Monday, April 17, 2006

In defense of the second day

Jameel says: My only consolation is that we only had ONE day of chag and then a break before shabbat - while you had 3 days in a row! BWAHAHAHAHAH

Bwahaha? Jameel, why do you think the second day is a burden? Having a second seder is great: It gives the kids more time to say over the snippets they brought home from school. And having an extra day of chag - just me and the family and the neighbors - in the great spring weather, with none of the weekday distractions, is also wonderful.

Now, I expect objections. I know some of you (likely Yus, and maybe Chiam B.) will be quick to say, "DovBear, you're a fabulous blogger, and an all around great guy who has given us hours and hours of free entertainment, but, to my small and feeble mind, you appear to have contradicted yourself. Last week you urged us, with all the authority an anonymous blogger can muster, to eat matzo balls on Pesach. Yet, today you write in support of the Diaspora's second day of Yom Tov. Aren't both customs equally foolish? Don't we know, with certainty, that matzoh, once baked, can't possibly become chomutz? And don't we know, with certainty, when Pesach begins and that the second day of Yom Tov is, in fact, the second and not the first day of the holiday? So what gives?"

All good points (especially the part about me entertaining you for free) The differences are only this: (1) The entire Diaspora has been keeping Yom Tov Sheni for at least 2000 years; a small, but growing subset of Jews has been avoing gbroks for less than 400. (2) No one in the Diaspora imagines that the second day of Yom Tov makes us holier or better; many, if not most, people who shun g'broks think they are keeping pesach correctly and the rest of us are mistaken and, worse, "modern." (3) The second day of Yom Tov makes our lives better for secular reasons. As mentioned above, there's the extra family time, and the extra day without the pressures of the week. Avoiding g'broks makes our lives more difficult, and creates artificial distinctions between Jews.

Now, with all of that said, I concede that Yom Tov Sheni is an anachronism that should be discarded. I recognize that there is no legitimate halachic mechanism which could discard it, and I recognize their might be compelling secondary reasons for keeping it, reasons like propagating respect for sages and for tradition. But neither the absence of a halachic fix, or the compelling secondary reasons can obviate the fact that the creation of a reliable Jewish calendar, in 359 CE, made YTS obsolete. All three ideas [(1) it's original reason no longer obtains (2) we can't do anything about it; and (3) there are secondary reasons for maintaining the status quo] are at once true.

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