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During the Pesach seder, but not during the rest of Pesach, we say b'rachot for the mitzvot of matzah and maror. (I mean the "asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav" b'rachot.) So it seems that we are only commanded in this for the night of the seder. But in the diaspora we have two seder nights and we say these b'rachot both nights. Doesn't that mean that one of those nights is the wrong time and thus we're saying blessings in vain? Why is this ok?

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Welcome to judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the thought-provoking question! –  Isaac Moses May 11 '11 at 2:27
    
related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/12465/759 –  Double AA Feb 6 '12 at 20:05
    
Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/36507 –  msh210 Mar 20 at 23:21

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Good question. The same question comes up with all the blessings regarding a second-day yom tov on the Diaspora; e.g. kiddush and shehechiyanu on the second night of Sukkot, Shavuot, and Shmini Atzeret.

Until the Jewish calendar was fixed in place (around the year 500 or so), those in the Diaspora were keeping two days, going "maybe yom tov is really Tuesday, maybe it's really Wednesday" (or whatever days of the week). However, past that point in time, the two-day-Diaspora practice became established rabbinically as the formal requirement -- "keep two days as full yom tov in the Diaspora."

So we say all the yom tov blessings because we're obligated, rabbinically, to treat it as full yom tov (or as full seder).

As for blessings in vain, the problem is saying a blessing that's not needed. Once it was established as obligatory, then it's no longer in vain! (For instance, using G-d's name for the sake of teaching how to do prayer is not "in vain", and I know of one cantorial recording that in fact does so.)

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Monica's question still stands- when the Jews were first in doubt, why weren't they concerned with a bracha in vein and just do the mitvos without the bracha. Subsequently, the rabbinical requirement would have been without a bracha as well. –  YDK May 11 '11 at 2:34
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@YDK, when the formal two-day requirement was fixed, its parameters did not exactly meet what had been done in the older we-don't-know-which-day system. For instance a.) now a Babylonian visiting Israel would keep 2 days [Rabbi Moshe Feinstein pointed this one out] b.) the borders of "Israel" with regards to 1 day / 2 days are the Biblical borders according to Ritva, though not all parts of the Biblical land were informed of the calendar in the Second Temple period. c.) The discussions of blessings -- even "shehechiyanu", normally made on new things -- is required, to add dignity to 2nd day –  Shalom May 11 '11 at 2:48
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So, while it could be they originally did not say brachos, it was later required as one for sure torah day and one for sure rabbinic day. –  YDK May 11 '11 at 3:15
    
@Shalom But a) Chacham Tzevi proves exactly the opposite, that one visiting Israel keeps one day, from this din b) The Rambam disagrees and requires Yom Tov Sheni wherever the messengers did not reach c) the gemara in Shabbat implies that they were added so the people would not 'zilzul' = "think lightly of" the second day. –  Double AA Oct 17 '12 at 18:36
    
@YDK That seems highly unlikely as it would mean that they never said Rosh Hashana davening outside of Jerusalem. It makes more sense to say that the permission to say two days worth of Brachot was granted extremely early on to those in far away places. –  Double AA Oct 17 '12 at 18:38

After the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C.E.), the extra day of observance by the diaspora - including its prayers and rituals - was added to avoid possible desecration of the holiday due to the uncertainty of the lunar-based Jewish calendar. The appearance of the New Moon needed to be officially announced once witnesses testified to its arrival. In the transmission of this information from the source in Jerusalem to distant places in the diaspora - not an easy task to do two millennia ago - errors could occur; and hence the additional day along with its prayers and rituals.

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Monica's question (I believe) is not why we celebrate 2 days, but why we are not concerned that the brachos of one of the days being in vain. –  YDK May 11 '11 at 2:41
    
@YDK We in the diaspora are unconcerned with repeating the same prayers and same rituals in our celebration of 2 days because of this uncertainty of the Jewish (lunar) calendar before it was set. –  thealzel May 11 '11 at 2:55
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@YDK: right, I know why we have two days; the question is about the duplicate b'rachot. –  Monica Cellio May 11 '11 at 2:56
    
correct. And Monica's question is "why?" –  YDK May 11 '11 at 3:17
    
@YDK @Monica Originally the duplication was to avoid desecration of the holiday because of the calendar's uncertainty. Later - and I like YDK's comment to Shalom " it was later required as one for sure torah day and one for sure rabbinic day." –  thealzel May 11 '11 at 3:31

first of all only bircat hamazon and cohanim are deoraita, all the other berachot are miderabanan. one could ask how come we say berachot at all on the second day if it is miderabanan or even say that one of the two for certain is not the right one so safek berachot leakel. but all the command to the berachot is miderabanan.

about the asher kideshanu part, the same kind of question could be made about any mitsva miderabanan like hanuka. and the fact is that we do say asher kideshanu for misvot miderabanan.

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