Kenneth Cohen

Dennis Prager and Yom Tov Sheini

I truly admire Dennis Prager. He is a great representative of the Jewish people and is a very proud Jew. He emphasizes the importance of holding on to ethical values and strongly speaks out on behalf of the State of Israel.

Many years ago, I met Mr. Prager at the home of a mutual friend. I was introduced as one who lives in Israel. Without even a polite, “nice to meet you,” Prager went on attack mode and asked, “What’s the deal with the two-day Yom Tov?” I was ready for him and answered, “It’s your punishment for not moving to Israel!” To this, Prager responded, “That’s the only answer I will accept.”

Very recently, I was sent one of Dennis Prager’s excellent rebuttals to repeated Donald Trump bashings. It appeared on You Tube. I noticed that on the side, there was a short interview with Prager, something about the observance of two days Yom Tov for Diaspora Jews.

In this interview, Prager was asked why he did not consider himself Orthodox when he was such a champion of the Torah and traditional Jewish values. To my surprise, Prager again mentioned that he could not embrace Oethodoxy when the two-day Yom Tov was still in operation even after there was a set Jewish calendar.

Apparently, this two-day Yom Tov issue, has been an open wound for Mr. Prager for several decades. I would like to offer an explanation that perhaps Prager might consider, for he is a very honorable man.

For nearly 15 years, I have been teaching Talmud five mornings a week, to a group of highly intelligent retirees. As we have been delving into this sacred text, we continue to marvel at the incredible wisdom of our sages.It is not only their wisdom that impresses, but it is also the high level of personal sanctity that they were able to achieve.

The Rabbis who fixed the set calendar in the year 358 of the Common Era, were known as Amoraim. We are taught that these Rabbis were on such a saintly level, that it was impossible to even fathom. It seems obvious that they were aware of the implications of demanding that two days of Yom Tov be observed outside of Israel, while one day is observed in Israel. It is perfectly in order to accept the reasoning of the Amoraim as being something beyond our comprehension, rather than simple foolishness.

A similar situation applies to the separation demanded by the Rabbis between husband and wife, for those observing the laws of Family Purity. The Torah sets the separation at seven days while the Rabbis made it a minimum of 12 days. Many view this as unfair or unreasonable. Again, the Rabbis of old applied their intense wisdom designed to enhance a Jewish marriage. After many years, a learned Chassidic rabbi, speculated that the Rabbis were trying to increase passion between husband and wife. A 12-day separation accomplishes this. A seven-day separation does not.

I do not know if Dennis Prager will read this. However, this is a good lesson in humility that we defer to those holier and more learned than we are. It is certainly disappointing that the Rabbis of today do not reach the toe nails of those of previous generations. We can look at this positively that it is a sign of the Mashiach’s imminent arrival. In the meantime, we would be wise to study our ancient texts to get an understanding of the Judaism that has survived nearly two thousand years.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at