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Peninei Halakha > Festivals > 09 - Yom Tov Sheni

09 – Yom Tov Sheni

01. Yom Tov Dates and the Basis for Diaspora Practice

According to Torah law, every Yom Tov is exactly one day. Indeed, this is the practice in Eretz Yisrael on every Yom Tov but Rosh Ha-shana. However, in the Diaspora the Sages ordained that an additional day be celebrated, so that instead of one day of Yom Tov, there are two. The second day is referred to as Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyot (the extra day of Yom Tov observed in the Diaspora).

In order to understand the origin of this halakha, some background information is necessary. All of the Jewish holidays have a set date in the Jewish calendar. The first day of Pesaḥ is on the 15th of Nisan, and its seventh day is on the 21st of Nisan. Shavu’ot is at the conclusion of the omer period which begins on the 16th of Nisan. Rosh Ha-shana is on the first of Tishrei, while the first day of Sukkot is on the 15th, and Shemini Atzeret is on the 22nd. Since the Jewish month is based on the lunar cycle, and each cycle takes a bit longer than twenty-nine and a half days, some months have thirty days (malei, lit. “full”) and others have twenty-nine (ḥaser, or in technical terms, “hollow”). The mitzva was for people who saw the new moon (that is, the first vision of the moon after the molad, or lunar conjunction) on the eve of the 30th of the month to come and testify before the beit din. The new month would then be sanctified based on their testimony. This is the meaning of the verse: “This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months” (Shemot 12:2). The Sages explain: “God showed Moshe the form of the new moon and said, ‘Testifying to this has been placed in your hands’” (RH 22a). “Your hands” refers to those of judges with ordination, which was transferred in an unbroken chain from the time of Moshe (see Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 1:1-2).

After the month was sanctified, messengers would depart to all parts of Eretz Yisrael to spread the news, so that they would know when to celebrate the upcoming holiday (RH 21b). However, the messengers were unable to reach Diaspora communities before the holiday. Therefore, by the time of the early prophets, there were already standing instructions for the Diaspora to keep each holiday for two days on account of the uncertainty about the date. This was what Yeḥezkel and Daniel did. It is possible that the practice goes back as far as Yehoshua bin Nun (R. Hai Gaon in Otzar Ha-Ge’onim, Yom Tov 4:2).[1]

[1]. In contrast, Rosh Ha-shana was (and is) kept for two days even in Eretz Yisrael, as it takes place on Rosh Ḥodesh itself. Since even in Israel, people did not know when the beit din would sanctify the month, they kept two days due to the uncertainty. Only in Jerusalem itself was Rosh Ha-shana sometimes celebrated for only one day. This happened when the witnesses arrived on the first day, and the beit din managed to sanctify the month on that day. If the month was not sanctified on the first day, then even in Jerusalem they kept Rosh Ha-shana for an additional day.

02. The Second Temple Period

During the time of the Second Temple, a large Jewish community remained in Babylonia. At first, information about the sanctification of the new moon was conveyed to the Diaspora Jews by means of bonfires, as follows: On the night following the first day when the month could have been sanctified, lookouts would be stationed on mountaintops stretching from Israel to Babylonia. If the beit din sanctified the month, people would ascend the Mount of Olives and light enormous bonfires. They would then wait to confirm that the lookouts at Sartaba (the next station) had lit their torches as well. At Sartaba, they would wait to see that the third mountain had lit torches. Thus, the news was passed along through the night from mountaintop to mountaintop all the way to Babylonia. At some point, the Samaritans (who did not accept the authority of the beit din) started lighting their own bonfires in order to mislead the Diaspora Jews. This ended the bonfire method of notification. From then on, messengers were sent to inform Diaspora Jews about the sanctification of the new month (RH 22b).

In the areas the messengers reached before Sukkot, one day of Yom Tov was celebrated; everywhere they did not reach celebrated two days. It is noteworthy that before Sukkot, the messengers could walk for only ten days, since they did not travel on Rosh Ha-shana, Yom Kippur, or Shabbat. In contrast, before Pesaḥ they could walk for twelve days, because the only time they could not travel was Shabbat. This meant that there were places which the messengers would reach before Pesaḥ, but would not reach before Sukkot. The Sages declared that all the places too far to be reached by messengers before Sukkot should also celebrate two days of Pesaḥ, in order to avoid differentiating between the holidays. Not only that, but they ordained that the seventh day of Pesaḥ as well as Shemini Atzeret should each be celebrated for two days in such places, even though by then the messengers would have reached places which were further away. The Sages even required that Shavu’ot – 50 days after the 16th of Nisan – be kept in all those places for two days. In sum, where the messengers did not reach before the first day of Sukkot, all the holidays would be celebrated for two days (RH 21a).

