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The Second Day of Yom Tov for Visitors to Israel

One should try to maximize the time one spends in Israel. By visiting Israel, one might partially fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. In addition, one supports the Israeli economy and deepens his family’s connection to Eretz Yisrael. Diaspora Jews who visit Israel on Yom Tov often wonder what they should do on Yom Tov Sheini. We will review the three basic opinions and arrive at a conclusion.


Introduction: Observance Of Yom Tov Sheini

Until the fourth century CE, Sanhedrin declared a new Jewish month only after accepting the testimony of two people who witnessed the new moon. Consequently, it often took weeks to notify all of world Jewry of the day on which a new month had started. Jews who lived a great distance from the Sanhedrin frequently did not know precisely when the new month had begun, in time for the celebration of holidays in that month. The practice, thus, evolved to observe two days of Yom Tov in the Diaspora—due to a doubt regarding which day was the true date of the holiday. However, during the Amoraic period, the Sanhedrin ceased to establish the Jewish calendar by testimony and instituted a fixed calendar system. Once the calendar was set, there was no longer a reason to observe Yom Tov Sheini—as even a Jew on the other side of the world from Israel could calculate the proper day for each holiday.

Nonetheless, the Gemara (Beitzah 4b) rules that Yom Tov Sheini must continue to be observed in the Diaspora: “They sent from there (Eretz Yisrael): Give heed to the custom of your fathers (to keep a second day of Yom Tov in the Diaspora). It might happen that a non-Jewish government will issue a decree (preventing knowledge of the Jewish calendar) and it will cause confusion regarding the dates of Yom Tov.”

Rishonim debate whether observance of Yom Tov Sheini during “the period of the set calendar” is merely a custom or a full-fledged rabbinical enactment. For an analysis of this issue, see Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik’s Chiddushei Hagriz (Hilchot Brachot 11:16).


The Foreigner Traveling to Israel

The mishna (Pesachim 50a-b) teaches us a key rule regarding one who travels to a Jewish community with customs different from his own, “We impose upon him the restrictions of the location from which he departed and the restrictions of the location where he has arrived.”

The Gemara (Pesachim 51a) comments that one remains bound by the restrictions of the place he left only when he intends to return there (da’ato lachazor). Assuming that Yom Tov Sheini has the same status as other customs, a Diaspora Jew visiting Israel must continue to observe two days of Yom Tov, provided that he intends to return to the Diaspora. The analogy between Yom Tov Sheini and other customs, however, is in dispute, so three major positions have developed regarding this issue.


Rav Yosef Karo

Rav Yosef Karo—in his Teshuvot Avkat Rocheil (26)—rules that the mishna’s principle does indeed apply to Yom Tov Sheini. He also notes that this was the ancient and unchallenged practice among the travelers to Israel, “who publicly gather to form minyanim to recite the Yom Tov prayers on Yom Tov Sheini.” Later authorities confirm that this was the accepted practice in Israel (see Teshuvot Halachot Ketanot 4 and Birkei Yosef 496:7) and most authorities rule that a visitor from the Diaspora in Israel must keep two days of Yom Tov (Mishna Berura 496:13, Peat Hashulchan 2:15, and Teshuvot Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:74 and 4:108). The Avkat Racheil and Peat Hashulchan both note the practice of publicly conducting Yom Tov services on Yom Tov Sheini.


The Chacham Tzvi

Rav Tzvi Ashkenazi (Teshuvot Chacham Tzvi 167) disputes Rav Karo’s ruling. He argues that the mishna’s rule of maintaining the restrictions of the place that one left does not apply to the observance of Yom Tov Sheini by visitors to Israel. He explains that Yom Tov Sheini differs from regular customs—which theoretically apply anywhere—because it is geographically linked to the Diaspora. While the residents of a particular community normally develop its customs, Yom Tov Sheini was instituted for the physical area of the Diaspora. However, when one is in Israel, he is in a place where Yom Tov Sheini has no meaning—regardless of where he normally resides. Only other customs—which could theoretically exist even where they are not practiced—is it reasonable for someone who always did them in his own community to observe them while visiting elsewhere. According to the Chacham Tzvi, a visitor in Israel is prohibited from observing Yom Tov Sheini, lest he violate the prohibition of bal tosif (adding to the Torah’s precepts).

