I recently got answers to a few sheilos (Jewish law questions) I asked our Rav (rabbi) relating to our trip. The principal one was how many days of Yom Tov we should keep when we’re in Israel.
[Background explanation, for those who need it: Part or all of any given Jewish holiday may consist of “Yom Tov” (Heb.) or “Yontiff” (Yiddish), which are treated essentially like Shabbos in that we don’t do any “work” (a poor translation, but that’s another topic). The remaining days of the holiday are “chol hamoyed,” with relatively minor restrictions on “work”-type activities. For reasons that are a little too involved for even one of my digressions, in Israel one generally keeps just one day of Yom Tov, as specified in the written Torah, while outside of Israel one keeps two. For example, the Torah designates the 15th of Nisan as the first day of Passover, when we do no “work,” and have a seder. In America, we keep two straight “workless” days and have two sederim. In Israel, there is one initial “workless” day and one seder.]
The question of whether to keep one day of Yom Tov or two actually turns not on where you are, but where you live. People from abroad visiting Israel still keep two days, even though they’re in Israel. (People from Israel visiting abroad still keep one day, although it is more complicated because they can’t openly do “work” so as to avoid confusing people.) When students from abroad go to learn in Israel, even though they live there the entire year (or more), they still keep two days, because their homes are still abroad.
So, I was surprised to learn that we will keep one day of Yom Tov in Israel. I believe it has to do with the fact that our entire family is going there, which is apparently more significant than the fact that we intend to return. (Disclaimer: do not rely on this blog for any halacha l’ma’aseh! CYLOR!)
I can’t totally explain why this utterly delights me. It isn’t like I dislike the second day of Yom Tov – quite the contrary. I guess it makes it feel more like we’re going to be living in Israel.
It’s also just a major change to the rhythm of our Jewish life – another way that things will be different. Disruptions to the “normal” way we do things are an opportunity to change ourselves. They’re a reminder not to get complacent. This is the point of the Jewish calendar altogether – the “disruption” created by holidays and other times of note are supposed to be tools for growth. Maybe I’m excited that we’re going to get even more “disruption,” and thus even more opportunity for growth.
Or maybe I just want more chol hamoyed.