger could have? Obviously not. So to spend Sukkot in Bavel, he would have to have departed Jerusalem well before Rosh Chodesh Tishrei. So how would he have had any idea when Rosh Chodesh was declared, any better than those who lived in Bavel year round? No way at all! So he would have had to keep the same 2 days of yom tov that everyone else did there, despite of that fact that most of the time he lived in Eretz Yisrael!

Today we have a set calendar. Even if we didn’t, we have instantaneous communication with Eretz Yisrael. We could get word immediately of the time of the molad (new moon) in Jerusalem. But we commemorate the way it was done in ancient times by keeping 2 days of Yom Tov outside of Eretz Yisrael because of Minhag Avoteinu B'Yadenu.

Well, if we’re keeping it the way it was done then, what sense does it make for someone who just happens to live in Eretz Yisrael to keep one day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora? His corresponding traveling ancestor wouldn’t have been able to do so. How is it consistent in any way for him to keep one day while all around him the other Jews are keeping two?

And once we establish that, the converse must follow – a Diaspora Jew should keep only one day in Israel. Otherwise the system has no consistency.

I'm not trying to mock the minhag, I'm just genuinely trying to understand. So how is the minhag of keeping 2 days in E"Y following Minhag Avoteinu?


  1. Someone visiting EY doesn't just get some get out of jail free card and get to do one day just because he is in EY, he keeps the 2 days to remind himself that he is still in galus. He would need to actually make aliyah to do the one day. Just passing through doesn't make his obligation for a second day go away because HE is a galus Jew. There are many sources that talk about that even though we have a fixed calendar (and we have for a LONG time) that the second day in galus is a way to REMIND ourselves that we are in galus. It makes yontif harder. As far as a EY Jew in diaspora there are in fact opinions that he must still keep two days. There are many variations on this. Some will keep two days, but when davening will daven the weekday amidah. Some will keep yontif publicly but do melacha in private. Some will break yontif d'rabbanan.

    1. That's a nice drash, but it's not the halachic reasoning. By the logic of minhag avoteinu b'yadeinu, we should be doing minhag hamakom. If you're in Israel, you do one day, if you;re in CHU"L, you do 2, irrespective of where you came from.

    2. No you don't do minhag hamakom. If I happen to visit a Chasidish shul I don't start davening nusach sefard.
      Also I could be wrong, but I believe that Chabad "holds" like you do: that one visiting EY does one day.

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    4. That's not analogous to the case here. If someone is going to not do the mitzvah of putting on tefillin this Friday in E"Y, there had very well be some darn good halachic reasoning, not just a nice dvar torah that we need to feel golus.

      And yes, I think Chabad holds that way, but the most widespread opinion in Orthodoxy today is the "do like where you came from" view.