The exception was Yom Kippur, which was kept for only one day (the first of its two possible days). In other words, Yom Kippur was observed on the day that would be the 10th of Tishrei if Elul turned out to be ḥaser. This is because the vast majority of the time, Elul was indeed 29 days. According to Torah law, we follow the majority. For the same reason, technically one would be obligated to keep a Yom Tov only on the first of its two possible days. It was the Sages who instituted the two-day observance. They themselves decided that since it would be very difficult to fast for two consecutive days, on Yom Kippur we should observe only one day, following the baseline law.[2]

[2]. Many maintain that according to Torah law, the majority can be followed here. In theory, then, each festival may be celebrated with one day of Yom Tov, as most years the months of Elul and Adar are ḥaser. Nevertheless, the Sages ordained that they be kept for two days, taking into account the minority of cases. However, it would be difficult to fast two days for Yom Kippur. Therefore, they returned to the baseline law, which permits keeping one day (Or Zaru’a, Ritva, and Turei Even on RH 18a; Noda Bi-Yehuda YD 1:57). One possible explanation for why the Sages were stringent about the rest of the holidays is that the truth would eventually become known as to whether people had celebrated the holidays at the right time. If people were to realize that they had celebrated the Seder a day early, and had resumed eating ḥametz on what should have been the seventh day of Pesaḥ, it would likely have desensitized them to the sanctity of the holidays (comparable to the obligation to check adhesions on an animal’s lungs before eating it; see SA YD 39:1). Since the Sages knew that all the Diaspora communities would fast only on the first day that could be Yom Kippur, they made efforts to make sure that the month of Elul would be ḥaser. (For example, they made sure that the month of Av would be malei, as explained by Ḥatam Sofer, Mahadura Tinyana, Beitza 6a.) This was so successful that from the time of Ezra the Scribe until the end of the tannaitic period, the month of Elul was never 30 days long (RH 19b). However, during the time period of the Amora’im, the month of Elul was malei about three times (RH 21a). Some maintain that Yom Kippur was not kept for two days because this might be considered life-threatening (She’iltot; Raavya; Me’iri). It is possible that in their opinion, the letter of the law would require two days of fasting, since each year is a separate uncertainty, and the principle of following the majority does not apply when the objects of uncertainty are not mixed together. Therefore, they need to explain that the problem with having two days of Yom Kippur is that the fasting would be dangerous. (See the entry on “Yom Tov Sheni Shel Galuyot” in the Encyclopedia Talmudit, pp. 22-39.)

03. The Fixed Calendar and the Permanent Enactment

After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael became smaller and smaller, while the community in Babylonia grew. Nevertheless, the authority to sanctify the months and to declare leap years remained in the hands of the Sages of Eretz Yisrael. Only on rare occasions, such as the Great Rebellion (66-73 CE), did this change. The situation in Eretz Yisrael then was so horrific, judges who had been ordained in Eretz Yisrael left the country for areas where Jews were not persecuted. There they were able to continue sanctifying the months and declaring leap years.

Over the course of time, the Roman persecutions grew worse. Often their decrees intentionally targeted the Jewish Sages and the mitzva of sanctifying the months. Things deteriorated to such an extent that, at the end of the amoraic period (when Abaye and Rava lived), Hillel II came to the conclusion that it was no longer viable for the beit din in Eretz Yisrael to ordain rabbis and sanctify the months. With the authority vested in him (having inherited the position of nasi, president of the beit din, in a direct line from Rabbi Yehuda Ha-nasi), Hillel II and his beit din calculated the months and years and sanctified them for the long term. Ever since then (4119 in the Jewish calendar, 359 CE in the civil calendar), the Jewish people have kept track of the months and years based on the system set up by Hillel II (Peninei Halakha: Zemanim 1:3 n. 3).

This created a question: Since the fixed calendar was now accessible to all Jews, including those in the Diaspora, there was no longer uncertainty about the correct dates of the holidays. Therefore, it made sense for the Jews of the Diaspora to celebrate only one day of Yom Tov, as was the practice in Eretz Yisrael. The Sages of Eretz Yisrael responded to the Jews of Babylonia with the following ruling: Make sure to follow the custom of your ancestors. For it is possible that at some future time the ruling powers will once again persecute the Jews, leading to uncertainty about the dates. Continuing to celebrate the second day of Yom Tov will ensure that you will never make a mistake (Beitza 4b). We see that the Sages explicitly ordained continuing the custom of the second day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora (MT, Laws of Sanctification of the New Moon 5:5). R. Hai Gaon explains that besides the fear of future persecutions, there is a more fundamental reason to continue celebrating two days: it was the prophets themselves who instituted the second day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora. A later rabbinic court cannot overturn this, because it does not know all the reasons behind their ruling. Additionally, one court’s ruling can be overturned only by a court greater in wisdom and in number than the original court (Otzar Ha-Ge’onim, Yom Tov 4:2).

As with the rest of the Torah, the halakhic reality reflects the spiritual reality. In Eretz Yisrael, holiness is more manifest, and therefore the holiness of the holidays can be absorbed in one day, as the Torah requires. In contrast, those in the Diaspora are further away from the manifestation of holiness, and therefore they need two days to absorb the light of the Yom Tov, as the Sages ordained. This can be compared to a flashlight. When a flashlight is illuminating a nearby location, the light is strong and focused on a small area. In contrast, when it is used to illuminate a distant location, the light is weak and diffused over a larger area. So too, in Eretz Yisrael the light of the holidays is focused and concentrated into one day, while in the Diaspora the light is weaker and diffused over two days (Derekh Mitzvotekha 114:1).

04. Where Two Days Are Kept

According to Rambam, whether Yom Tov Sheni is observed in a specific place does not depend upon its proximity to Jerusalem. Rather, it depends upon how many days of Yom Tov were celebrated there during the period when messengers spread the word about the sanctification of the month. Areas which celebrated only one day because the messengers reached them before Sukkot, even in the Diaspora, continue to celebrate one day. Areas where the messengers did not reach, even within Eretz Yisrael, continue to celebrate two days. In an area which theoretically could have been reached by the messengers, but in fact was not – whether because there was no Jewish community there or because it was inaccessible by road – Rambam maintains that since anyone living there then would have kept two days, those living there now should continue that as well (MT, Laws of Sanctification of the New Moon 5:9-12).