Although the Chacham Tzvi is definitely the minority view on this issue, his position has attracted some support from other authorities, Shulchan Aruch Harav 496:11 (which Chabad adherents follow) and Teshuvot Shoeil Umeishiv 3:2:28. According to this view, it follows that an Israeli visitor to the Diaspora should fully observe Yom Tov Sheini, as one’s permanent place of residence is irrelevant.


The Compromise Approach:
Rav Salant and Rav M. Soloveitchik

Some poskim are torn between the cogency of the Chacham Tzvi’s reasoning and the overwhelming majority of authorities—who side with Rav Yosef Karo—so they adopt a compromise approach. In principle, they accept the view of the Chacham Tzvi, ruling that men should don tefillin and all should recite weekday prayers. However, they add that one should refrain from forbidden acts on Yom Tov Sheini, in deference to the view of Rav Yosef Karo.

Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky (Ir Hakodesh VeHamikdash 19:11) records that Rav Shmuel Salant adopted such an approach. Similarly, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein recounts that when Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik visited Israel in 1935, he stayed there during Shavuot. He asked his eminent father, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, what to do for Yom Tov Sheini. Rav Moshe Soloveitchik replied that he essentially concurred with the Chacham Tzvi’s view, but one should, nonetheless, avoid doing melacha to accommodate the ruling of Rav Yosef Karo.

Despite my being a devoted talmid of Rav Soloveitchik, I do not advocate following this approach, despite its theoretical appeal experience teaches that this opinion is difficult to implement. First, it creates very awkward situations such as the second Seder. How should one conduct a Seder, if one treats the day as fundamentally chol? In addition, for most, observing this view devolves into being an observance of one day, which runs counter to the majority view and ancient practice.

The Sephardic View

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer, volume 6, Orach Chayim 40 and Teshuvot Yechaveh Da’at 1:26) cites and accepts the view of earlier Sephardic rabbis to treat single yeshiva students of marriageable age as intending to permanently settle in Israel. He explains that a yeshiva student—even if he is not dating an Israeli at the time and expects to return to the Diaspora—theoretically could marry an Israeli and stay in Israel. A married man, on the other hand, must return to his family and job outside Israel. Rav Ovadia adds, however, that if a single man adamantly insists that he will not stay in Israel under any circumstances—such as if he feels that he cannot leave his parents—then he must keep two days of Yom Tov even in Israel. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe, Orach Chayim 2:101) treats anyone in Israel who is supported by his parents living in America as a resident of the Diaspora.


In practice, I instruct those who ask me to follow the two day opinion. The Chacham Zvi—who lived during the 18th century—assumes that Chazal’s ruling for Chutz La’Aretz residents to observe two days applies only while they are not in Eretz Yisrael. The Chacham Zvi arrives at this conclusion based on intuition, without an explicit source.

However, Rav Ovadia Yosef cites rulings from the Geonim (who lived in the centuries immediately after the Gemara’s completion) that Chutz La’Aretz visitors to Israel should observe two days of Yom Tov. The Geonim’s rulings most often reflect traditions from Talmudic times. Thus, the Chacham Zvi’s assumption is contradicted by the Geonic responses. Moreover, it is possible that Chacham Zvi would have retracted his view, had he known his ruling runs counter to the Geonic view.

Thus, in practice, I tell people to follow what the Beit Yosef describes as an ancient and unchallenged practice, for visitors to Israel to practice two days of Yom Tov. We note, though, that many very detailed questions often arise over the course of Yom Tov Sheini in Israel, so one should prepare to deal with them. Of course, the best solution to this problem is to move to Israel permanently and avoid this debate altogether.

Rabbi Jachter serves as the rav of Congregation Shaarei Orah, rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County, and a get administrator with the Beth Din of Elizabeth. Rabbi Jachter’s 18 books may be purchased at Amazon and Judaica House.

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