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October 6, 2015 | 23rd Tishrei 5776
Home  /  Worship, Music and Spirituality  /  iWorship Wisdom Archives  /  Holidays--Diaspora Observance  / 
Holidays--Diaspora Observance

  1. We have been reading many posts about the second day of Rosh Hashanah, but I'm wondering if there are Reform congregations that observe other "Diaspora" holidays: the 2nd day of Sukkot, Simchat Torah (as separate from Sh'mini Atzeret), the 2nd and 8th days of Pesach, and the 2nd day of Shavuot. Also, what do congregations do on the 8th day of Pesach when food is involved? I'm sure that is a problem in congregations where several members keep kosher for Pesach for eight days.

  2. The only other diaspora holiday that we observe [at our congregation] is to hold a second seder on the second night of Pesach. I think it has to do with affording an opportunity for those who don't have a seder to attend with friends or family the opportunity to attend, at least originally. Now I think it includes those who grew up with two sedarim the opportunity to attend one on the second night as well as celebrating with the temple family.

  3. Our family seder on the first night of Passover was traditionally at the home of my wife's uncle, a lifelong and sincerely committed Reform Jew who used the little gray Union Haggadah. One year we made the second seder (a philologist might want to discuss why we "make" a seder rather than hold one--of course, the baleboste officiating in the kitchen would have a ready answer) using a traditional Haggadah and including all the good stuff Little Gray omitted. Concerned lest Uncle Lloyd interpret our very different style as being a criticism, I opened by posing a question: why should we as Reform Jews be having a second seder? Answering my own question, I suggested that the first night is for worship, and the second night is for study. David's theory as to why his congregation does a congregational second seder rings true. When I joined [our congregation], it was just beginning its transformation from Classic Reform to mainstream, and the new rabbi thirty years ago conformed to the established custom (nobody would have thought to call it a minhag in those days) of holding a congregational seder on the first night.

    I suspect that the "market" was not just those who had nowhere else to go, but also those who wanted to be at a seder but didn't feel they knew how to conduct one. By the following year, pushed by his younger colleagues, the rabbi articulated the concept that one ought to be with near and dear on the first night, and moved the congregational seder to the second night. The uproar was mighty the first year, but since then second night has been taken for granted. I suspect that a similar pattern has manifested itself elsewhere.

    1400 units

  4. For the record, the second day of Rosh HaShanah is not a diaspora observance. It is observed in the State of Israel, is mentioned already in the Mishnah (although it is not clear that it was always observed there), and its original rationale is different from the second-day Diasporic observances of Pesach (days 2 and 8), Shavuot, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah on day 9. The latter initially were due to slow communications between Israel and the Diaspora when the holiday had to be proclaimed in Israel. The second day of RH has to do with doubt as to when the new moon occurs, when it was fixed by empirical observation--and this pertained even in the Land of Israel. (Rosh HaShanah is the only festival observance that takes place on the new moon).

  5. I think you are opening a new question: How many Reform Jews observe Passover for five days and how many observe eight days? (Do we really want to get into this?)

    I was educated to believe that Reform offered the alternative of five days' observance of Passover (days beginning on "erevs" as applicable).


  6. I am unaware of any "official" five-day observance. Our congregation observes seven days with Yizkor on the morning of the seventh day, as do, so far as I know, all the rest of the Reform Congregations in the metro Detroit area.

  7. In my synagogue, the 8th day of Pesach is officially not observed. A few times I have been in a class or a meeting on the 8th day and the food brought was definitely not Kosher for Passover. It is a bit difficult for me personally because by the 8th day I'm dreaming of cookies, but in the groups there is always someone (or some-three) who are observing an 8th day and bring acceptable food. The Rabbis use it as a teaching opportunity and there is often a short, spontaneous discussion. As the years have gone by, I've become one of the people who brings a Pesach snack to share. I don't recall an Oneg Shabbat with this difficulty, but I am quite confident that we would handle it in the same way.

    As we are all aware, one of the joys of being a Reform Jew is making educated decisions on our personal levels of observance. And one of the challenges of being a Reform Congregation is making room for individuality without compromising integrity. It ain't always easy, folks, but it's always a learning time!

    370 member units

  8. When I was young, we were in a true classical Reform Temple. Even then, and until this very minute, I have never heard of observing Pesach for five days. As far as I know, it is an eight-day holiday, and that is it!!

    I would appreciate someone posting info on five-day Passover--for my own elucidation.

    630 families

  9. I would amend that [observing Pesach] to say eight days for the more traditional living in the diaspora; seven days as specified in Torah, followed by Reform, as a movement (though not all individuals) and in Israel.

    680 member units

  10. Iris inquires about the origins of the Reform one-day RH observance. This is, in particular, an American classical Reform custom; I think that many European Reform communities in the 19th c. retained the two-day custom for reasons of community tradition. The rationale given for the one-day observance is that the issue of doubt as to when the new moon actually occurs is no longer relevant (and that the second-day observance is superfluous). A fair number of North American Reform congregations have re-instituted a 2nd-day observance (or never dropped it), particularly as more Jews of eastern European origin entered Reform synagogues--that's how this list serv thread got started!

    As for the origins of the two-day custom in the Land of Israel, there is an excellent article in the CCAR Journal from summer, 1985 (when it went by the name of "Journal of Reform Judaism") by (now Rabbis) Cliff Liebrach and Charles Arian, pp. 70-83, that spells this all out. In brief, the Mishnah deals with the theoretical possibility of a two-day RH, but the preponderance of weight of talmudic evidence (including lists of Torah portions read on holidays) indicates that the early rabbinic observance in the Land of Israel was indeed one day. The two-day observance seems to have been initiated there in the 12th c.when Provencal rabbis prevailed on the Jewish community in the land of Israel to follow the ruling of Isaac al-Fasi, who ruled that two days was mandated. Once adopted, it became tradition.


  11. In discussion of what would be served at the Oneg should it be erev the 8th day of Passover, or Kiddush on the 8th day, a Shabbos service, here is where I would say one does not fight a battle. If you have some members whom you know observe for eight days, and who regularly attend services, the Oneg and the Kiddush are Passover. Most probably, that will be a blessing, since it will use up the remaining Passover goodies.



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