In contrast, according to Ritva, ever since the beit din stopped sanctifying the months, Yom Tov Sheni does not depend upon the messengers, but upon the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael. Two days were celebrated in most of the Diaspora, and one day was celebrated in most of Eretz Yisrael. Accordingly, when Hillel II and his beit din developed the calendar and sanctified future months and years, they ordained that those in the Diaspora would always celebrate two days, while those in Israel would always celebrate one day (Ritva, RH 18a and Sukka 43a).

Even though at various times and in various places there have been people in Israel who followed Rambam and kept two days of Yom Tov, the practice which became accepted is to follow the Ritva, as most Rishonim seem to accept his position.[3]

[3]. According to Ritva, people celebrate one day everywhere in Eretz Yisrael, even though messengers did not reach everywhere before the first day of Sukkot. In contrast, people always celebrate two days everywhere in the Diaspora. This ruling can also be inferred from the writings of R. Hai Gaon, Rabbeinu Ḥananel, Ha-ma’or, Maḥzor Vitri, and others. It is explicit in Avnei Nezer, OḤ 392:9; Tzitz Ha-kodesh, Part 1, §42; Ḥazon Ish, OḤ 132:2; and Yaskil Avdi, OḤ 6:2. This is the position expressed in Ir Ha-kodesh Ve-hamikdash 3:19; R. Goren in Mishnat Ha-medina, p. 161; and Tzitz Eliezer 3:23. Nevertheless, in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the custom was to celebrate two days. See Peninei Halakha: The Nation and the Land 3:16, which explains that most Rishonim do not consider Aleppo to be within the borders of Eretz Yisrael. However, all agree that southern Lebanon up to Beirut is considered part of Eretz Yisrael.

A question arises regarding the status of Eilat, as it is possible that it is not within the borders of Eretz Yisrael. According to some commentaries, “the River of Egypt” refers to Wadi El-Arish, which is north of Eilat. Nevertheless, in practice we consider Eilat to be within the borders of Eretz Yisrael, and only one day of Yom Tov is celebrated there. For even according to those who say that “the River of Egypt” is Wadi El-Arish, it is reasonable to maintain that Eilat is still within the borders of Eretz Yisrael. This is certainly the case for the majority of the commentators, who identify “the River of Egypt” with the place now known as the Suez Canal (see Peninei Halakha: The Nation and the Land 3:15). Those who rule this way in practice include R. Herzog in Heikhal Yitzḥak, OḤ §55; R. Frank in Mikra’ei Kodesh, Pesaḥ 2:58; Mishpetei Uziel 8:47; and Tzitz Eliezer 3:23.

05. Laws of Yom Tov Sheni

The laws pertaining to the second day of Yom Tov are the same as those pertaining to the first day, as everything the Sages ordained was patterned on Torah law. Therefore, all the prohibitions – including rabbinic ones – which apply to the first day of Yom Tov apply to the second as well. Similarly, all the prayers of Yom Tov Sheni are the same as the prayers of the first day. Kiddush is made on wine, and the berakha of She-heḥeyanu is recited, just as it is on the first day (SA 661:1). A Seder is held on the first two nights of Pesaḥ, and both include all the berakhot and mitzvot. A case could be made that since Yom Tov Sheni is observed as a result of uncertainty (safek), berakhot should not be recited. After all, there is a principle that when there is a doubt pertaining to the recitation of a berakha, one does not recite it. Nevertheless, in the case of Yom Tov Sheni, the Sages instructed us to recite the berakhot. They were concerned that if people did not make the same berakhot as they did on the first day, they would not take Yom Tov Sheni seriously (Shabbat 23a).[4]

Care should be taken not to prepare food or set the table on the first day of Yom Tov for the second day (SA 503:1; see 2:12 above). Similarly, it is proper to light candles for Yom Tov Sheni after tzeit, in order to avoid preparing on the first day of Yom Tov for the second day. One who lights candles before bein ha-shmashot has an opinion to rely on, since she will get a little enjoyment from the light of the candles on the first day of Yom Tov.[5] (On Yom Tov Sheni, the Sages allowed Jews to bury the deceased in order to accord proper dignity to the dead, as explained above in 7:5.)

[4]. On Shemini Atzeret, those in the Diaspora sit in the sukka, as it may be the final day of Sukkot. At the same time, they do not recite the berakha on sitting on the sukka, because the day is primarily treated as the Yom Tov of Shemini Atzeret rather than Sukkot. If people recited the berakha, they would be contradicting their own practice (Sukkah 47a; SA 668:1). Additionally, this might lead people to be disrespectful toward Yom Tov prohibitions in general (Ran). Some have a custom to eat only the beginning of the meal in the sukka. Poskim are also divided about whether to sleep in the sukka that night. The custom is not to do so (MB 668:6). The lulav is not picked up on Shemini Atzeret, because the mitzva of lulav after the first day is completely rabbinic, and the Sages did not ordain that it be done on Shemini Atzeret (Ran; see Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato 1:91 with note 280).

An egg that was laid on the first day of Yom Tov may not be used then, but may be used on the second day of Yom Tov. As we have seen, the halakhic rationale for ordaining the second day of Yom Tov is due to the uncertainty about the date of the holiday. Therefore, if the first day is Yom Tov, the second day is a weekday and the egg is permitted. And if the first day is in fact a weekday, an egg laid then was never forbidden in the first place. However, on Rosh Ha-shana, when the two days are treated as one long day, an egg that is laid on the first day is prohibited on both days (Beitza 4b; SA 513:5).

