Two Days of Yom Tov

Question

Dear Rabbi, why do we keep two days of Yom Tov outside of Israel? Thanks.

, 3 years

Answers

  1. Very good question!
    In Jewish tradition the calendar was historically determined by eyewitness sightings of the new moon, and then declared by the Jewish Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. In the days of the Temple people outside of Israel simply would not know if the previous month was twenty-nine or thirty days, and therefore would be in doubt as to which is the correct night for Sukkot to begin, and when they must live in the sukkah – and likewise for other Festivals. Since it took more than two weeks to get to the Diaspora from Jerusalem, messengers would not arrive in time for the Festival, and the Diaspora Jews would have to keep two days of Yom Tov (Festival Days) due to doubt.
    Nowadays we calculate the months based on a fixed calendar, but nevertheless the Sages of the Talmud decreed that outside of Israel the Festivals should still be kept as they were in ancient times, as two days. So, today in Israel the community keeps only one day of Yom Tov, whereas outside of Israel has two. The reason for the decree is just in case calculations and communications collapse for some unforeseen reason. The observance of a second day in such a case will be “playing it safe”. It also helps to maintain outside of Israel a feeling of connection and dependence of the “word of God coming from Zion and Jerusalem”.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team