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The religious authorities in Israel have already decided that one day of Yom Tov is enough. The religious authorities in the Diaspora need to deal with it.

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Thank offering unto the Lord, offering of first fruits for Shavuot, one of Shalosh Regalim. Illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company between 1896 and 1913 (Public Domain)

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I believe that the Shalosh Regalim should be observed by all Jews, everywhere, exactly as the Torah directs: just like they are observed in Israel.

Dates for holidays on the Jewish calendar are expressed in the Torah as “day x of month y.” Accordingly, the beginning of month y needs to be determined before the proper date of the holiday on day x can be fixed. Months in the Jewish calendar are lunar, and originally would only be proclaimed by the Sanhedrin based on the testimony of witnesses saying they saw the new crescent moon. The Sanhedrin would then have to inform Jewish communities remote from Jerusalem, its meeting place, that it had proclaimed the new moon. The practice of observing Yom Tov sheni shel galuyot – a ‘Second Festival Day’ – stemmed from delays in disseminating that information. 

Today we have accurate knowledge about the orbits of the earth and the moon, and there is no doubt whatsoever when the new moons occur – even eclipses can be predicted many years in advance, with accurate precision. The issue of doubt is, today, entirely unfounded. To keep the tradition of the SFD, therefore, becomes burdensome and without justification any longer. Besides, the Jewish people have been using a mathematically-oriented calendar in which the months and years are established in a nineteen-year cycle that repeats itself perfectly.

The dates of every new month and their holidays, is established in advance almost in perpetuity. And, relying on witnesses coming to testify to a religious court to the birth of a new moon has ceased for close to two thousand years. Moreover, the calendar has been arranged in such a fashion that sometimes it ignores the actual time of the new moon. (For example: Rosh Hashanah cannot begin on a Sunday, Wednesday or Friday, regardless of when its corresponding new moon might happen.)

Thus a reality that occasionally existed during the time of the Holy Temple, has not existed for almost two thousand years. One might even say that the Jewish/Hebrew calendar is a Lunar calendar that has been adjusted to fit the exigencies of Jewish living. Therefore the question about doubt concerning the time of the new moon is really no longer relevant, making doubt as to when it occurs equally irrelevant. 

The religious authorities in Israel have already decided that one day of Yom Tov is enough. It is a Diaspora issue. The religious authorities in the Diaspora need to deal with it. It is an abdication of responsibility to foist the problem onto the Israeli Rabbinate.

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Most of the changes that the Conservative Movement have made in recent years would have been unthinkable just one generation ago, in most Conservative synagogues. Yet, changes in ancestral customs that needed to be made were made.  We should be proud that our rabbis have made 180-degree turnabouts with respect them. Modern Conservative Judaism, at the highest level – the Rabbinical Assembly – made changes to ritual practice in order to accommodate the reality of the times in which we live. But change is sometimes too slow, and subject to inertia which resists change. That is why we need a groundswell from “catholic” Israel to effect change.

The SFD is a custom whose original reason has long been redundant. The SFD was originally intended to be a solution when there was the problem of calendar confusion, but that confusion no longer exists. The SFD is religiously different from the first day of Yom Tov, in order that it might eventually be abolished, and its sanctity is definitely inferior to that of the first day.

The issue of the SFD is an example of a custom that is out-of-touch with reality, that no longer speaks to many Jews and whose time for abolition has come.

All Jews should follow the practice of the Jews in Israel, by celebrating the Shalosh Regalim on the days specified in the Torah. The custom of the SFD should be abolished. Had God wanted some Jews to observe a SFD, the Torah would have said so; but the Torah doesn’t.

Concentrating the festival observances into the day that the Torah prescribes offers the best chance of trying to connect as many Jewish people as possible with the religious holidays. And it offers a chance for those who want to “keep Jewish” to do so more easily, and more economically; without the burden of a second day.

Dr. William Klein – Bill Klein is semi-retired practicing dentist who taught at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University, in London, Ontario.  He is a past-president, and past religious practices chair at Congregation Or Shalom in London, where he served as Ba’al Musaf on the high holy days for twenty years.  Currently, Dr. Klein is the lay spiritual leader at Congregation Ahavas Isaac in Sarnia, Ontario. 

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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