[5]. Gittel Falk (whose husband Rabbi Yehoshua Falk wrote the Derisha and Sema commentaries) is cited by her son as saying that it is proper to light candles after tzeit so as to avoid preparing on the first day of Yom Tov for the second day (see the Harḥavot 2:2 n. 2). This is indeed the custom, as we see in Mishnat Ya’avetz, OḤ §34; Piskei Teshuvot 514:19; and Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato 1:14. However, many write that one may light before shki’a, including Shlah, Eliya Rabba, and MB 514:33. They maintain that this is not preparation for the second day, as the person who lights will immediately enjoy the light from the candles.

See 2:12 above, where we explain that when Yom Tov starts on Saturday night, ideally one should not eat se’uda shlishit during the last three hours of Shabbat. Nevertheless, if he did not eat it earlier, he may eat it then, keeping the meal to a minimum. In contrast, on the first day of Yom Tov one is not required to eat less because of the upcoming second day, as Yom Tov Sheni does not negate any of the mitzvot of the first day. This is the approach of Hitorerut Teshuva 2:53 and BHL 529:1 s.v. “ba-erev.” Magen Avraham 529:1 and those who follow its rulings disagree and are stringent in this matter.

06. A Resident of Israel in the Diaspora

The Sages declared that if one leaves Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora and plans to remain abroad, he is considered a resident of the Diaspora from the moment he arrives at a Jewish community there. From that point on, he is obligated to keep two days of Yom Tov (Pesaḥim 51a; SA 496:3).

However, if he intends to return to Eretz Yisrael, then he retains his status as a resident of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, if he is not staying in a Jewish community (meaning he is spending Yom Tov outside the community’s teḥum Shabbat), he does not have to observe a second day of Yom Tov, and he may do melakha (SA 496:3).

However, if the resident of Israel is staying in a Jewish community (or within its teḥum Shabbat), he must behave as they do and make sure he is not visibly deviating from their practice (Pesaḥim 50a; SA 496:3). Therefore, he is not allowed to perform melakha on Yom Tov Sheni. True, some maintain that he may do so in private (Avkat Rokhel §26; Yam Shel Shlomo). However, according to most poskim, he must refrain from melakha even in private, because if he does not refrain, word is likely to get out, and this would undermine and detract from the community’s Yom Tov (Tosafot; Ha-ma’or; MB 496:9).[6]

In accordance with his status as a resident of Eretz Yisrael, he should make havdala privately after the first day of Yom Tov and put on tefilin privately the next morning. To avoid being disrespectful toward his host community, he should make sure to honor Yom Tov Sheni by wearing Yom Tov clothes and lighting Yom Tov candles (without reciting a berakha). In terms of praying, it would seem simplest for him to pray alone at home, as the prayers he will be reciting will differ from those of the local congregation. They will be reciting Yom Tov prayers, while he will be reciting either Ḥol Ha-mo’ed prayers or weekday prayers (Oraḥ Mishpat §129). If he can attend part of the prayer service without its being obvious that he is not reciting the same prayers, this is preferable, as it allows him to hear Kaddish and Kedusha. If possible, it is also preferable that he recite the Amida with the congregation, while obscuring the fact that he is reciting a different Amida text.[7]

If a resident of Israel is staying in his own apartment, he does not have to participate in a second Seder. If he is a guest of Diaspora residents, though, he should participate in their Seder but not recite the berakhot over the various mitzvot of the evening. Rather, he should simply respond “Amen” to his hosts’ berakhot (Ḥayei Adam 103:4).[8]

[6]. According to Avkat Rokhel §26, Mabit 3:149, and Yam Shel Shlomo (Beitza 1:8), the obligation to act like local community members applies only to public behavior; in the privacy of one’s own room, he may be lenient and behave in his normal manner. For example, most poskim agree that residents of Eretz Yisrael are not required to set aside an eruv tavshilin to allow them to cook for Shabbat on the second day of Yom Tov. When they cook, anyone who sees them will assume that they set aside an eruv (MB 496:13). In practice, though, the opinion of the vast majority of poskim is that melakha may not be done even in private, because one who does so will eventually be discovered (Radbaz 4:4145; Maharikash; Pri Ḥadash 468; MA 496:4; Eliya Rabba ad loc. 5; Birkei Yosef ad loc. 3; SAH ad loc. 7; MB ad loc. 9; Oraḥ Mishpat §129). Contemporary poskim discuss the status of muktzeh on Yom Tov Sheni. Some are lenient in general (Shevet Ha-Levi 7:65), and others are lenient about some prohibitions (Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato, ch. 16). It seems reasonable to apply one principle across the board and to be stringent about all the prohibitions even in private. However, in a time of pressing need, one may be lenient if he is certain that no Diaspora residents will see him or that if they do see him they will assume that what he was doing is permissible. For example, if they see that the lights go on in his house, they will assume this was done by means of a timer (“Shabbos clock”). This is the position of Igrot Moshe, OḤ 4:104. The rationale is that the prohibition to do melakha on the second day of Yom Tov is rabbinic in nature, so in times of pressing need one may rely on the poskim who are permissive. The reason that the consensus is to be stringent even when melakha is being undertaken in private is primarily because if people are constantly lenient about this, they will eventually be discovered. Accordingly, when we limit the permission to cases of pressing need, it is less of a concern.

