shuki-reich-2Observing Yom Tov Sheni in Eretz Yisrael

Rabbi Shuki Reich
Rosh Kollel, Joseph and Gwendolyn Straus Rabbinical Seminary
Head, Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership

Will he even assault the queen in my own presence in the house?[1]

The observance of a second day of a holiday is a custom practiced by the people residing outside of Israel.  The primary reasons for this practice are as follows: 

It is a punishment – This is the attitude expressed in the Yerushalmi to Eiruvin (3:8).  Rabbi Abin explained a versein the name of Rabbi Hiyya, who said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan, “‘My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept.’[2] What caused me to observe two days of the holiday in Syria?  Because I did not observe one day while in Israel.  I would have thought that I would at least receive a reward for observing two days, but I only receive a reward for one day.”

There is a similar idea in the Eliyahu Rabba[3], “Knesset Yisrael said to The Holy One Blessed Be He, ‘When I lived on my land I observed each holiday for one day and it was good.  Now I observe one day and a second day and neither is good.’”

It is a custom – This actually is the statement of the Gemara in Beitza, page 4b.  “Now that we know how to determine the month, why do we observe two days?  Because they sent from there: ‘Be careful regarding the custom of your ancestors that you possess.  There may be a time when decrees against the religion will be made and you may err.’”

It is a formal enactment – This is in accordance with the words of the Rambam in Hilchot Kiddush Hachodesh (5:8).  He writes, “In this era when there is no Sanhedrin there and the court of Eretz Yisrael determines on the basis of this calculation it would be proper that in all locations only one day of the holiday should be observed, even in the distant places of the Diaspora, as do the residents of Eretz Yisrael, since everyone relies upon and determines based on the same calculation.  However it is an enactment of the Sages that they should be careful regarding the custom of their ancestors that they possess.

There is no doubt that there are sources that allude to the second day of the holiday as being based on actual law of the Torah from time immemorial.  For example, the book Asarah Ma’amarim, in the section Ma’amar Chikur Hadin (2:15) the author writes, “Rather it is certain that since the Torah was given outside the Land of Israel, Hashem who desires to provide opportunities for us to show our righteousness[4], to grant us our share in His Torah, so the Divine Will agreed to celebrate, Himself and in His glory, the second day of the holiday celebrated in the Diaspora, which Moshe Rabbeinu added on his own…”  Then there are the words of the Gaon quoted in the anthology Teshuvot Hagaonim,[5] “Rabbeinu Sadya z”l said in his commentary that there is no doubt from the outset.  Rather the Holy One Blessed is He commanded His servant Moshe and he told Israel that in the Land they will observe one day and outside the Land two days…”  In the words of the Gaon himself this is nothing more that “a reed with which he dismissed heretics…”  They are nothing more than a mere sermon.

The custom to observe the second day of the holiday in Eretz Yisrael was already written about by Rav Yosef Karo[6] as follows:  “And one who comes from the Diaspora to Eretz Yisrael and his intention is to return is included in the category of the people of the Diaspora.  It is an every-day matter in every year that people come from the Diaspora to the land and celebrate the second Diaspora day in accordance with its enactments and laws.”  This does not reflect the ancient custom of Eretz Yisrael. 

This has been written about very clearly in the responsa Chaim Sha’al[7]: “According to what we have learned from the elders of our generation, the rabbis of Jerusalem, may it be rebuilt and re-established, going back several generations; all of these rabbis who signed the cited response, or the majority of them, were born in the Diaspora and came in their old age to dwell in honor in the Land and they did not serve the holy rabbis of the Land of Israel while still alive.  And because of the crises the surviving remnant of the sages and rabbis of the holy city Jerusalem may it be rebuilt and re-established are scattered to outlying cities.  This is the situation which allowed the authors of the cited responsa to write what they wrote.  However, had they known the truth, words of truth, the custom of the great rabbis of the Holy Land, every generation and its wise men from time immemorial, they would have not been angered, they would have placed their document aside and retracted their opinion.  Look and see the words of our master Rabbi Moshe Hagiz in his responsa halachot Ketanot[8]… we have heard testimony that the great rabbi, his esteemed grandfather Harav Hamagen[9] and the great rabbis Maharash Azulai and Mahara Amigo and Maharash Garmizan and other rabbis ruled the law to be practiced is that a young man who is in Israel and is not subject to the will of others should observe only one day of the holiday just as the residents of Israel. 

