Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Hol Hamoed Pesach

The 13th century Italian book, Shibbolei haLeket, describes a letter which R Simcha of Speyer received from R Tuvia of Burgundy, which was written during the intermediate days of a festival, when certain limitations on writing are imposed. R Tuvia's signature is reproduced there (chapter 225, p. 211) as a network of dotted lines. Like pixels. Hmm.

And a nice humra to balance that out.

I came across a Geonic responsum (Teshuvot Ge'oney Mizrach u'Ma'arav no. 39, Ma'aseh haGe'onim p. 31, Otzar haGeonim Pesahim p. 72; Simcha Assaf, Tekufat ha'Geonim veSifruta, Jerusalem 1915, p. 248) regarding Yom Tov Sheni shel Galuyot. For each day of full-fledged festival - there is one at the beginning and end of both Passover and Sukkot, and one on Shavuot - the Diaspora is required to keep two days.

This requirement has created a great deal of complication, bitterness and rebellion over the years. One of the questions it raises has to do with immigration and travel. Let's say a diaspora Jew marries an Israeli resident, and they live in Israel. Does the immigrant observe one day or two?

That is the question the responsum deals with, and what I found interesting is the criterion for answering it. The question was asked about men from North Africa (Ifriqya) who married and lived in Jerusalem. The (anonymous) respondent wrote that, if they have been there for a year, they follow the local custom of one day, even if they intend to return to Tunisia someday. If, however, they were from Iraq, they would have to continue to keep two days, as long as they mean to be repatriated eventually. Why? Because the Two Yeshivot reside in Baghdad, giving the entire region the status of an "important place".

I was wondering how to apply that kind of criterion today. Is there an objective scale of importance, rating every diaspora community? Or is it better to keep in mind that the responsum itself was probably written in one of those "two yeshivot"? And therefore, the respondent might have had a somewhat skewed perception of the importance of Baghdad.

In any case, I think it's interesting to think about travel in that way. Diaspora, wandering, fitting into a new place. Your degree of acclimatization is dictated by a wide range of factors. But one of them is - where are you coming from? What is there in your homeland that will continue to tug at your heartstrings, pulling you home? Is your spiritual center still somewhere far away? Then, though you may live here for years, you will always be a little out of step. And maybe that's the way it should be.


Anonymous Lia said...

Very interesting.

What do you mean by that's the way it should be?

As a person who's heartstrings are pulled in various directions, I think being as fully present in any place one resides is pretty vital to emotional and religious stability. Also, the idea of having only one place where one feels fully and completely at home is becoming a bit anachronistic as travel becomes easier and more common all the time. Being out of step (stumbling over the language, having some different customs and assumptions) is one thing, but rejecting the very nature of time (kodesh and chol) that exists in the place in which you reside is a much more dramatic and unequivocal way of expressing, accepting, and neccesitating being a downright misfit, and seeing the place in which you reside as fundamentally alien. I just think that's sad.

1:29 PM  

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