As I wrote above, the obligation to follow the practices of the Diaspora pertains when one is within the teḥum Shabbat of a Jewish community. This is the approach of the poskim cited by MB 496:10. It can be inferred that they are not worried about the presence of individual Jews. It also seems that these poskim do not take into account the presence of non-observant Jews, even if there are more than ten of them, unless they are part of an organized Jewish community.

[7]. Rav Kook writes in Oraḥ Mishpat §129 that it is preferable that one not go to the synagogue if there is a possibility that he will be given an aliya. According to R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, even if he can hide the fact that he is praying differently, he is not obligated to go and sit through a long holiday service. It would seem that all would agree with this. The question is: le-khatḥila is it better for him to go? Of course, if it will be difficult for him to pray differently without its being noticed, then it is preferable that he not attend. However, if he can manage to obscure the difference, many write that it is preferable that he attend in order to pray with a minyan and respond to Kaddish and Kedusha (see Or Le-Tziyon 3:21:1; Si’aḥ Naḥum §28; Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato 3:17). R. Moshe Feinstein writes that if there is a particular minyan that one always attends, and his absence would be conspicuous, he should attend the minyan and discreetly pray the weekday prayers (Igrot Moshe, OḤ 3:92). He should attempt to avoid being called up to the Torah, but if they do call him up, he may go. If a Kohen attends the synagogue on what is for him the day after Yom Tov, and the congregation is praying Musaf, Maharam ibn Ḥabib says he should ascend to the bima and recite Birkat Kohanim, since it is permissible to recite the berakha multiple times on a given day. In contrast, Ginat Veradim (OḤ 1:13) argues that he should not ascend, since he is not praying Musaf. Rav Kook writes that the Kohen should ascend with the other Kohanim, but say the name of God inaudibly (Oraḥ Mishpat §129). If he is the only Kohen present in the synagogue, he may ascend and recite the berakha (Or Le-Tziyon 3:23:2).

Ten male residents of Eretz Yisrael may not convene a weekday minyan on Yom Tov Sheni in the Diaspora, even in a private home. Even though Jews from abroad who visit Israel generally do form minyanim for the second day (as explained below in section 9), this is because the rabbis in Israel have allowed it; in contrast, this is not the customary practice abroad. This is the approach of Har Tzvi 2:78; Or Le-Tziyon 3:23:1; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Shalom Yosef Elyashiv (cited in Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato ch. 3 n. 76). I have heard that there are places in the Diaspora where Israelis do have a minyan with the permission of the local rabbis, relying on the custom of Diaspora Jews visiting Israel.

[8]. Some maintain that even if he does not have a separate room, if he can avoid sitting with them he should (R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and R. Shalom Yosef Elyashiv, as cited in Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato ch. 3, n. 84). Or Le-Tziyon 3:23:1 states that according to Sephardic practice, one should not participate in a second Seder. This is left as a matter of choice.

Since the accepted ruling is that one should not do melakha even privately, of course he may not eat ḥametz on the eighth day of Pesaḥ, which is Yom Tov Sheni in the Diaspora (AHS 496:5).

07. The Status of One Who Leaves Eretz Yisrael for a Long Time but Plans to Return

If a resident of Eretz Yisrael leaves for an extended period of time but still plans to return to Eretz Yisrael, his status is very unclear. On one hand, since he intends to return, it would seem that his status remains that of a resident of Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, when the Sages spoke of one who intends to return, they may have had in mind one intending to return relatively soon. If so, it is possible that one who will be abroad for an extended amount of time is considered a resident of the Diaspora. Additionally, he might well decide to remain abroad.

There are two primary positions regarding this case. Some say that if a person leaving Eretz Yisrael plans to stay abroad for a year or more, he is considered a resident of the Diaspora, and he must keep two days of Yom Tov. This is the ruling of many rabbis in the Diaspora.

Others maintain that even if he intends to remain in the Diaspora for a number of years, as long as he is absolutely determined to return, he is only a temporary resident abroad, and his status remains that of a resident of Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, it is clear there must be some time limit, as it is inconceivable that one who intends to remain in the Diaspora for years and years continues to follow the practices of those who live in Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, it would seem that if he is planning to return within four years, he is considered a temporary resident abroad, as the longest sheliḥut (a temporary “mission” to the Diaspora, such as for the Jewish Agency, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and countless other companies and organizations) can last almost four years. However, one who intends to live abroad for four years or more, even if he definitely plans to return to Eretz Yisrael, must observe Yom Tov Sheni while he is abroad.

In practice, it is apparent that if one leaves Eretz Yisrael for a purpose that does not have a specific time frame, he should follow the first position. Even if he clearly intends to return to Eretz Yisrael, as long as he will be abroad for at least a year, his status while he is there is that of a resident of the Diaspora. This is assuming that his family moves with him; if his family remains in Eretz Yisrael, though, he retains the status of a resident of Eretz Yisrael.

In contrast, one who leaves Eretz Yisrael with a clear plan and a specific time frame should follow the second position. Therefore, if one goes abroad on sheliḥut, to complete a specific course of study, or for any other well-defined reason, he is considered a resident of Eretz Yisrael as long as he intends to return within four years. If he intends to stay for four years or longer, he should observe Yom Tov Sheni. Of course, there are many in between situations, and in such cases, a rabbi should be consulted with the specifics, and asked for a ruling.

