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Yom Tov Sheini for Sephardic Visitors to Israel

There are three major opinions regarding visitors to Eretz Yisrael on Yom Tov Sheini: Rav Yosef Karo requires two days of observance, Teshuvot Chacham Tzvi rules that one day suffices, and Rav Soloveitchik and others blend the two opinions. To which of these opinions do Sephardic Jews adhere?

Rav Yosef Karo

Rav Yosef Karo, in his Teshuvot Avkat Rocheil (26), rules that the Mishnah’s principle of maintaining the restrictions of the place that one left does indeed apply to Yom Tov Sheini. He also notes that this was the common practice among the travelers to Israel, “who publicly gather to form minyanim to recite the Yom Tov prayers on Yom Tov Sheini.” Later Sephardic authorities confirm that this was the accepted practice in Israel (see Teshuvot Halachot Ketanot 4 and Birkei Yosef 496:7). It is therefore not surprising that Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer, vol. 6, O.C. 40, and Teshuvot Yechaveh Da’at 1:26) rules that a visitor from the Diaspora in Israel must keep two days of Yom Tov. Most Ashkenazic authorities accept this opinion as well (Mishnah Berurah 496:13, Pe’at Hashulchan 2:15, Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim 496:5 and Teshuvot Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim 3:74 and 4:108).

The Chacham Tzvi

Rav Tzvi Ashkenazi (Teshuvot Chacham Tzvi 167) disputes Rav Karo’s ruling. He argues that the Mishnah’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 regarding 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 and Teshuvot Sho’eil Umeishiv 3:2:28). Lubavitcher chasidim, not surprisingly, follow the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch Harav and observe only one day of Yom Tov. 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 Ashkenazic 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 V’hamikdash 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.

Single Visitors to Israel—The Sephardic Approach

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer, vol. 6, O.C. 40, and Teshuvot Yechaveh Da’at 1:26) cites and accepts the view of earlier Sephardic rabbis such as Maran HaChida (Teshuvot Chaim Sha’al number 55) 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. Presumably, the same logic applies to a single young lady from America visiting 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.

Interestingly, in Teshuvot Yabia Omer, Rav Yosef adds that we should inform a young man who resolutely insists that he would not move to Israel against his parents’ advice even for a perfect match, that according to the Halacha, strictly speaking, in such circumstances he is not required to listen to his parents. If the young man relents, he would not be required to observe the second day of Yom Tov. We should note, though, that Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe, end of E.H 1:102) disagrees and believes that the mitzvah to live in Israel does not override the mitzvah to honor our parents.

The noted Syrian leader Rav Eli Mansour cites a fascinating oral report of how Chacham Ovadia responded to a single young man who insisted that he would under no circumstances move to Israel even if offered an ideal shidduch. Rav Mansour reports (in a eulogy for Rav Ovadia delivered at Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck, in November 2013) that Rav Yosef told the young man that his approach is unreasonable and thus discounted. This report, though, runs counter to that which Chacham Ovadia wrote in Yechave Da’at and Yabia Omer.


Sephardic visitors to Israel should observe two days of Yom Tov in accordance with the ruling of Maran Rav Yosef Karo. Single Sephardim of marriageable age, though, need not observe the second day if they would be willing to move to Israel for an ideal marriage partner.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

 Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

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