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. When a resident of chutz la’aretz moves to Eretz Yisrael with the intent to remain there, he accepts upon himself the custom of his new community and begins to keep only one day of yom tov.
The same is true in reverse; a resident of Eretz Yisrael who moves to chutz la’aretz with the intent to remain there begins to keep two days of yom tov. According to the Mishnah Berurah (496, s.k. 13), if a person travels somewhere for a visit, he should practice the customs of his place of origin. Thus, an American visiting Eretz Yisrael must keep two days of yom tov, and an Israeli visiting America should keeps only one day.
He may not, however, publicly desecrate yom tov since that would cause controversy among the residents of chutz la’aretz. Similarly, he must wear yom tov clothes in public to respect the customs of the community. Most Ashkenazim act in this fashion although there are 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 their customs while he’s within the borders of their city. In an uninhabited region outside the city, he may continue keeping the customs of his place of origin.
An interesting question once arose when an Israeli decided to move to America and began his voyage by boat. The boat reached the port of Marseilles just before Shavuos and he realized he would be forced to disembark to spend yom tov in France. The question was posed to Rabbi Betzalel Stern (1911-1989), author of Teshuvos Betzeil HaChochma (1:56), whether he should keep one day of yom tov or two.
On the one hand, he had already reached chutz la’aretz. On the other hand, he had not reached his destination in chutz la’aretz. He had never planned to move to France and become part of its Jewish community. Perhaps, then, he should consider himself an Israeli on the way to his new home in America and keep only one day of yom tov according to the practice of his former community.
Rabbi Stern began his answer by comparing two Gemaros from the daf yomi this week that seem to be contradictory. On daf 51a, Rabbah 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 temporarily, he need not accept the customs of Bavel. Nevertheless, he should not publicly eat this food since that would create controversy.
On the other hand, we find on the same daf that Rav Safra, a resident of Eretz Yisrael, asked Abaye if he could observe only one day of yom tov in Bavel. Abaye answered that as long as he’s within the city boundaries, he must keep two days as per the custom of chutz la’aretz. However, in the desert surrounding the cities of Bavel, he can observe only one day.
Tosafos (s.v. B’yishuv) asks why Rabbah bar bar Chana was permitted to keep the leniencies of Eretz Yisrael in private while visiting Bavel while Rav Safra was not. The Chasam Sofer answers that Rabbah bar bar Chana intended to return to Eretz Yisrael. Rav Safra, on the other hand, intended to remain in chutz la’aretz.
Why, then, was he permitted to keep only one day of yom tov in the desert surrounding the cities of Bavel? Because he didn’t intend to remain 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 both of Eretz Yisrael and of whatever city he happened to be visiting. But when he began to travel onwards through an uninhabited region, he was freed of its stringencies.
The Chasam Sofer concludes that the ramifications of this explanation should be followed as a matter of practical halacha. If so, it would seem that the Jew who stopped in Marseilles for Shavuos had to keep both the stringencies of Eretz Yisrael and those of chutz la’aretz. In other words, he had to refrain from performing melacha even in private on the second day of Shavuos like the Jews in France and put on tefillin (in private) like the Jews in Eretz Yisrael.
However, Rabbi Stern concludes that many Acharonim dispute the Chasam Sofer’s ruling, and this Jew should follow the customs of chutz la’aretz as if he had already reached his destination.