What if a person is living in a Diaspora community that has one accepted rabbinic leader (mara de’atra) who is an outstanding halakhic authority? If that rabbi rules in accordance with the first position, then anyone living in his community must follow his ruling.[9]

[9]. In the past, travel was very difficult and moving with one’s family was not at all simple. In this context, Radbaz (4:1145) writes that if one moves abroad with his wife and children, even with the intention to return to Eretz Yisrael, he has the status of a Diaspora resident, as there is a chance that he will not return. This opinion is cited as the bottom line by MA 496:7; Knesset Ha-gedola; Pri Ḥadash §468; Eliya Rabba 496:6; and MB ad loc. 13. However, if one’s plans preclude the possibility of his remaining abroad, a number of Aḥaronim write that even Radbaz would agree that he retains the status of a resident of Eretz Yisrael even though he left with his family (Shalmei Tzibur p. 234; Pekudat Elazar, OḤ §496). Nowadays, travel and moving are much easier. In this context, many write that the determination is not made based on whether the entire family moves, but on the person’s intent. Thus, even if he leaves Israel with his family, if he is definitely planning to return, his status would remain that of a resident of Eretz Yisrael. However, if he intends to remain abroad for many years, it is clear that his status is that of one who lives abroad. Even if he is absolutely certain that he will return, his protracted stay renders him a local resident. The question is: Where do we draw the line? A variety of answers appear in the poskim, and at first glance it would seem that each posek has a different opinion. In truth, though, the differences between them are the result of their responding to different scenarios. If we look carefully at the reasoning behind their answers, we can see that there are two primary positions.

The first position is that a year is the determining amount of time. We know from elsewhere that after a year, a person is considered a local resident when it comes to paying taxes (Bava Batra 7b). Therefore, even though he intends to return, once he has left for a year he is considered a resident of his new location. This is the position of Avnei Nezer, OḤ 424:28; AHS 496:5; Tzitz Eliezer 9:30; and Ḥazon Ovadia, Yom Tov, p. 121. Many poskim who live abroad are inclined to rule this way.

The poskim who adopt the second position do not specify a number of years, but it is clear in context that they mean two or three years, or a bit longer. The rationale is that if one definitely intends to leave a place, only after a stay of a number of years is he considered a local. Mishneh Halakhot 4:83 states something along these lines, and this is also the opinion of R. Elyashiv (as cited in Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato, p. 162) and Or Le-Tziyon 3:23:5. Igrot Moshe, OḤ 3:74 takes this position regarding people who spend a year or two in Israel.

Many Diaspora rabbis follow the first position. (According to Ḥakham Tzvi §167, it would seem that even one intending to return to Israel must keep two days in the Diaspora.) Nevertheless, I wrote above that in practice, those who are going for a very specific purpose may follow the second position. This is because the basis of the obligation of the second day is rabbinic, and the principle is that we are lenient in cases of doubt about a rabbinic rule. Additionally, the second position seems to make the most sense.

Therefore, if a person leaves Eretz Yisrael without a well-defined goal, even though he intends to return, there is a certain chance that he will decide to remain abroad. Therefore, if he went for a year (or more), he has the status of one who lives abroad, in accordance with the first position. But if he has a well-defined goal with a specific time frame such as sheliḥut (whether in Jewish education or business) or studying for a degree, then even if he is abroad for a few years, his time there is still temporary, both in his own eyes and in the eyes of the community to which he currently belongs. However, there must be a time limit. Since people leaving with specific goals – whether for education or business – normally do not stay abroad longer than four years, that is the dividing line. People also perceive that someone who has been in a place for four years cannot claim that he is not a local.

If one leaves Eretz Yisrael for two years with a specific purpose in mind, and later decides to remain an additional two years, he should behave as a Diaspora resident starting from the time of his decision. Since he intends to live abroad for four full years, as long as he is abroad his status is that of a Diaspora resident, even if he visits Israel once or twice a year. However, during his visits, his status is that of a resident of Eretz Yisrael, since he has a deep connection to the land (based on Maharit Tzahalon §52, as cited in the next section).

An additional reason may be adduced in support of the opinion that a year is the decisive time period. It has become clear that when Israelis living long-term in a Diaspora community do not observe Yom Tov Sheni, they damage and weaken the locals’ relationship to holiday observance, and perhaps mitzva observance in general. In the past, one who lived abroad with his family for a year could no longer be considered to be a resident of Eretz Yisrael, as Radbaz pointed out. In general, the Sages said that even one visiting for one day may not deviate from local practice, out of concern for causing discord (Pesaḥim 50a; SA 496:3). We can broaden their logic and say that when a visitor intends to remain for a year, it is not sufficient that he behave externally like the community members. Since he becomes integrated into the community, the community members will certainly notice and be aware that he is not keeping the second day of Yom Tov. In order that he not undermine their practice, he has a responsibility to behave completely like them for all halakhic purposes. Along these lines, the Sages ordained a second day of Yom Tov for all the holidays, even when the messengers had already arrived, in order not to distinguish between holidays (RH 21a; see section 2 above). Similarly, they also ordained that berakhot be recited on the second day; if people were to eliminate the berakhot, the institution of Yom Tov Sheni would likely come to an end (Shabbat 23a; see section 5 above). Therefore, I wrote above that if a Diaspora community has an accepted rabbinic leader who is an outstanding halakhic authority, anyone living there must follow his ruling.

08. A Diaspora Resident on a Visit or Extended Stay to Eretz Yisrael

There is an opinion that one visiting Eretz Yisrael from the Diaspora is considered to be a resident of Eretz Yisrael for the duration of his stay (Ḥakham Tzvi §167). However, most poskim rule that since he lives abroad, he is considered a Diaspora resident even while visiting Eretz Yisrael. This is the opinion followed in practice (Birkei Yosef 496:7; MB ad loc. 13).

