Nov 19, 2006

Thanksgiving Sheni

As many of my Jewish readers know, the length of Jewish holidays is not always the same depending on where you are in the world.

Due to historical reasons and the ancient uncertainty about astronomical events, some Jewish holidays are traditionally longer by a day outside of Israel because the occurence of the holiday was based on the observation of the moon from Jerusalem. (Places hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem had a hard time getting the word on the proper day that the moon had presented itself in Jerusalem, so they started an official practice of fudging.) These extra days are often called Hag Sheni. ('Second Holiday').

Purim is a Jewish holiday that has a different set of rules. It is a single day EXCEPT in cities that were walled cities during the events of the holiday...and who's walls remain today. Jerusalem and Acco are two examples of cities where Purim is a two day holiday.

(As a side note, while Judaism has since adopted accurate lunar calendars based on observations using modern technology, Islam still uses the traditional methods of having the wise men of the religion observe the night sky... There is no judgment meant by this remark- in fact, it may be seen as the more 'authentic'. However, as someone who used to be responsible for making sure that the The Jerusalem Post newspaper had the correct dates, it was problematic to discover that one cannot buy a pre-printed muslim calendar before the beginning of the month of Ramadan...if there are a couple of overcast days over Mecca, then the printed calendar will be offset by the days during which observing the moon from Mecca is impossible with the naked eye. If this happens the editor will yell at you when the muslim dates appear wrong in the paper...oyvey! Actually, I don't think that they carry the muslim dates anymore...)

Well, the point of this post is that in most circumstances, the rule is that the diaspora gets the extra day and Israel gets a shorter holiday. There is another exception like Purim: Thanksgiving. I know. I know. You're thinking that Thanksgiving is an American and non-religious holiday. Nonetheless, among American-Israelis living in Israel, I have observed and I have enjoyed the tradition of Hag Sheni for Thanksgiving. Last year, it was at our good friend Shaiel's apartment. (First night was at our other good friend Elisa's apartment.) Since people always have leftover turkey, it makes sense to have a second big meal...and since Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday, the next day is a shabbat meal which can lend itself nicely to be a second Thanksgiving dinner. I encourage anyone so inclined to adopt a similar tradition...

P.S. I recently read a legal decision in California that the Friday after Thanksgiving should be treated as a holiday for some circumstances (e.g. statute of limitations, etc...). It seems that Hag Sheni has some legal support. :)

Happy Gobble Gobble Day.

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