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    7th & 8th days

    Shabbat yom-tovThis weekend the Diaspora and Israel have different practices. Friday is yom-tov for everybody but Shabbat is 8th day Pesach in the Diaspora and an ordinary Shabbat in Israel.

    This is part of the old debate about keeping the second days of festivals. All over the Jewish world, Rosh HaShanah has two days and Yom Kippur one, but in Israel the second and eighth days of Pesach are not yom-tov, nor are the second and ninth (Simchat Torah) days of Sukkot.

    The discrepancy is ancient. Instructions as to the calendar took longer to reach the Diaspora and an extra day of the festivals I have listed was added in order to avoid uncertainty. This was made possible by two verses, Deut. 4:2 which said that God’s word should not be added to or subtracted from, and Deut. 17:8-11 which recognised that new decisions might be necessary from time to time.

    In regard to the calendar, the sages, using well-established legal principles, introduced an extra day of yom-tov for the Diaspora. The principles they applied were: make a “fence” around the Torah, and do not impose more than the people can cope with.

    Because of the first rule an extra day was added to the festivals, which safeguarded the original Torah rule; because of the second, Yom Kippur could not be expanded.

    The establishment of the State of Israel has meant that increasing numbers of Jews now follow the historic Land of Israel practice.

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