From what I understand, we outside of Eretz Yisrael we keep two days of Yom Tov as a continuation of the minhag that evolved from the time of the Bais Hamikdash when we would not necessarily know when Sanhedrin in Yerushalyim declared it to be Rosh Chodesh. In order to be sure that we keep Yom Tov on the correct day, we keep two days.

What I don't understand however, is why is this not the minhag in Eretz Yisrael? After all, just because you live in Eretz Yisrael today, it doesn't mean you are not technically in Golus. Also, there is no Sanhedrin in Eretz Yisrael today just as much as there is no Sanhedrin in Chutz L'Aretz today - meaning there is no central body anywhere to establish when Rosh Chodesh is.

According to all these educated assumptions, I can't see why Israelis would hold one day while British Jews, for example, keep two.

I would appreciate very much if someone could clarify.

  • 3
    are you combining two ideas? your first paragraph states that the reason was purely distance and your second paragraph brings up the idea of being in golus. If the reason was distance, the state of being in golus is immaterial.
    – rosends
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 17:54
  • Rashei Chodashim these days were established ahead of time by the Sanhedrin of Hillel Hakatan. That we should keep doing a second day of Y"T in the Diaspora was established along with that as an acknowledgement that we're observing R"Ch by the authority of that enactment, not just based on a rock moving through space or some algorithm on paper. See R' Hirsch's commentary on Ex. 12:2. This still doesn't get all the way to "why not in E"Y, too?" so I'm not posting an answer yet, but I think this conceptual framework is important.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 18:03
  • 1
    ummm...yes being in Israel does mean technically you are not in Golus. That's what the word means: exile. Perhaps they are in a non-literal "Golus", but that is the one that is non-technical.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 18:21

2 Answers 2


Ramban gives the date of today's fixed calendar at about 386 CE. Before that point, the Jews in Israel received a messenger informing them of the proper date of yomtov, and thus kept one day. The Jews outside of Israel did not get a messenger in time and thus kept two days to play it safe.

Around 386, when the calendar was fixed, the policy became to keep things more or less the way they had been -- if you were in Israel, keep one day, if you weren't, keep two.

When we say "galus", sometimes (e.g. in a Tisha B'Av sense) we mean "there is no Temple anymore"; but here we mean very simply "outside of Israel." There were 300 years when the Temple had been destroyed and yet there were Jews in Israel who could still be informed that the new moon had been sanctified (by a Sanhedrin located in the north of Israel, where things were more stable). And in 386, Hillel (great-great-etc. grandson of the famous one) used his Sanhedrin to sanctify the calendar for hundreds of years into the future.)

Rambam's opinion is that those locations that were within messenger distance still keep one day, and those that aren't keep two; unless we know otherwise, we use as a rule of thumb the Mishnaic borders (per Gittin 1:2, Ashkelon to the south, Ako the north, Rekem the east, and implicitly the Mediterranean Sea to the west).

Fascinatingly, Ritva opines that when we switched to a fixed calendar, the decree was to change the borders of the practice as well -- from here on out, when they said "Israel" they meant the Biblical borders; when they said "not Israel" they meant beyond those borders. (Even though this did not match the exact parameters of the older practice, but it made for a simpler policy.)

  • Around 386, when the calendar was fixed, the policy became to keep things more or less the way they had been -- if you were in Israel, keep one day, if you weren't, keep two. moves toward answering "why," the question at hand, but is a step short, I think, of fully answering it.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 18:09
  • doesn't answer the fact that nowadays doesn't have sanhedrin
    – juanora
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 9:49
  • 1
    @juanora Yes it does. It says a previous Sanhedrin already sanctified the present and near-future's months so there is no need for its current continuance for clarify in calendrical calculations.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 22, 2013 at 12:25

This Halakha comes from Takannah made by Chazal, in other words it is a m'd'rabbanan. We find in Pesachim 52a that Rav and Shmuel(the last of the Tannaim) instituted the two day Hag for areas not able to be reached by Shluchim(messengers) within five days from Jerusalem. However, this still does not apply to all of modern day Israel. Rav Ovadia Hedayyah answered this question when it came up before the Beit Din Rabbani HaGadol(the Rabbinut's Supreme Rabbinical Court), as far as exactly why there is this minhag and where exactly it is in effect in Israel.


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