Passover is over for another year, and I’m happy eating pizza, cereal and pretzels again. While Passover ended for me after 8 days on Tuesday night, many people finished Passover on Monday night after only 7 days. Why the difference? The St. Louis Jewish Light has the answer.
The differing practices go back more than 2,000 years to Jerusalem, when the dates for Jewish festivals in the coming month were declared by the rabbis of the Sanhedrin, the community's legal body, according to when they sighted the new moon.
As it took time for messengers to reach Diaspora communities with that report, a "yom tov sheni, " or "second festival day," was added to biblical festivals outside Israel to ensure that Jews there observed at least part of each festival on the correct day.
The extra Diaspora day was preserved even after the institution of a fixed calendar, with the Talmud declaring that Sukkot and Passover be observed for eight days, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah for two.
Yom Kippur was not extended because of the burden of fasting, and Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two days even within Israel because it falls on the new moon instead of mid-month like the other festivals.
I get it. 2,000 years ago, not everyone had their Outlook calendars set to coordinate the dates for Jewish holidays including the beginning of Passover. However, it is now 2013. People inside and outside of Israel know when holidays begin. Why do we still have the extra day of Passover and eating awful food simply for not living in Israel? Is this some type of conspiracy led by the Manischewitz company?
Here’s my idea. If we need to have an extra day of Passover for living in the US (and really, can't we just stick with seven days everywhere?), why can’t we have an extra day for the more fun holidays like Purim and Hanukkah outside of Israel? I look forward to hearing from the Rabbinical community on this.