However, if an additional uncertainty arises – for example, if he expects to remain in Eretz Yisrael for an extended period of time, plans to make aliya, or has children living in Eretz Yisrael – then we combine this uncertainty with two other factors. First is the opinion above that everyone who is in Eretz Yisrael for Yom Tov should keep one day. Second is that, in recent times, there are increased chances that a Jew visiting Eretz Yisrael will decide to relocate there permanently. Combining these three factors, we instruct such a person to follow the practice of those who live in Eretz Yisrael.

Therefore, one who comes to Eretz Yisrael for an entire academic year is considered a resident of Eretz Yisrael, even if he has definite plans to return to the Diaspora, his parents live there, and he goes to visit them mid-year. His extended stay in Eretz Yisrael renders him a resident of Eretz Yisrael for the duration of his stay. Additionally, there is always the chance that he will decide to make aliya, given that there is a Torah commandment to live in Eretz Yisrael.

However, if one comes for a shorter visit, even up to half a year, and plans to go back to the Diaspora, he is considered a Diaspora resident. If he visits repeatedly, then once his visits cumulatively add up to a year, he is something of a local, and there is a certain chance that he will make aliya. Accordingly, when he is in Eretz Yisrael for Yom Tov, he may celebrate the way that residents of Eretz Yisrael do and keep one day.

If one is visiting Eretz Yisrael, even for a short time, but is planning to make aliya as soon as he can, then even if he will not be able to bring his plans to fruition for a number of years, his status while visiting is that of a resident of Eretz Yisrael.

If one visiting has children or parents already living in Eretz Yisrael, he is considered a resident of Eretz Yisrael while visiting. Even if he does not intend to make aliya, nevertheless he has deep family ties to Eretz Yisrael, so there is always a chance that he will make aliya.

If one buys an apartment in Eretz Yisrael and lives there during his visits, he is considered a resident of Eretz Yisrael while there.

If one emigrated from Eretz Yisrael, even if he has been living in the Diaspora for decades, since he lived in Eretz Yisrael for a long time, then as long as there is a chance that he will return to Eretz Yisrael, he should behave like a resident of Eretz Yisrael while visiting.

In all the above cases, since the person has not yet made aliya, while he is in the Diaspora he must keep two days of Yom Tov.[10]

[10]. Ḥakham Tzvi (§167) states that anyone from the Diaspora who visits Eretz Yisrael must celebrate one day of Yom Tov. The reasoning is that the obligation to continue following “the stringencies of the place he left” is conditioned on it being the sort of custom that will endure forever. However, in this case, it is built into the custom that one only keeps a second day when he is in a place where there would have been uncertainty about the dates. One who moves to Eretz Yisrael stops keeping Yom Tov Sheni not because he takes on a new custom, but because the law of Yom Tov Sheni only ever applied in the Diaspora. Thus, whenever one is in Eretz Yisrael, it is forbidden for him to keep Yom Tov Sheni. SAH 496:11 follows this position. However, most poskim maintain that someone visiting Eretz Yisrael from abroad must keep two days. This is the opinion of Avkat Rokhel §26; Ginat Veradim; Birkei Yosef 496:7; Sha’arei Teshuva ad loc. §5; MB ad loc. §13; and many more. R. Shmuel Salant was inclined to follow Ḥakham Tzvi. However, he did not want to go against the common practice, so he ruled that because of the doubt, visitors to Israel should keep the stringency dubbed “a day and a half” – that is, one avoids melakha on the second day but does not pray or recite berakhot differently from local residents (Ir Ha-kodesh Ve-hamikdash vol. 3, p. 254). This was also the inclination of Rav Kook.

At first glance, it would seem that according to the general rules of deciding halakha, we should rule in accordance with Ḥakham Tzvi. After all, Yom Tov Sheni is rabbinic, and the principle is that we are lenient when there is uncertainty concerning a rabbinic law or concerning the recitation of berakhot. Nevertheless, we are stringent about Yom Tov Sheni and we add berakhot because the prevailing custom of Diaspora residents visiting Eretz Yisrael has been to keep Yom Tov Sheni when visiting Eretz Yisrael, and where there is an established custom, we do not apply the principle about being lenient about berakhot in a case of uncertainty.

However, when there is an additional uncertainty, it is possible that even those who are stringent would agree that one should act like a resident of Eretz Yisrael. For example, Ḥida attests that rabbis of Eretz Yisrael ruled that when students from abroad come to study in yeshiva and could conceivably make aliya, they are to be considered residents of Eretz Yisrael while there (Ḥayim Sha’al 1:55). This is despite the fact that Ḥida is among those who obligate visitors to keep a second day of Yom Tov when in Eretz Yisrael. It may be that most poskim would maintain that one must keep two days even when there is an additional doubt (as Igrot Moshe states in OḤ 3:74). Nevertheless, in such a case there is no long-standing custom that obligates us, so we can revert to the principle of leniency in cases of uncertainty concerning a rabbinic law. Accordingly, as long as there is an additional uncertainty, we do not obligate visitors to keep Yom Tov Sheni; even if they do so, they certainly should not recite the berakhot on the mitzvot of Yom Tov.

