Religion & Beliefs

Passover: The Extra Day is YOUR Day

As a kid, I knew that there were eight days of Passover, just like there were eight days of Chanukah.  It made sense.  In my child-brain, the two seemed to mirror each other.  My two favorite holidays, placeholders in the … Read More

By / April 3, 2007

As a kid, I knew that there were eight days of Passover, just like there were eight days of Chanukah.  It made sense.  In my child-brain, the two seemed to mirror each other.  My two favorite holidays, placeholders in the year.  Latkes and Matzoh, eight days of each.

But then a few years ago, I learned that there are only really supposed to be seven days of Passover.  So I wanted to know why we extended the holiday…  and the answer interests me.  Check it out:

In the 5th century BCE, when Jewish unity was threatened by the exile from Israel, the patriarch Hillel II set a perpetual calendar and instituted an official "Second Day Yom Tov."

They did this even though they themselves had full awareness of the precise dates of all the holidays. The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 25a) already had pinpointed the length of the lunar month as 29.53059 days (later verified by NASA scientists using satellites, hairline telescopes, laser beams and super-computers).

So why was a second day Yom Tov added for all time? In order to make a distinction, to add to the Jewish awareness that one is living in the Diaspora and does not claim permanent residence in the Holy Land.

Hmmm…. it seems to me, thinking about it this morning, that this is something we should actually embrace. 

 Because our second Yom Tov (April 10th this year) doesn't just indicate that we are NOT in Israel… it also indicates where we ARE.  How far we've come.  And that we are a part of our own particular diaspora communities.  For worse, and for better. 

It seems to me that the second Yom Tov might be something we want to find a way to celebrate in a new way.  Since we don't hold a Seder on the last day of Passover, maybe we should do something else. After seven days of eating dry crackers, the bloom is off the rose anyway, and we could use a little bit of fun, a new tradition.

But I think it should be something distinctly Jewish-American, or region-specific. While we're eating our extra pieces of matzoh, maybe we should find some meaning in our diaspora experience, and our "extra day.".  Pay respect to a few hundred years in America, or a few thousand years outside Israel… and take note of all the cultural and historical and artistic moments that have made up the lifetime of that community! 

Maybe for April 10th this year I'll go on a tour of Jewish Atlanta, and  I'll do something southern-Jewish (and Kosher for Passover) for dinner. 

BBQ and borsht, anyone?