Shemini Atzeres

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A little late, but… The author of the Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayim 668:1) and the Rama disagree on how to refer to the holiday of Shemini Atzeres in the prayers and kiddush. According to the Shulhan Arukh, one should say “Yom Shemini Hag Ha-Atzeres” and according to the Rama, “Yom Shemini Atzeras Ha-Hag.” The custom of the Gra (Ma’aseh Rav, 228) is to follow the Shulhan Arukh on this.

R. Ya’akov Kamenetsky (Emes Le-Ya’akov on Shulhan Arukh, ad loc., OH 299:10) ties this in with two other disagreements between the Shulhan Arukh and the Rama, through which one can see that the Gra is also consistent.

The Shulhan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 328:1) rules that on removing the hallah portion from dough one should recite the blessing “le-hafrish terumah” while the Rama rules that one should say “le-hafrish hallah.” The Gra (ad loc. 1) explains that, according to the Shulhan Arukh, one blessings are generally recited in Biblical Hebrew and in that language, as the Mishnaic hallah is called terumah. The Rama, on the other hand, holds that blessings should use Mishnaic/Rabbinic Hebrew rather than Biblical Hebrew. The Gra agrees with the Shulhan Arukh that Biblical Hebrew is to be preferred.

That same reasoning, suggest R. Kamenetsky, is the basis of the disagreement regarding Shemini Atzeres. In the Bible, the holiday is only called “Yom Shemini” while in rabbinic terminology it became called Shemini Atzeres. Therefore, the Shulhan Arukh and the Gra re consistent in using Biblical Hebrew, and the Rama in using Rabbinic Hebrew.

The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayim 299:10) rules that one should say “ha-mavdil bein ha-kodesh u-vein ha-hol” while the Rama rules that one should say “ha-mavdil bein kodesh la-hol.” The Shulhan Arukh seems to be preferring the Biblical phraseology (Vayikra 10:10) and the Rama the Rabbinic language. (R. Kamenetsky explains exactly which grammatical principles are at play here, but I doubt many people are interested.)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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