My understanding is that the reason for observing the 2nd Day of Yom Tov was that messengers were sent from the Sanhedrin to proclaim the day that Rosh Hodesh began, and they could reach only a certain distance within the same day.

What was that distance, originally - i.e. - during the time of the 1st Sanhedrin or as the Mishnah describes it. Has the distance where 2nd Day of Yom Tov applies changed since then, and is it different now?

Along with sources, if you can provide some landmarks (cities, villages, etc.) along with numerical distance, that would be useful.

  • I don't understand "Has the distance where 2nd Day of Yom Tov applies changed since then, and is it different now?". Do you mean to ask whether the places that keep two days yom tov nowadays are the very places that did so when it was misafek? Or do you mean to ask whether the places that would keep two days nowadays (were bes din in session) the very places that did so when it was misafek?
    – msh210
    Sep 3, 2014 at 4:18
  • @msh210 I thought he was asking if the places keeping Yom Tov Sheni have changed and if now we are back to the original set or not
    – Double AA
    Sep 3, 2014 at 8:38
  • @DanF (see comments above) That makes three possibilities as to what you are asking. (I hadn't even considered the third.) Could you please edit the question to clarify?
    – msh210
    Sep 3, 2014 at 12:50

1 Answer 1


Rambam hilchot "kiddush hachodeh" chapter 5, halachot 8-11 states that:

a) The distance the messengers reached were different every year (depending on political borders, weather, and number of shabbas/holidays in which they couldn't travel). Note that the maximum distance is 10 days journey (excluding shabbas/holidays). Basically, there were places that kept one day one year, then two days the next year. See also the next point.

b) There were times when the witnesses came late and even the city of Jerusalem had to celebrate two days Rosh Hashana.

c) The eventual decision to keep two days after the calendar was established did not depend on physical distances, but on "some other tradition" (Rambam does not appear to explain how).

d) The Rambam states that "Egypt" (presumably Alexandria) is an 8-day journey (and therefore presumably would have kept one day during the messenger era). This also seems to imply that Egypt had the tradition of keeping two days in his time.


  • This is a comprehensive, yet somewhat difficult to understand answer as it seems to contain multiple "conditions" with no definite answer. a) states that the maximum is a 10-day journey - based on clear weather / dry roads and just 1 Shabbat? I.e. - people far away would probably rely on a physical distance. With all these factors, are you saying that each year when Yom Tov occurred, some people could need to do 2 days when they didn't the previous year and vice versa? Also, what is the distance considered today?
    – DanF
    Sep 4, 2014 at 2:23
  • 1
    I believe the 10 days comes from clear roads, 1 shabbas, 2 rosh hashanah and 1 yom kippur = 14-1-2-1 = 10. Also yes, people might need to do 1 day one year, then 2 days the next. Today, the accepted border is Israel = 1, outside = 2, but there apparently used to be communities in Syria who kept one day. (I don't have an explicit source for this, but soldiers serving extended time in Lebanon back in '82 were told to keep 1 day).
    – Nic
    Sep 4, 2014 at 15:04

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