By: Max Fruchter –
“where are you for Sukkot?”
– “oh wow, that’s exciting!”
“will you be celebrating with family?”
– “how nice!
“are you keeping one day or two?”
Now here is where the pattern breaks and the answer is more of a discussion than an answer.
Over recent years, the decision for American students studying in Israel for the year of whether to hold one or two days of Yom Tov has become an increasingly hot topic of discussion. Americans who celebrate Chag in Israel are often times bombarded with different opinions as to what they should be doing. Renowned Rabbeim will be quoted as holding that if one has the intention of making Aliyah at some point in the near future he may keep one day. Others who support the flip side argue that two days should be kept and will do their best to convince you of such a belief. Proponents of this manner of celebration may refute the logic previously used to espouse holding one day by saying that until one actually makes Aliyah, they are still American and must therefore hold two days of Sukkot as all Americans do.
Shedding light on a new way of approaching this issue, a large portion of Americans who celebrate in Israel determine the number of days they hold based on where they are for Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. This group maintains that at the heart of “one or two days” are the (italics) Shalosh Regalim- three festivals in which our ancestors, before the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, made pilgrimage to in Jerusalem. Emphasizing this idea as the essence of our debate at hand, the previously mentioned group of Jews view consistency in where one is during Pesach, Shavuot, and Suukot as the determining factor for one or two days. Simply put, this view believes that if one celebrates all three Shalosh Regalim in Israel then they’re considered Israeli in respect to the manner of celebration for the different Chagim and would therefore keep one day. In a completely parallel fashion, the same group of people would tell you that if you come to Israel for Pesach (italics) or (end italics) Shavuot then no reasoning could override the inconsistency in where you are for all three Shalosh Regallim and therefore no rationalization would suffice celebrating one day.
Whether it be through means of biblical citations or subjective views, those who strongly believe in the keeping of one day or two will voice their opinions and will do their best to persuade others into practicing these “beliefs”.
Moreover, the fact that many Americans stay in hotels For Sukkot complicates the disparate nature of keeping one or two days all the more so. Guests in hotels must anticipate the confusion accompanied with Davening- which Shul is designated for those celebrating a second day of Yom Tov and which Shul for those observing a day of Chol. Additionally, the matter of electronic usage becomes a complicated topic- whether a previously designated Shabbos elevator will return to it’s normal status after the first day of Yom Tov since the hotel staff imagines the majority of guests will only be keeping one day etc. These seemingly simple aspects of hotel life for a Jew celebrating Sukkot in Israel become complicated when accounting for the difficulties presented by keeping one or two days.
As a student of a Yeshiva in Israel, I am caught at a crossroads. On the one hand, it seems only logical to adopt the customs of those who reside in Israel and celebrate one day of Yom Tov, since I, myself, am a current resident of Israel (the term resident being defined on loose terms). On the other hand, holding two days may be the more appropriate choice given my consistent holding of two days every year prior to this one. The question now becomes- is it better to maintain my custom of two days in a country where the majority celebrates one day, or is creating a discrepancy in my celebration of Sukkot by holding one day more important than retaining consistency in my practices?
Fortunately, I have numerous reputable Jewish figures to whom I can turn to in search of an answer to this complex dilemma. The head Rabbi of my Yeshiva, a Rabbi of a nearby Shul, and many others have shared their thoughts. Overall, the general consensus is in favor of keeping two days, although there are leniencies in situations where one plans on celebrating Sukkot with family who live in Israel. In addition, all are in agreement that there is certainly no (italics) incorrect way of celebrating Sukkot. The controversy of holding one or two days can only translate into how far you succeed in consecrating the Holiday, surely not into whether you fulfilled the obligation of observing Sukkot.
At the end of the day, the decision is a Halachically based one. American and Israeli citizens, having different Halachic standards to abide by, hold a different number of days. Past these simple facts, everything slowly becomes more and more nebulous. Americans who fly to Israel each year justify the keeping of one day by classifying themselves as Israelis for Sukkot, whereas other Americans may be more strict in their interpretation of what makes someone Israeli, (even a temporary one) and will therefore celebrate one day. This phenomenon is in clear connection with the contrastive reasoning for holding one or two days discussed earlier. The definition of an Israeli for those who hold one day may be someone who observes all three Shalosh Regallim in Israel, while one who believes in keeping two days may claim that an Israeli is one who (italics) lives (end italics) in Israel and only the actual act of making Aliyah, not the notion of someday acting on the desire to, defines one as an Israeli. In any case, circumstances become increasingly more subjective when considering whether to glorify the holiday of Sukkot in regards to where one considers themselves a resident of.
After questioning, consulting, and deliberating between the different options, an answer, (italics) the answer, seemed blatantly clear. Surpassing all advice and subsequent reasoning proffered by different Jewish figures is the most significant and meaningful thought of all- that of family.
After discussing the matter with my parents, we came to the conclusion that since I have never celebrated Sukkot in Israel before, I am not an Israeli citizen nor have I have ever celebrated Pesach, Shavuot, (italics) and (end italics) Sukkot in Israel, it is not the best decision, nor the most logical one, for me to keep one day of Yom Tov. Unquestionably, the decision to observe one or two days is a complicated one and deserves much inquiry. That being said, until the Rabbeim unanimously institute a clear and uniform halachic course of action to follow in this respect, it is up to each student and family to decide for themselves which Halachic direction is most appropriate.