Are We There Yet?
‘I Don’t Work On Yom Tov [Sheni]’
As we know, residents of chutz la’aretz observe two days of yom tov on Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos, while residents of Eretz Yisrael observe only one day of each yom tov. When a resident of chutz la’aretz moves to Eretz Yisrael with intent to remain there, he accepts upon himself the custom of his new community and should therefore begin keeping only one day of yom tov. The same principle is true of a resident of Eretz Yisrael who moves to chutz la’aretz with intent to remain there; he should begin keeping two days of yom tov.
According to the Mishnah Berurah (496:13), if a person travels intending only to visit, he should act in accordance with the customs of the place he left. Thus, an American visiting Eretz Yisrael should keep two days of yom tov, and an Israeli visiting America should only keep one day of yom tov. However, he should not publicly work on the second day since this would create controversy. He also should wear yom tov clothes in public as a sign of respect to the community where he currently finds himself. This is the prevalent custom among most Ashkenazim. (Some have other customs; see Shulchan Aruch HaRav 496:11.)
In our sugya, we learn that when a person travels to a different community, he need only keep its customs while he is within the borders of the community’s city. In an uninhabited region outside the city, he may continue acting in accordance with the customs of his place of origin.
An interesting question once arose when an Israeli decided to move to America and embarked on his voyage by boat. The boat reached the port of Marseilles just before Shavuos, and he saw that he would be forced to disembark and spend yom tov in France. Rabbi Betzalel Stern (1911-1989), author of Teshuvos Betzeil HaChochma (1:56), was asked whether he should keep one day of yom tov or two.
He already reached chutz la’aretz, which would argue for him keeping two days. On the other hand, he didn’t reach his destination in chutz la’aretz. He never planned to move to France and become part of the French community. Perhaps, therefore, he could still consider himself an Israeli on the way to his new home in America and keep one day of yom tov.
Rabbi Stern began his answer by comparing two Gemaros presently being learned as part of daf yomi which appear to contradict one another. On 51a, Rabba bar Bar Chana rules that a ben Eretz Yisrael who travels to Bavel may continue eating a certain food that was customarily permitted by communities in Eretz Yisrael but forbidden in Bavel. The Gemara explains that since he is only visiting Bavel, he need not accept its customs (in private – although he must do so in public so as not to cause controversy).
On the other hand, on the same daf, Rav Safra, a resident of Eretz Yisrael, asks Abaye if he may observe only one day of yom tov in Bavel. Abaye answers that as long as he is within the city boundaries, he must keep two days as is the custom in chutz la’aretz. However, in the desert surrounding the cities of Bavel, he may observe only one day.
Tosafos (s.v. “B’yishuv”) asks why Rabba bar Bar Chana was permitted to keep the leniencies of Eretz Yisrael in private when visiting Bavel but Rav Safra was not.
Stringencies of Both
The Chasam Sofer answers that Rabba bar Bar Chana intended to return to Eretz Yisrael, while Rav Safra intended to remain in chutz la’aretz – although not in the place he was visiting at the time. He intended to continue on his travels. Since he left Eretz Yisrael without intending to return, he lost his status as a ben Eretz Yisrael. On the other hand, since he had not yet settled in Bavel, he could not be considered a ben chutz la’aretz either. Therefore, he was forced to keep the stringencies of both Eretz Yisrael and whatever city he happened to be visiting. Only when he reached his final destination and settled there would he be freed of the stringencies of Eretz Yisrael (and subject solely to the customs of his new community).