This law is clear vis a vis unmarried people that they should not observe the second Diaspora day in Eretz Yisrael.

The Chacham Tzvi in his reponsa[10] concurred unambiguously with these clear words:

Question:  You asked about residents of the Diaspora who go up to Eretz Yisrael temporarily, how should they act on the Holidays; as residents of Eretz Yisrael or as residents of the Diaspora?

Answer: In my humble opinion it seems that they need to act with regard to the holidays as one of the permanent residents of Eretz Yisrael.  This is not related to the rule of adhering to the strict customs of one’s place of origin.[11]  This goes without saying in the matters of prayers, blessings and the reading from the Torah which are not inherently “strict customs” since if a person would choose to be “strict” and recite the blessing and prayers of the holidays in a time when it is not a holiday, this would be a sin on his part.  But it is even permitted for them to perform work.  This is because if all the people of the place of their origin were to be here permanently it is obvious that it would be forbidden for them to observe more than one day because of bal tosif.[12] It is known that one who sleeps in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret is punished by flogging and similarly on Pesach and Shavuot one who observes one additional day of holiday beyond the requirement of the mitzva has violated bal tosif.  They did not say, “we place upon him the strict customs of the place from which he left,” except in a situation where the people who departed from their place of origin would be permitted to practice their strict custom in a new location where the residents are lenient; even if these people would settle in the new location permanently.  But in a matter where the residents of the “place of strictness” were to come to “the place of leniency” and reside there permanently, and in this matter would be forbidden to practice their strict custom[13], then the rule[14] does not hold.  And even though “they sent from there: ‘Be careful regarding the custom of your ancestors that you possess.  There may be a time when decrees against the religion will be made and you may err,’ “this error itself is only relevant when they are in their location in the Diaspora.  But when they are in the Land of Israel it is not relevant.  And since it is forbidden to add one day to the mitzva and the residents of Eretz Yisrael are not able to be strict and add one day more than is written in the Torah, even those who come from the Diaspora are forbidden to observe the second Diaspora day all the time that they are in Eretz Yisrael, even temporarily, since the location is the reason for the custom and this is not included in the rule of ‘the strict custom of the place of origin…’”

If this is so, visitors to Eretz Yisrael must also not be lenient in a matter which leads them astray, to violate actual positive commandments and actual prohibitions of the Torah.


[1] This passage is from Esther 7:8.  See Pesachim page 100a where the phrase is used to connote displeasure towards someone who practices an inappropriate custom.
[2] Shir Hashirim 1:6
[3] Parsha 28
[4] See Yeshaya 42:41
[5] Siman 1 in the Mussafia-Lik edition
[6]In his responsa work, Avkat Rochel, siman 26
[7] Vol. 1, siman 55
[8] Vol. 1, siman 4
[9] This is the appellation of Rav Moshe Galante zt”l
[10] Siman 167
[11] See Pesachim page 50a
[12] This is the prohibition of adding to the commandments of the Torah.  See Devarim, 4:2.
[13] Translator’s note:  I tried to be literal and faithful to the original text in my translation, but I realize that for someone not acquainted with Rabbinic writing it seems confusing.  So, I will paraphrase the Chacham Tzvi: As a matter of rule, a person who lives in a location where people             practice a strict custom (e.g. waiting six hours between eating meat and                dairy foods) and travels temporarily to a place where people do not have this custom (e.g. to a place where people only wait three hours) must observe the strict custom of his place of origin.  This is a rule stated in the Gemara.  What Chacham Tzvi says is that we must distinguish           between customs that are place-dependent and customs that are not place-dependent. For example, the length of time that a person waits between meat and dairy foods can be observed with equal halachic/logical validity in New York as well as in London.  However, the custom of observing a second day is totally place-dependent.  The custom of observing a second day originated out of a need based on geographical distance from the Land of Israel, and it would make no Halachic sense to transfer this custom to the Land of Israel.
[14] The ‘rule” being one must observe his strict custom even if he moves to a place where the practice is to be lenient.

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