Sunday, October 03, 2010


(Crossposted to Jewschool.)

The holiday season is now over. And something about it may have felt a bit out of the ordinary, unusual, abnormal. And based on recent experience, that feeling is accurate. But in the 2010s, abnormal is becoming the new normal.

In the last decade, as often as not, the Jewish calendar has followed the pattern in which all the fall holidays (except Yom Kippur) fall on weekends. This pattern is both loved and hated. People who work for Jewish organizations and observe 2 days of yom tov (so that the holidays are on Saturday and Sunday) dread this pattern because (unlike in other years, when the Jewish holidays are days off) they go from workweek to holiday to workweek to holiday, without a break to do laundry. People who work and go to school outside the Jewish world, whether they do 1 or 2 days, find this pattern easier, since it doesn’t require taking any days off of work/school, except for Yom Kippur (but that’s the one that your boss has heard of, and is much easier to explain than Shemini Atzeret).

Love it or hate it, we won’t see this pattern again until 2020. This Mah Rabu post from a couple of years ago covers all the details.

In its place, we see a new popular pattern emerging. This year, Yom Kippur was on Shabbat, but all the other holidays were on Thursdays (continuing into Friday for the 2-day people). This means that the 2-day people got a string of what are colloquially known as “3-day yom tovs”: when a 2-day yom tov falls immediately before or after Shabbat, resulting in 72 straight hours away from whatever one doesn’t do on Shabbat or yom tov. People working in the Jewish world appreciate all the 4-day weekends. Other people have to miss a lot of work or school: 3 or 4 days for 1-day-yom-tov people (depending on their stance on Rosh Hashanah), and 6 days for 2-day-yom-tov people, and that’s not including travel days.

Love it or hate it, this pattern is here to stay. We’ll do it all over next year, and then again in 2013, 2014, and 2017: half of the years in the 2010s.

The other half of the decade will see a different pattern that we haven’t seen in quite a while: Rosh Hashanah on Monday, with all the fall holidays falling on weekdays. This pattern also includes Shavuot starting on Saturday night, leading to another “3-day yom tov” for the 2-day crowd.

All told, the half-decade from 5771 to 5775 will include a total of 14 “3-day yom tovs”, and the decade from 5771 to 5780 will include 21. (But don’t worry, there’s only 18 more to go!)

This leads to my prediction (awaited since the title of the post): This decade, and especially this half-decade, will see lots of 2-day-yom tov people switching over to 1 day.

In a few years, we can come back and check this prediction and see whether the 1-day majority has gotten any larger. In the meantime, back to work.


  1. On the flip side, the 1-day people will experience a pseudo 8th day of pesach since the RH-Mon schedule results in the 7th day of pesach being Friday so once pesach is over it is Shabbat and you can't buy/cook chametz.

  2. True, though we can buy/cook kitniyot while it's still Pesach.

  3. What about faking the second day but still keeping it?

  4. How do you propose to measure the number of people observing 1 day of yom tov (as well as how many are switching from observing 2 days)?

  5. How do you know that your prediction wouldn't have come true if all the holidays were on weekends? (Assuming that you are positing a connection.)

  6. Two questions here -- when will 2-day Jews become 1-day Jews, and when will 2-day shuls become 1-day shuls? And what then happens to Yizkor?

    Recent JTA article (or was it the Forward?) claimed 75% fall-off for 2nd day Rosh Hashanah -- but didn't stipulate if that was across the streams.

    Anonymous asks a good question -- how will you measure?

  7. DafKesher-
    What does that mean?

    Ok, I don't actually have a plan for how to measure this scientifically. But I can post to the blog in a few years asking for anecdotal testimony of switching from 1 day to 2 days or 2 days to 1 day, and then subtract one number from the other. Not so scientific, I know.

    Ok, I don't know. But we can do the same unscientific test on the past decade (which had the Tishrei holidays on weekends 5 out of 10 times). Hey everyone reading this: post a comment if you did 1-day yom tov 10 years ago and now do 2 days, or vice versa.

    But I would imagine that a more significant factor than the specific calendar layout is the increasing cross-fertilization between Israel and the Diaspora.

    Larry K-
    Any 2-day shul that became a 1-day shul would presumably do the same thing for Yizkor as existing 1-day shuls do already: Yizkor on the 1 day of yom tov.

  8. Hey everyone reading this: post a comment if you did 1-day yom tov 10 years ago and now do 2 days, or vice versa.

    10 years ago, I kept 2 days of yom tov (that is, I kept the second day of yom tov in the same way I kept the first) for the 5 holidays in question (start of sukkot, shemini atzeret, start/end of pesach, shavuot). Now I keep an average of 1.8 days.

  9. It strikes me that this puts people who come in without their mind made up about whether it is yom tov or a weekday in an odd position.

    If they don't know what's going on, they may end up praying along with the shatz and the helpers. This forces them into an intellectually ridiculous position without them even knowing that they've been forced into such a position.

  10. davidsaysthings-
    I assume you meant to post this comment at HP8, so I'm replying there.

  11. It's a snowball effect.
    More members of Diaspora communities are Israelis by birth and minhag. More Americans have spent time in Israel and have family ties there, which they use to justify taking Israeli minhagim. And as more of the remaining Diaspora Jews choose to keep 1 day, it becomes harder and harder for the few remaining 2-day observers, especially when it comes to missing work or school. I predict that 2-day observance will fade away, except in insular Diaspora communities.

  12. I think I wrote the comment above back in 2012. Now in 2016 I've finally hit the breaking point and decided to keep 1 day of yom tov with my family (2 days for RH). Contributing factors included all of the above, but the final factor was the stress of missing school work on my teenager in public school. On the positive side, I'm hoping that keeping fewer days will reinvigorate our observance for those days. That's my aspiration, anyway.