Guest post by R. Jonathan Cohen
Rabbi Jonathan Cohen is a fellow of the Wexner Kollel Elyon at Yeshiva University. He currently serves as Rabbinic Intern at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey.
An ancient enactment requires Diaspora Jews to observe Yom Tov Sheni, the second day of holiday. Their conduct when they visit Israel for the holiday is a matter of debate. While many classical authorities adopted the position that visitors observe two days of Yom Tov, just as they would in the Diaspora, the Chacham Tzvi is famed for ruling that they need observe only one day. See here for an excellent exposition of this well-known dispute.
Increasingly well-known is the so-called “day-and-a-half” position, whereby some observances of Yom Tov Sheni are observed, especially the prohibition of melacha, while for other purposes the day is treated as a weekday or Chol HaMoed, as the case may be. Confusingly for the would-be visitor, there are a wide range of such “day-and-a-half” positions, each with different conceptual underpinnings and practical ramifications. Some of these positions rule essentially in one direction while being stringent to take into account the other position, while others seek an intrinsic balance on a fundamental basis, ruling that one is required to literally “split the day,” observing the second day for some purposes and not for others.
This position is based on the understanding that essentially Yom Tov Sheni cannot exist in Israel, and therefore elements of the day that depend on the kedushat ha-yom, sanctity of the day, cannot be observed. Therefore weekday prayers are recited and tefillin are worn, as the day is essentially a weekday. Nevertheless, a personal custom to refrain from melacha or chametz does not require the sanctity of Yom Tov Sheni to be observed, and as such is brought by the visitor to Israel as a personal custom, making it therefore binding.
A systematic presentation of the various approaches to this problem has not yet, to my knowledge, been attempted, and thus the chart below is a helpful first step to providing additional clarity to an issue too often left to a chance decision. Of particular interest in the Modern Orthodox community will be the position of Rav Soloveitchik as it is presented by various of his students and in different forums, among others by R. Hershel Schachter here. An important opinion that I have not yet fully investigated is that of R. Kook — various sources identify his position as one day and some form of one-and-a-half days. Additional information is welcome.
In the table below, each approach is briefly described in terms of what the basic halacha or ikkar ha-din is according to that approach combined with additional concerns that the authority in question requires or recommends. Thus, the authority may rule that in areas where a compromise is not possible, such as in prayer, the second day should be treated as a weekday because it is the essential halacha, but that nonetheless one may not be lenient to rely on this with regards to melacha because one must be stringent to consider the second day one of Yom Tov. The various practical ramifications of the conceptual approach taken by the authority are then presented.
For the purpose of further clarification, I have included a column with a brief synopsis regarding the observance of Yom Tov Sheni by Israelis visiting the Diaspora. Note that Chacham Tzvi‘s position on this topic is not listed as he did not write on this subject, and differing interpretations have been offered of his position.
It is my hope that this post will provide a framework for further discussion, and is not intended to be a rigorous or thorough presentation of all the views on the subject.
(click on image to enlarge)