Rabbi Eliezer MelamedThe writer is Head of Yeshivat Har Bracha and a prolific author on Jewish Law, whose works include the series on Jewish law "Pininei Halacha" and a popular weekly column "Revivim" in the Besheva newspaper. His books "The Laws of Prayer" "The Laws of Passover" and "Nation, Land, Army" are presently being translated into English. Other articles by Rabbi Melamed can be viewed at: www.yhb.org.il/1
A number of people have urged me to address the importance of regulating Jewish family values in law, warn of the dangers of approving ‘brit ha’zugiut’ (civil marriage) in law, and to propose an alternative solution. However, since I am not naïve enough to think the problem can be solved with the writing of one newspaper column, I will postpone discussing this important issue for the time being, and instead, inform my dear readers that, with the help of the Almighty, I have merited completing work on ‘Hilchot Mo’adim’ (Laws of the Festivals) in the series of Jewish Law books “Peninei Halacha”, and in the coming days, the book will be published.
Basis for the Decree of ‘Yom Tov Sheni shel Galyiot’
Since all Jews needed to know when the month was sanctified, and when the festivals would begin, immediately after ‘Beit Din’sanctified the month, messengers were sent out all over the Land of Israel to inform the people when the new month was sanctified (Rosh Hashana21b). However, the messengers were not able to reach all the Jews living outside of Israel before the festival, therefore, the early Prophets instituted that Jews living outside of Israel celebrate each festival for the duration of two days on account of ‘safek’ (doubt). This was the custom of the Prophets Yehezkel and Daniel, and possibly, already from the time of Yehoshua bin Nun, Jews living outside of the Land of Israel observed two days of ‘Yom Tov’ on account of the ‘safek’ (Responsa of Rav Hai Gaon, ‘Otzer Ha’Gaonim’, Yom Tov 4:2).
Even after the destruction of the Second Temple, the ‘Beit Din’ in the Land of Israel continued to sanctify months and intercalate the years. But over time the decrees of the Romans increased, and quite often, these decrees were aimed directly against the rabbis and the mitzvah of ‘kiddush ha’chodesh’ (sanctifying the new month), until towards the end of the Amoriac era, in the final days of Abaye and Rava, the religious authority of the time, Hillel II, came to the conclusion that it was impossible to continue ‘semichat chachamim’ (ordination of Rabbis), and ‘kiddush chodashim’ by the ‘Beit Din HaGadol’ (Sanhedrin) in Eretz Yisrael. And since he had the authority, since he had inherited the presidency of the ‘beit din’, one generation after the other, from Rebbe Yehudah HaNasi, he and his court calculated the months and years, and sanctified them till the end of time.
And thus, from the Jewish year 4119 from Creation (359 CE), the Jewish nation began to count the months according to calculations of the Hebrew calendar instituted by the Nasi Hillel II (Peninei Halacha: Z’manim 1, Chap.1, halakha 3, footnote 3).
The Ordinance of ‘Yom Tov Sheni’
As is true in the entire Torah, the halakhic aspect is compatible to the ‘ruchani’ (spiritual) one; since ‘kedusha’ (holiness) is more revealed in the Land of Israel, consequently the ‘chagim’(festivals) in Eretz Yisrael are able to be revealed in one day, as the Torah commands. However, those in ‘chutz la’aretz’ are farther away from the revelation of ‘kedusha’, and therefore, in order to absorb the spiritual “lights” of the ‘chagim’, two days are required, as the Rabbis ordained.
This is analogous to a flashlight: When held close to an object, its’ light is strong and concentrated in a small spot, but when the flashlight illuminates an object in the distance, its light is weakened, and dispersed over a large area. Thus, the “lights” of the ‘chagim’ are revealed in Eretz Yisrael in one, concentrated and focused day, while in ‘chutz la’aretz’ the “lights” of the festivals are weaker and spread out over two days (Derech Mitzvotecha, 114:1).
