Sunday, October 23, 2016

Why does the Diaspora still keep Two Days of YomTov?

Question of the Week from Rabbi Aron Moss

Why on earth do we still keep two days of Yomtov outside of Israel? I know the history: in ancient times people didn't have calendars on their phones, because the calendar was not set in advance, but rather month by month. When witnesses saw the new moon they reported it to the rabbis in the Temple, and the rabbis would declare that a new month had begun. It would take a couple of weeks for the message to reach outlying communities, so they could never be sure of the correct date to celebrate the festivals. So the diaspora communities kept two days to be on the safe side.

That made sense back then, but for heavens sake, we have calendars today! Why do we still keep two days in the diaspora for every festival that is one day in Israel?

For me, this is one of the most ridiculous laws. It's like the World Jewish Council of Rabbis can't be bothered to overturn it or discuss it. Or perhaps they fear a backlash from Jewish bakers, butchers and grocers around the world who like having more Jewish festivals with more meals....

Can't we update this one already?


I remember I had a teacher who had little patience. If a student missed out on what he said, he got furious and thundered, "Why can't you listen the first time? I will not repeat myself."

This is not fair. Not everyone can grasp an idea all at once. There are some gifted individuals who are sharp enough to get it the first time. But many of us need to hear something twice before it sinks in. a good teacher should no this.

G-d is the greatest teacher, and time itself is His classroom. Every festival in the Jewish calendar is like a lesson G-d teaches to the world. On Pesach we learn about freedom, and G-d beams a light of freedom into the world. On Sukkos we study the meaning of true happiness, and G-d sends the gift of joy into our hearts. Each festival and its observances are the way we receive the lesson, the light and wisdom of the day.

When you live in the Holy Land, its very air makes you wise, it opens you up to spiritual wisdom. Like a gifted student, you get the lesson the first time. You need only celebrate one day of each festival, and its message hits home straight away.

In the diaspora, we just don't get it so fast. We need more time for the lesson to sink in, as the air here is not as spiritually refined as Israel air. And so we are given a second day, another chance to fully absorb the power of the festival and for the message to hit home.

Our sages prophesied that one day in the future, the holiness of Israel will cover the entire earth, and then we will all get it the first time. Until then, we in the diaspora can enjoy the extended holiness of an extra day.

Make sense? If not I am happy to repeat it...

Source: Likkutei Torah Shmini Atzeres 92c


Anonymous said...

OK, but it's not as though we keep two days for the minor festivals, like Purim, or add an extra day for Hanukah. And Israel does still keep two days for Rosh Hashana. Also Israelis who travel to the Diaspora to live for several months still only observe one day, in most cases. It can be very difficult and disruptive (not saying it's impossible though) to get two days off, if one works in non-Jewish employment, for three weeks running at this time of the year.


Anonymous said...

Purim and Chanukah are not biblical holidays, but historical ones. The laws pertaining to actual Torah have a much more serious meaning. Chazal knew what they were doing and saying and until Moshiach comes, we have to abide the mesorah!

LondonMale said...

I have heard that when Moshiach comes, people outside Israel will continue to observe two days for Yom Tov because of the relative difference in holiness between the land of Israel and the rest of the world. But of course, only way to know this will be to see what happens when Moshiach comes, may it be speedily in our times! A gutten kvittel.

Anonymous said...

LondonMale - Once Moshiach is here, eventually 'every' real Jew will be living in the Land of Israel!

Yakov Butterfield said...

The real question is; Why are there Jews living outside of Israel?