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Why isn't Yom Kippur observed for two days outside Israel?

by Rabbi Moshe Miller

  

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[Ed. note: For background information regarding this question, see Why do we add extra holiday-days outside of Israel?]

Now that we no longer sanctify the month according to sighting of the moon [but rather according to a fixed calendar], we know exactly  when the months will begin. Since Elul is now always a 29 day month and the first day of Rosh Hashanah is on the first of Tishrei, the tenth of the month is Yom Kippur [without any doubt].

We celebrate two days for the other festivals so that we do not alter the customs our forefathers observed when the month was sanctified according to the sighting of the moon. But even our forefathers only observed one day of Yom Kippur because of the fear of danger [to life and health], and we do not issue public decrees that the majority of the community cannot abide by.1 

Nonetheless, such a question is raised by the Halachic authorities: The Rama writes2: There are those who are stringent and fast two days of Yom Kippur [just as we observe two days for all of the Festivals in the Diaspora3]. But one should not follow this stringency because it can be dangerous [to one's life and health].

Footnotes

  • 1. Shulchan Aruch Harav ibid.
  • 2. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 624:5.
  • 3. Shulchan Aruch Harav 624:10.

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Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Tishrei
The seventh month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which arrives in early autumn, has more holidays than any other month: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Elul
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.