Another important factor has come into play in recent times. The Jewish nation has begun to return to its land, which is flourishing, and it is easier than ever to make aliya. (See MB 496:12, which cites poskim as saying that one of the primary considerations in applying the law of Yom Tov Sheni is the likelihood that a person will decide to remain in the place he is visiting.) Therefore, I wrote above that one who intends to make aliya has a serious relationship with Eretz Yisrael and may act like a local starting from his first visit. This is the case even if he does not know when he will manage to make his dream of aliya come true, and it may well take a number of years.

Significantly, it is possible for a person to have a dual status, such that he keeps one day when in Eretz Yisrael and two days when abroad. Thus, Maharit Tzahalon §52 writes that if one lives a year in Israel and then a year abroad, he has the status of a resident of Eretz Yisrael while he is in Eretz Yisrael and the status of a Diaspora resident while he is abroad. Aseh Lekha Rav, vol. 7, Teshuvot Ketzarot §33 rules this way as well.

Therefore, if one is simply visiting Eretz Yisrael, he observes two days of Yom Tov. But if he has come to study for a year, since he will be in Eretz Yisrael for an extended period of time, he is considered a resident to a certain degree. This is what R. Mordechai Eliyahu z”l ruled for students who come to learn in Eretz Yisrael. He said that while in Eretz Yisrael they should follow the local practice, and when they want to leave they should ask for a ruling as to whether leaving Eretz Yisrael is permissible for them. His opinion is based on the citation of Ḥida above. This is also what R. Goren writes in Teḥumin 24, p. 333.

It would seem that one whose cumulative time in Eretz Yisrael adds up to a year is also considered somewhat of a resident, and there is always a certain possibility that he will make aliya. Therefore, he should observe one day of Yom Tov. If one has parents or children who have made aliya, or if he bought a vacation apartment in Eretz Yisrael, he should behave as a resident of Eretz Yisrael while in the country, even if his cumulative visits do not yet add up to a year.

09. The Practices of a Yom Tov Sheni While Visiting Eretz Yisrael

As we have seen, if a Diaspora resident comes to visit Eretz Yisrael with no intention of making aliya, he must observe a second day of Yom Tov. This includes not performing any melakha, reciting the Yom Tov prayers, making kiddush, and having festive meals. At first glance, it would seem that he is required to pray in private, as the Sages have stated that one who visits a place that follows a certain practice should not publicly deviate from the local practice. Nevertheless, there is a general consensus among the rabbis of Eretz Yisrael that visitors may form a minyan for the Yom Tov Sheni prayer service. Thus there is no harm done to the customs of Eretz Yisrael (Avkat Rokhel §26; Kaf Ha-ḥayim 496:38).

On Shemini Atzeret, if a guest from abroad is staying with residents of Eretz Yisrael, he should not eat in the sukka, as doing so would involve blatant disregard for local practice. However, if he is in his own apartment or in a hotel, he should eat in a sukka on Shemini Atzeret.[11]

For the sake of a mitzva or a great need, a Diaspora resident may ask a resident of Eretz Yisrael to do melakha for him on Yom Tov Sheni. It is a case of shvut di-shvut (double rabbinic prohibition) because Yom Tov Sheni itself is of rabbinic origin, and requesting one to do melakha is another prohibition on the rabbinic level. However, if there is no great need or mitzva involved, it is forbidden to ask.[12]

[11]. MB 496:13 states that the visitors should pray in private, as the straightforward principle is that one may not deviate from local practice, out of concern for causing discord. However, this principle primarily applies to a case in which the local people forbid something, and any leniency on the part of the guests will influence the locals to be lenient (Avkat Rokhḥel §26). Therefore, there is no problem with having a second-day minyan, because there is no concern any leniency will result. This is the practice, as is explained in Kaf Ha-ḥayim 496:38; Igrot Moshe, OḤ 5:37:6; Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato 2:2.

As for sukka, there are those who say that a visitor from abroad should sit in a sukka on Shemini Atzeret even when he is a guest in an Israeli’s home (Or Le-Tziyon 3:23:11; Yom Tov Sheni Ke-hilkhato ch. 2, n. 48 citing R. Elyashiv and R. Wosner). Others say that he should not sit in a sukka, for two reasons: it is a dishonor to Shemini Atzeret, and it is disrespectful of the local practice (R. Yeḥiel Michel Tikochinsky, Lu’aḥ Eretz Yisrael; Minḥat Shlomo 1:19:1; Minḥat Yitzḥak 9:54). It would seem that one visiting the home of a resident of Eretz Yisrael should not sit in the sukka, whereas if he is alone or in a hotel it is preferable that he does sit in the sukka. However, if this is difficult for him, he may rely on those who are lenient. In terms of sleeping in the sukka, even in the Diaspora the custom is not to sleep in the sukka on Shemini Atzeret (MB 668:6).

[12]. Sha’arei Teshuva 496:4 states that just as it is forbidden for a resident of the Diaspora to do melakha on Yom Tov Sheni, so too it is forbidden for him to ask a resident of Eretz Yisrael to do melakha for him, even though the latter may do melakha for himself. This is also the opinion of Pe’at Ha-shulḥan, Hilkhot Eretz Yisrael 2:15; Minḥat Yitzhak 7:34; Igrot Moshe, OḤ 4:105. In contrast, Minḥat Shlomo 1:15:3 is inclined to be lenient, in the same way that one who has accepted Shabbat early may ask one who has not done so to perform melakha for him (SA 263:17). In practice, one should be stringent concerning Yom Tov Sheni. Nevertheless, since this is a case of shvut di-shvut (keeping a second day of Yom Tov is rabbinic, and so is asking a non-Jew or Jew to do melakha), it is permitted for the sake of a mitzva or a great need.

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