Friday, May 14, 2010

A Jewish Tourist in Israel on Shavuot


This upcoming Tuesday night, the Jewish holiday of SHAVUOT starts. It was then when G - d gave us the Torah at Mount Sinai (Har Sinai). Thus, the Jews accepted the Torah and its Mitzvot and the task of the Gentiles is to keep the "Seven Noachide Laws". According to Judaism, every human being, no matter of Jew or non - Jew, has a place in the "World to Come - Olam HaBah" ! From where do we see this ?
From a verse (passuk) in Talmud Sanhedrin where the question is asked whether Bilam (the famous Gentile prophet who failed to curse the Israelites in the desert) has a place in the world to come (after his death). Why would the Talmud ask this questions if there wasn't a chance for a Gentile to get into Olam HaBah anyway ? Thus, we know that every human being does have a chance. However, Gentiles should commit themselves of keeping the "Seven Noachide Laws" and not worship idols as, for instance, Christianity does.

In Israel, we only celebrate the festival of Shavuot for ONE day. Beginning this Tuesday night until Wednesday night. Diaspora Jews, however, add a second day and celebrate until Thursday night.

The question comes up: What should a Diaspora Jew do when he is visiting Israel in Shavuot ? Is he supposed to keep one day (as the Jews in Israel do) or two days (because he still lives in the Diaspora) ?

The same question also comes up on Sukkot and Pessach.

Years ago, I worked in an office of Halacha Poskim (experts) and we received many e - mails on this matter. The Rabbis answered that a Diaspora Jew making Aliyah and already has his Aliyah documents in his hand (because he is arriving in Israel within a few days / weeks) can even keep one day of Shavuot at his place in the Diaspora. Whereas Jews from Israel living in the Diaspora have to keep the second day after constantly living outside Israel for three years.

In the book "Celebration of the Soul" - The Holidays in the Life and Thought of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook - by Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neriah, I found the following story:

Whenever tourists asked Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (1865 - 1935) about observing the second day of a festival (Pessach, Shavuot or Sukkot where the Diaspora adds another day), the Rav would urge them to consider settling in the Land. He would emphasize that the decisive halachic criterion of "intention to return" alludes to the inner connection of the Jewish soul to Eretz Israel. Thus, everyone who visits the Land and tastes its heady atmosphere no longer wishes to leave. Of course, circumstances frequently force one to return to the Diaspora. However, this is the decision of the mind, which determines man's intentions. But his heart, his inner will always desires to remain in the land of our forefathers.

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