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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Second Day of Festivals
Day added by the Rabbis to all holy days except Yom Kippur. Jews living at a distance from Jerusalem were informed by messengers of the day on which the New Moon ("Rosh Ḥodesh") had been announced by the bet din. These messengers would set out on the first day of the months of Nisan, Ab, Elul, Kislew, and Adar, and on the second of Tishri (the first day being holy, travel thereon was interdicted), and would rest on the Sabbath and on Yom Kippur; hence they did not travel as far in Tishri as in the other months. The Jews living in the Diaspora, not knowing exactly on what day the New Moon would be announced, might easily have supposed a full month ("male," e., one of thirty days) to be "defective" (ḥaser, e., of twenty-nine days), and thus have observed a festival a day too soon (e.g., might have eaten leavened food on the 21st of Nisan), or they might have erred the other way, and begun the Passover a day too late. By observing two days for every festival this was obviated. At places which the messengers were able to reach in time, this precaution was of course unnecessary. Since, however, there were places which the messengers reached in time during Nisan, but not in Tishri, there would naturally be a zone wherein Passover might be observed seven days and Tabernacles nine. To obviate this inconsistency, all places in which the Tishri messengers did not arrive in time observed each of the festivals, even the Feast of Weeks, on an additional day.
When, in the middle of the fourth century of the common era, Rabbi Hillel fixed the method of calculating the calendar, and the exact date of festivals was no longer in doubt, the celebration of the second day was by some rabbis deemed unnecessary. The Palestinian authorities, although in a similar case it had once been decided that abstention from work on two successive days should be avoided (R. H. 23a), sent word to the teachers in Babylonia as follows:" Guard the custom you have from your fathers. At some time the government might decree laws that would lead to confusion." Therefore, outside a certain district, every festival except Yom Kippur was observed on two days, until the nineteenth century, when conditions changed and the custom proved a great hardship. The fathers of the Reform movement in Germany considered this observance of a second day an unauthorized innovation by the Rabbis, unwarranted in Biblical law, and, having outlived its raison d'être, a hardship unbearable to the majority. Accordingly at the conference held at Breslau in 1846 it was resolved that congregations were justified in abolishing the second days of festivals, except the second day of Rosh ha-Shanah. To avoid dissensions, however, it was further resolved that the wishes of even a small minority for the retention of these days should be respected as far as services in the synagogue were concerned; but the prohibition of work was definitely annulled ("Protokolle der Dritten Rabbinerversammlung zu Breslau," p. 312).
The second day of Rosh ha-Shanah was retained by the conference in view of the fact that it was observed in Palestine (where every other festival is kept but one day) in order to prevent the possibility of labor being performed on the festival day itself. This latter contingency might arise when the new month was announced to begin on the very day after the observation of the new moon, which would render such day a festival. Thus Rosh ha-Shanah might have been even in Jerusalem and at Jabneh (Jamnia) celebrated on two successive days. This may have happened only rarely; but whether the statement of R. Ḥinena b. Kahana (R. H. 19b), that it had never occurred since the time of Ezra, and that therefore the case was purely theoretical, is true or an exaggeration, can not now be determined. At any rate the fact that Rosh ha-Shanah may have at times been so observed in Palestine gives to the second day its exceptional character. As a matter of fact, the second and not the first day ought to have been made the starting-point for the festivals in Tishri. R. Ephraim of Bonn (c. 1150) declares that the Jews of Palestine ought to observe the New-Year on one day only; and R. Zerahiah in his "Ha-Ma'or" holds that such had indeed been the custom there, and that the second day's observance was an innovation introduced by rabbis from Provence, under the influence of R. Isaac Alfasi.
