Having just finished two days of marathon eating and praying on Rosh Hashana, I am so grateful that we don’t have to do this very often. So in honor of the new year, and to give chizuk (encouragement) to our struggling olim chadashim (new immigrants), here’s a comparison of the holidays in Israel and in chutz laaretz (diaspora):
- Rosh Hashanah. Two days everywhere—two days of keeping small kids quiet during the shofar-blowing and keeping them busy while everyone else is davening. We were spared one day of shofar this year because of the first day being Shabbat. I enjoy the mitzva of Shofar. But really, it’s clear that the Torah only intended it to be for one day. UPDATE: Rafi G describes how in one synagogue in Jerusalem, the shofar may have been blown on the first day despite Shabbat. Presumably it was blown on the second day as well. It turns out that according to our rabbi, Jews in Israel only observed one day for a few hundred years.
- Yom Kippur. One day everywhere.
- Sukkot. This is the easiest Yom Tov to celebrate twice, except when the first day falls on Thursday and turns out to be three days worth of cooking and preparation (although is it any easier when you have Shabbat in the middle of the holiday?). Still, getting ready for Sukkot with the sukkah, decorations, guests, lulav and etrog and following four days after Yom Kippur is hard enough with just one day of Yom Tov. Let’s not forget one day less of Chol Hamoed (intermediate days), and nine days without clean laundry instead of eight.
- Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah. Relatively easy to prepare for, especially when it’s not on Shabbat and you have more flexibility with the cooking. And in Israel we don’t have that schizophrenia about whether to make kiddush in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret. If we need our furniture we bring it in in the afternoon and that’s it. The one downside here is relatively minor; we have a very long davening (prayer service) because we say the prayer for rain and yizkor (memorial prayer) along with the hakafot and dancing for Simchat Torah; in chutz laaretz these extras are split between the two days. I forget how, though. I do remember that reading Vezot Habracha (the final portion of the Torah) on the second day of Yom Tov and at no other time always seemed bizarre to me. You would think such a significant portion would merit the first day of Yom Tov.
- Pesach. Taking out the tired-looking seder plate a second time is one of the most depressing things I’ve ever experienced. I don’t miss the second seder one bit, even if I would be less tired. Talk about overkill. And in Israel we have to eat matzah for only seven days, unless the last day falls on Friday. I personally believe in burning the matzah after Pesach. As for Chol Hamoed, see Sukkot.
- Shavuot. Shavuot is another very easy, one-day Yom Tov without too much fuss. Unfortunately it often falls on Friday or Sunday (unlike Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret which never do). Do people stay up all night on both days in chutz laaretz?
We calculated that at least once a year, Shabbat immediately follows or is followed by either RH or a one-day Yom Tov so we do get a taste of what we are missing.
If you haven’t got the point yet, the second day of Yom Tov is a large amount of work, expense, and inconvenience. Extra vacation days. Two days of eating, sleeping, praying, eating, and sleeping again. Loads of extra shopping, dishes and laundry. All the extra Yom Tov clothes. And about half of it is completely unnecessary. (I”ll save kvelling about how beautiful the holidays are here for my fellow bloggers, who do it better anyway.)