Marsha and Stanley Greenbaum recently made news in Israel when it was reported they would still be keeping two days of the beginning and end of the Sukkot holiday, even though it was deemed hilarious by numerous Rabbinic authorities.
Outside of Israel, holidays similar to a regular Sabbath such as Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot are “celebrated” for an extra day going back to biblical times as it was not known when the holiday ended, as it took longer periods of time to report the emergence of three stars to distant communities signifying the end of the holiday. That we now have satellite imagery, which can relay exactly when sundown is to the minute is ignored, makes no difference to the modern day orthodox rabbinic community who still find it amusing. “We never thought they’d fall for the ‘Keep two days’ thing!” said Rabbi Josh Cohen from Bnei Tikvak in Stamford Connecticut. “We always viewed keeping an extra day of the holiday in the beginning and the end as punishment for not being in Israel. In my wildest dreams I didn’t think those who are lucky enough to go there over the holidays would continue the practice over there. What suckers!”
A 12th century manuscript from rabbinic sage Maimonides was recently found in Cordoba Spain addressed to other Rabbis. It read: “For those who hold the cloth (referring to clergy) the notion of two days shall be spread outside the land of Zion, for laughter is good for the soul…”
While this was generally accepted throughout the centuries, few would have ever thought that keeping two days of the holiday would spread to those visiting the modern day state of Israel from abroad. While no one who lives in Israel keeps two days of the holiday, many people who visit Israel especially during the holidays of Sukkot and Passover still keep two days of the holiday, justifying the decision that they do not live in Israel.
Rabbi David Moskowitz of Young Israel of Staten Island spoke on the record. “As much as I’d like to go, I don’t have the dough to travel to Israel over Sukkot, stupid board, (whispered under his breath) so if these rich Machers (a term used for someone who has a lot of money or power, but usually just money) are going to throw going to Israel in my face, I’m going to make it that much more annoying for them. I always say they should keep two days while over there. I find it hilarious!”
Holding two days of the holiday while in Israel can pose numerous logistical problems for those who choose to do so. Any local synagogue is done with the holiday service so hotels will often accommodate those keeping two days, usually holding services in an available ballroom, much to the amusement of the staff.
“We kind of just sit back and laugh,” said long time assistant manager Yaakov Tamari of the Jerusalem Gate Hotel. “I always feel like giving them a call in the middle of the afternoon and saying, ‘Hey! Time for morning services! (Shacharit). It’s 7:00 AM in NY!!’ but I hold back.”
When it was pointed out that Hotel Gate guests the Greenbaum’s would adhere to the two day decision no matter how silly it seemed, Mr. Tamari said they would of course be welcome and they would do anything they could to make them feel comfortable.
While the practice of keeping two days was viciously opposed by both the late great Rabbis Shlomo Goren, Chief Rabbi of the Army and of Israel, and Ovadia Yosef, Chief Sephardi Rabbi of the country, many Jews still continue the practice.
Saul Birnbaum, a resident of Woodmere NY was more honest about the process. “Look, it just makes me feel more religious. Do I go to the beach here wearing a big hat and thick coat and say, ‘Sure it’s hot out, but I’m from New York!’, obviously not. I know it makes no sense, but in the long run one of the guys who thinks he’s more religious than me, will look at me keeping two days and may have second thoughts.”
While it is assumed that the “Second Day Minyans” may eventually die out due to lack of interest, in the meantime, they will continue at various hotels throughout Jerusalem for the remainder of the holiday. Information regarding them can be found at www.weareinsane.com