The reason for two days of yontif (outside Israel) is based on uncertainty about the date due to distance from Jerusalem and time needed to travel to convey the news of when the month started. The reason we have two-day Rosh Hodesh is explained here.

What puzzles me is why we do not have two days of Rosh Hodesh for the same reason as we have two days of yontif. Why doesn't the reasoning for two-day yontifs apply to Rosh Hodesh (yielding a two-day Rosh Hodesh every month)?

  • The reasons for a two day yontif and for a two day Rosh Hodesh must be somewhat different, as a two day yontif starts on the actual date while a two day Rosh Hodesh starts on the 30th day of the previous month, not on the first of the new month. Also, a yontif in Israel is one day but a two day Rosh Hodesh does not differ in and outside Israel. I hope the answer to the question above clarifies the difference in reasons.
    – Yehuda W
    Apr 20, 2015 at 20:21
  • I don't understand what your last comment is trying to add to the question?
    – Double AA
    Apr 20, 2015 at 21:37
  • @double-aa The difference in the start date for first day YT or RH points out and clarifies a difference between YT and RH that I would like explained. Likewise the difference in how YT and RH are observed in Israel and outside Israel.
    – Yehuda W
    Apr 20, 2015 at 23:22
  • @YehudaW The difference in start dates is just due to the fact that all YTs come in months following months with 29 days, and all 2 day RHs come in months following months with 30 days. Nothing exciting. Likewise, YT at the beginning of the month and RH at the beginning of the month are treated exactly the same in Israel and outside Israel.
    – Double AA
    Apr 21, 2015 at 2:00

3 Answers 3


I am excerpting parts of Ramba"m, Hilchot Kiddush Hachodesh, as I believe are relevant to your question. In summary, the 2 day Yom Tov was based on the distance that messangers could travel within the first 10 days of the month (based on # of allowable travel days for Tishrei. It seems that calculation of the 1st day of Succot was most important. Rosh Hashanna had already been established as 2 days even in Israel, according to most opinions. Yom Kippur, I think, was made 1 day even in Galut b/c of the danger of fasting 2 days - have to check this further.) as well as the establishment of Jews in that village during time of Sanhedrin. Now, the two day celebration is based on following the previous custom and according to Ramab"m is takanat sofrim.

As you already saw, the doubt of Rosh Hodesh is different, as even those in Israel weren't sure, so potentially, every month could have days Rosh Hodesh. It didn't happen that way, but I believe there were times when you had 2 consecutive months with 2 days Rosh Hodesh, depending on when witnesses appeared. While Ramba"m doesn't outrightly state this, I infer that those in the far distances who had the doubt of having to observe 2 days Yom Tov, also observed 2 days Rosh Hodesh every month. (Would appreciate if someone could confirm or refute this.

Mishneh Torah, Sanctification of the New Month 3:11-12:

Every place that the messengers reach, they'd make the festivals a one day holiday as is written in the Torah. And the distant places that the messengers wouldn't reach would make two days because of the doubt, for they wouldn't know which day was the day that the court fixed the first of the month. There are places that the messengers of Nissan would reach them and the messengers of Tishri would not reach them. And according to the law, they ought to make Passover one day of holiday, for the messengers reached them and they knew on which day the first of the month was fixed. And they ought to make the holiday of the festival of Tabernacles two days, for the messengers didn't reach them. And in order not to distinguish between the festivals, the sages amended that any place that the messengers of Tishri didn't reach would make two days [of holidays], even the holiday of Ceasing (Shavuot).

Mishneh Torah, Sanctification of the New Month 3:13:

And how much is between the messengers of Tishri and the messengers of Nissan? Two days. For the messengers of Tishri didn't travel on the 1st of Tishri because it is a holiday and not on the 10th of it because it is the Day of Atonement.

Mishneh Torah, Sanctification of the New Month 5:12:

A place that has between it and between Jerusalem 10 days or less than 10, and it is [in] Syria or the outside of the land [of Israel], and they don't have a custom. Or it is a newly formed city in the desert of the land of Israel. Or a place that [people of] Israel dwells now. They make two days like the custom of the majority of the world. And every second day holiday is from the words of the scribes and even the second day of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah which everyone makes at this time.

Rmaba"m's discussion is mainly in chapters 4 and 5, and, to get a better perspective, you should read the majority of these chapters. The English translation was copied from sefaria.org.