Besides the above-noted inconsistency, that the second day of New-Year, if it ever existed, would have been the real beginning of the year, there are others. That a double Day of Atonement could never be enforced was evident, and therefore it never was introduced, according to R. Ḥinena's statementthat Elul never had more than twenty-nine days. This should make the observance of the second day of Tabernacles and its concluding festival unnecessary. Moreover, if an error had been made, and the day observed as the first of Tabernacles was in reality only the 14th of Tishri, then the day observed as Shemini 'Aẓeret was rather the seventh day of Tabernacles, or Hosha'na Rabbah. As lessons from the Pentateuch (and in the Ashkenazic rite in the Musaf prayer also) the order of the sacrifices, as contained in Numbers 28 and , is read; during Ḥol ha-Mo'ed the order for two days ("sefeḳa deyoma") is read, it being either the third or the fourth day of the festival, according to whether the second or the first day was correct. To render all these inconsistencies less glaring it was decided that no doubt should be cast on the second and eighth days; that the seventh day should be observed as Hosha'na Rabbah; that the eighth day, as far as the ritual and cessation from work were concerned, should be the Feast of 'Aẓeret; that in order to meet the doubt existing as to the actual day, meals (or at least some food) should be eaten on that day in the "sukkah"; and that the ninth, or the second day of the festival, should be devoted to and set apart for Simḥat Torah.
A similar inconsistency occurs at Passover. According to rabbinical law the counting of the see 'Omer begins on the day after the first festival day. If the second day of Passover is the first day in 'Omer, it is semiholy only, and there would be a doubt as to the day until the Feast of Weeks. Moreover, since during the early times, even when announcing messengers were sent, the exact date of Passover must sooner or later have been definitely known, there would seem to have been no necessity for extending the Feast of Weeks (which is determined not by date, but by Passover) another day. It is therefore analogy rather than consistency that sanctifies the second day of Shabu'ot and the eighth day of Passover. For the 'Omer, the second day of Passover, although it was deemed sacred, is the recognized beginning.
The Rabbis, having ordained the observance of the second day of festivals, legislated fully for it; and although since the fixation of the calendar the observance of this day has become a custom rather than a legal necessity, yet as the custom has remained the provisions of the former laws have also retained their validity. The second day of the festivals is, according to rabbinical law, to be observed with all the sanctity appertaining to the first. However, in the case of a corpse awaiting burial, the Rabbis have considered the second as a work-day, even permitting the cutting of the shroud and the plucking of the myrtle with which the coffin was decked; and this rule applies even to the second day of the New-Year. The custom of the Ashkenazic Jews was, however, to have the coffin, shroud, etc., prepared by non-Jews wherever possible, leaving to Jews only the transportation to the grave and the interment. The rending of the garment, the rounding of the top of the grave, and similar unnecessary labor, were omitted on that day. Naḥmanides and his successors forbade all not directly employed at the interment, even the mourners, to ride to the cemetery. Still-born children are not buried by Jews on the second day of the festival.
Nothing must be specially cooked on the first day for the second, and nothing on the second for the day following. An egg laid on the first day, or fruit that has fallen from a tree, or has been plucked by non-Jews, or has been brought from a distance greater than a Sabbath-day's journey by non-Jews on the first day, may be eaten or prepared on the second day. To this rule, however, the second day of the New-Year is the exception, as the two days of Rosh ha-Shanah are legally considered as forming but one day. If the second day is Friday or Sabbath, the "thing prepared" (see above) on Friday may not be used on the Sabbath; and food "prepared" on the first day of the festival, if on Thursday, may not be used till after the conclusion of the Sabbath. As to the preparation of food for the Sabbath immediately following the second day of festivals BEẒAH; TALMUD.
- Beẓah, 4a, 6a;
- Maimonides, Yad, Shebitot Yom-Ṭob, 1:22-24;
- ib. Ḳiddush ha-Hodesh, 5:5-13;
- Asheri on Beẓah, 1:4;
- Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 496, 526, 663, 666;
- ib. Yoreh De'ah, 299.
- Interesting also is an exchange of letters between the rabbinate of Mantua and Rabbi Leopold Stein, printed in Israelitische Volkslehrer, 1854, pp. 80, 101.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Second Day of Festivals'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/s/second-day-of-festivals.html. 1901.
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26