Give us back a sec­ond day

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT & ANALYSIS - Miriam Sha­viv

Wpainful as my hus­band is also self­em­ployed. Dur­ing the chagim, we can­not gen­er­ate any new busi­ness for the fol­low­ing months ei­ther. Ev­ery mo­ment is spent serv­ing cur­rent clients. Fol­low­ing a tense chagim, we spent this week catch­ing up. Not that it’s any bet­ter for em­ploy­ees of non-Jewish firms, who have to jus­tify their ab­sence to scep­ti­cal bosses, lose an­nual leave, and han­dle a full month’s work in just three weeks. Over yomtov, there seemed to be one com­mon, whis­pered fan­tasy in the shul pews: that some brave Ortho­dox rabbi would have the guts to can­cel sec­ond­day yomtov, the ad­di­tional day of fes­ti­val kept only in the di­as­pora at the be­gin­ning and end of Suc­cot, Pe­sach and on Shavuot. This would add a pre­cious two days of nor­mal­ity back into our au­tumn cal­en­dar.

The case is clear. The ‘‘sec­ond day’’ was in­sti­tuted in Tem­ple times be­cause — to sim­plify — there was po­ten­tial con­fu­sion over the cor­rect dates of the fes­ti­vals in the Baby­lo­nian di­as­pora.

The rab­bis hedged their bets, cel­e­brat­ing on two con­sec­u­tive days. Nowa­days, when our cal­en­dar is set, the orig­i­nal rea­son for the sec­ond day has dis­ap­peared.

Yes, there is tra­di­tion. And some peo­ple do en­joy the ex­tended cel­e­bra­tions. But the fi­nan­cial toll seems un­ten­able for the av­er­age worker in to­day’s high-pres­sure, “al­ways-on” work­place, par­tic­u­larly when the cost of Jewish liv­ing is al­ready pun­ish­ing.

Over the long-term, I be­lieve the sec­ond day is doomed.

First, peo­ple are vot­ing with their feet. Sec­ond-day yomtov is con­sid­er­ably qui­eter in most United Syn­a­gogues than first day. Many ab­sen­tees — tra­di­tional but not fully ob­ser­vant — are dis­creetly go­ing back to work.

A large per­cent­age of the more ob­ser­vant crowd has been to Is­rael over the chagim and, fall­ing in with lo­cal tra­di­tion, hap­pily kept just one day.

This was ex­tremely rare just 15 years ago, show­ing just how fast ha­lachic prac­tice (and our ‘‘nor­ma­tive United Syn­a­gogue ap­proach’’) can change, and high­light­ing the strange­ness and bur­den of the en­tire di­as­pora tra­di­tion.

Due to a cal­en­dar quirk, for the next four years all the chagim fall on week­days — as they have since 2010.

Pro­fes­sor Alan Brill has spec­u­lated that the Re­form de­ci­sion to can­cel Sec­ond Day at the Bres­lau con­fer­ence of 1846 was re­lated to the fact they had un­der­gone a sim­i­lar weekday-heavy fes­ti­val cy­cle.

So far, no Ortho­dox rabbi has dared fol­low suit — although there has been pres­sure to do so on this isle since 1868, when Numa Har­tog pub­licly chal­lenged Chief Rabbi Adler on the is­sue. Al­most 150 years later, per­haps it is fi­nally time to re-ex­am­ine this un­nec­es­sary, and prob­lem­atic, cus­tom.

It’s time to re-ex­am­ine this quite un­nec­es­sary cus­tom

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