Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Extended Isru Chag

Today is Isru Chag, the name given to the day that follows the 3 Pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot). Usually the main ritual manifestation on the day of Isru Chag is accomplished by omitting the Tachanun prayer, as it is on festive days. However, in regard to Shavuot, most congregations have the custom to skip Tachanun for the entire week following the festival, not just the day after the holiday. The reason is as follows:

Shavuot is the only pilgrimage festival that lasts only one day (two in the diaspora). Both Passover and Sukkot last at least a week, and they both have a festival day at the beginning and end of the holiday (two days in the beginning and two days in the end in the diaspora). The festival days also have the restrictions of Shabbat in that productive and constructive work is prohibited except that the Shabbat prohibitions of cooking (and the process of cooking) and carrying in a public domain are permitted. The intermediate days known as Chol Ha’moed, possess some characteristics of the festivals, and other features that resemble regular days. There are five days of Chol Ha’moed Passover (four in the diaspora) and six days of Chol Ha’moed Sukkot (five in the diaspora). Shavuot, however, has no days of Chol Ha’moed, although Nachmanides writes (Leviticus 23:36) that the 49 days of the Omer, the days that are counted between Passover and Shavuot, are a type of extended Chol Ha’moed between the two pilgrimage holidays.

So why does the omission of Tachanun in the daily prayers continue for a week after Shavuot? Rabbi Abraham Gombiner claims (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 131 :7) that the custom originated around the Korban Chagiga, the festival offering. Ideally, the Korban Chagiga is offered on the day of the festival, but if not, one has a week afterward to comply. On the pilgrimage holidays where there is already a built-in seven-day period, no extra time is needed. But since Shavuot only lasts a simple day, this extra week is added after the festival, not during the festival. Since the offering could be offered on these seven days, the additional week of potential festivity was recognized, and Tachanun is not recited. As such, the six days, and according to some, the seven days, (taking the extra day in the diaspora into consideration,) following the festival took on a certain level of joy.

NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with issues of halacha (points of Jewish law), one should consult one's local rabbi for practical application.


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