‘Yom Tov Sheni ’is equivalent to ‘Yom Tov Rishon’ in all its halakhot, for everything the rabbis instituted, is similar to what the Torah commanded. Thus, all the prohibitions that apply to Yom Tov Rishon, including rabbinical prohibitions, also apply to Yom Tov Sheni. Likewise,all the prayers on Yom Tov Sheni are the same as Yom Tov Rishon. Also, kiddush is recited over wine, and the blessing of Shehechiyanu is recited just like on Yom Tov Rishon’ (Shulchan Aruch 661:1). On Pesach, Leyl HaSeder is conducted twice – along with all its commandments and blessings. And although, seemingly, there is room to argue that since we observe ‘Yom Tov Sheni’ on account of safek, doubts,, regarding all the blessings, which are rabbinical ordinances, one should not recite the blessings, because we have a general rule safek berachot l’hakel (when we are not sure whether to make a beracha or not, we refrain form making it), nevertheless, the rabbis instructed to recite the blessings, because if blessings are not recited on Yom Tov Sheni as they are on Yom Tov Rishon, people will come to despise Yom Tov Sheni (Shabbat 23a).
The rabbis said that someone who leaves Eretz Yisrael but intends to return, is considered a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’ (literally, a ‘son of the Land of Israel’), and therefore, if one spends the festival outside of ‘techum Shabbat’ from a Jewish community (the distance one is allowed to walk on Shabbat and Yom Tov outside of the city limits, approximately 0.598 miles, or 3161.74 ft.), he does not observe ‘Yom Tov shel Galyiot’, and is permitted to do all ‘melakhot’ (thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat), on it. However, if one is in a Jewish community or within its ‘techum Shabbat’, he must act as they do, as not to appear inconsistent with their custom (Pesachim 50a; Shulchan Aruch 491:3).
Since primarily he is considered a ‘ben Eretz Yisrael’, he must make ‘havdala’ in private on ‘Motzei Yom Tov Rishon’, and on ‘Issru Chag’, must put on tefillin privately. And in order not to appear as if he contradicts their custom, he should be careful to wear clothing suitable for ‘Yom Tov’,and light candles in honor of ‘Yom Tov Sheni’, without reciting a blessing.
As for prayers, simply, it would be preferable to pray at home, alone, so as not to pray with them, but recite different prayers, for while they are reciting the ‘Yom Tov’ prayers, he must recite the prayers for ‘Chol HaMoed’, or the regular daily prayers (Orech Mishpat 129). If one can come for parts of the prayer service without other people realizing his prayers are different, it is preferable, so as to hear ‘kaddish’ and ‘kedusha’. And if possible, it is even better to pray the ‘Amidah’ with them, while concealing his own prayers.
On the second ‘Leyl Ha’Seder’ on ‘Yom Tov Sheni’ of Pesach, if a person has his own apartment, he does not have to participate in the ‘Seder’ of ‘b’nei chutz la’aretz’. If, however, he is a guest of ‘b’nei chutz la’aretz’,he should participate in the ‘Seder’ with them, but should not recite the‘birkot ha’mitzvah’; rather, he should answer ‘amen’ (Chayei Adam 103:4).
An Israeli Abroad for an Extended Period of Time
On the face of it, there are numerous viewpoints regarding this ‘din’ (law). However, when analyzing the roots of the various opinions, two fundamental positions are found: Some poskim say that a person who intends to reside abroad for a year, is considered a ‘ben ha’makom’, and must observe ‘Yom Tov Sheni’, for we have seen in the Talmud that after a year, a person is considered a ‘ben ha’makom’, and is obligated to pay all taxes (Baba Batra 7b). This is the instruction of many Rabbis of ‘b’nei chutz la’aretz’.
In practice, it seems that when a person goes abroad for a purpose that does not have a specified time period, he must act according to the first opinion, and even if he has a clear intention of returning to Israel, if he leaves for a year – as long as he is abroad, he is considered a ‘ben chutz la’aretz’. If he has a family, he is considered a ‘ben chutz la’aretz’ during that year only if his family went with him.
These laws must be applied in many diverse situations, and a reliable Rabbi should be consulted to be sure.
It should also be noted that when a person is in a community that has a ‘mara d’atra’ (community Rabbi) who is an established halakhic authority, and his public instruction goes according to the first opinion – as long as one is in his community, he must act according to his instruction, because sometimes the Rabbi perceives a situation in which people from Israel who do not observe ‘Yom Tov Sheni’,is liable to cause other community members to disregard ‘Yom Tov Sheni’.Therefore, this is an important consideration in obligating people who go abroad for one year, to observe ‘Yom Tov Sheni’, as well.