In summary, we aim to get 1 day for both. Rosh Hodesh has its "internal" problem both because of the moons orbit which is not a full day, and when witnesses appear. However, once we know when Rosh Hodesh really was, we can't correct time that already passed (i.e. we can't "correct" Rosh Hodesh itself If people already observed the 1st day, and it was a 30 day but it really was 29.) However, once we know which day really was Rosh Hodesh, we attempt to inform people of that, afterwards. But, there is only so much time and distance that messengers can travel, so they are ALWAYS doubtful.

There is a separate discussion in Ramba"m in ch. 5, I believe that discusses if the date of Rosh Hodesh can be "reverted" retroactively. See there. It's somewhat tangential to answering this question, and I didn't want to cite from it, here.

  • 1
    I don't understand how this answers the question. Why isn't there 2 days of Rosh Chodesh every month out of doubt?
    – Double AA
    Apr 20, 2015 at 21:36
  • @DoubleAA Ah! I had to dig through your comments to see your main concern. It was days 1 and 2 of the month, not 30 and 1. Is that what the OP meant? That doesn't seem obvious to me.
    – DanF
    Aug 5, 2015 at 20:27
  • It's about all months. Why isn't there Sefeika deYoma every month for Rosh Chodesh? (But yes, the question is more striking on a Rosh Chodesh coming off of a chaseir month.)
    – Double AA
    Aug 5, 2015 at 20:36
  • @DoubleAA I'm not sure if Ramba"m Hilchot Kiddush Hachodesh 3:15 - 19 would be relevant to answering the concern. It seems that there is an area where Bet Din can reverse their decision and make a full month a regular month (bizmano).
    – DanF
    Aug 5, 2015 at 21:00

every rosh hashana was 2 days for almost everybody for reason see Rambam kidush hachodesh 5 law 7-8 (in short: even if the witnesses came on the first (30th) day the court did not send messengers until after the first day was over (only jesuralem knew about it))

from there it seems that since rosh chodesh was not yomtov so they sent the messengers on the day of rosh chodesh (so more of israel knew about it (that rosh chodesh was only on the 30th day) not only jerusalem)

so the question is not why not have all rosh chodesh 2 days, but why now that we use a set calendar do we have 2 days rosh hodesh

Rambam - Kiddush HaChodesh - Chapter Eight - Halacha 4

According to this reckoning, the thirtieth day of the month is always established as Rosh Chodesh. If the month is lacking, the thirtieth day will be Rosh Chodesh of the coming month.

If the month is full [the coming month will have two days that are Rosh Chodesh]. The thirtieth day will be Rosh Chodesh, since a portion of it is [fit to be] Rosh Chodesh. [Nevertheless,] it will be counted as the completion of the previous month, which was full. The thirty-first day also will be Rosh Chodesh, and the reckoning [of the days of the coming month] will start from it. It is the day established [as Rosh Chodesh].

Thus, according to this calculation, there are some months that have only one day Rosh Chodesh, and other months that have two days Rosh Chodesh

שהם וישפה on this rambam asks this question and does not like the answers he found

From this answer from your link you can look on it as on the 30th day we make is rosh chodesh just in case the witnesses come on that day, in a 29 day month we look at it as the witnesses came (before the end of the 30th day), but in a 30 day month we look at it as if the witnesses did not come yet so now we hold the 31st day as rosh chodesh (and we look at it as though the witnesses came this (the 31st) day and it becomes the first day of the month)


The Takkanah to keep two days of Yom Tov is to continue what used to be done outside of Eretz Yisroel. They kept two days since they weren't sure which day is Yom Tov, and doing work on Yom Tov would be violating the Yom Tov. This only applies to Yom Tov.

Besides, there was never a two days Rosh Chodesh in Bavel. They weren't sure which day is the right one, but there is no real observance of Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is mainly about the Beis Hamikdash.

Moreover, if we were to always keep two days of Rosh Chodesh that would mess up our schedule and we would be very confused about which day we are counting from. This would ruin the calendar.

  • "there was never a two days Rosh Chodesh in Bavel" How do you know that? That's what this question is asking, and your asserting this isn't that useful. "there is no real observance of Rosh Chodesh" We know they were reciting Hallel on Rosh Chodesh in parts of Bavel, and according to a number of Rishonim there is a Deorayta prohibition on fasting on Rosh Chodesh, about which they ought be machmir. "This would ruin the calendar." Did you make this up? Were Chaza"l actually worried about this? It sounds petty to me. You just have someone remember which months work how. It's not crazy.
    – Double AA
    Jan 3, 2016 at 15:01

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