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Thought for the Day: שהחיינו and סוכות

A sizeable hurdle to transitioning from non-Torah religions with the name "Judaism" in them (such as Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist) to Orthodox Judaism is יום טוב שני של גלויות/second day yontif.
Quick review: The new moon should really only be declared by the Sanhedrin in Yerushalayim.  When we had the Beis HaMikdash, that's precisely how it was done.  The Sanhedrin (based on eyewitness testimony) would at some point declare the new moon.  They would then send out messengers to inform the nation.  It could take more than two weeks to reach the farthest communities, but they needed to know when Rosh Chodesh Nissan and Tishrei were in order to celebrate Pesach and Sukkos, respectively.  Since we knew it had to be one of two days, Chazal mandated observance of both days for all communities outside of Eretz Yisrael.  
I mean, come on... certainly it is understandable in pre-internet/telephone/telegraph days why you needed those two days, but HELLO...we do have internet/telephone/telegraph nowadays and you certainly find out immediately (or, at least within 25 hours or so, in case of Shabbos) when the new moon was declared in Yerushalayim.  In fact, I once heard a news report of a bomb threat in Tel Aviv and immediately called my daughter (in seminary and had chosen that day to visit Tel Aviv) to make sure she was ok.  She was very ok... hadn't heard anything about a bomb.  She later told me that within minutes after my call, she heard an announcement that there had been a bomb threat, but everything was ok.  So I really, really think that we wouldn't have much of a doubt any more about when Rosh Chodesh was declared.

As it turns out... neither I nor any of those non-Torah counterfeit Judaism authorities are the first to realize this fact.  There is much written and discussed on precisely this topic.  Bottom line: when the dust has settled,  יום טוב שני של גלויות/second day yontif is the same as the first day for almost all dimensions.  (The only exceptions are for some medical and burial situations.  Usually not for the same person.)

So I spent much effort training myself in that fact.  I make kiddush on both days of yontif.  I don't put on t'fillin on either days of yontif.  I have two s'darim and eat copious amounts of matzah both times.  And on my first סוכות, I was all ready to make a שהחיינו on waving the lulav on both first days of yontif.... except the siddur said we only make שהחיינו on the first day.  I read it again; yep, still said only on the first day (unless you forgot on the first day, of course).  I asked the rabbi; he confirmed.  Remember, this is my first סוכות; I've been Jewish for not even two months (my anniversary -- geirus and wedding, of course -- is 16 Av).  I have just spent nearly a year educating myself and overcoming many hurdles.... including the importance of יום טוב שני של גלויות.  And now the siddur seems to be saying, "Never mind."

So here's the deal: שהחיינו is a bracha of a different color; it doesn't fit the usual pattern.  Most brachos are made before the act/mitzvah for which they are established: you make a bracha on food before you eat it, you make a bracha on a mitzvah before you perform it.  But שהחיינו is made on joyus events that happen seasonally (more details in this TftD).  But here's the thing: Chazal wanted you to experience the joy before making the bracha.  In fact, the more joy you are feeling about this event, the better the שהחיינו.  None the less, as long as you are feeling any joy at all about this event, you are permitted to make the שהחיינו and would have fulfilled your obligation.  Therefore, you actually could make the bracha on a lulav once you have made it, in the joyous anticipation of the actual waving experience.  Hence, once you have made the שהחיינו on the lulav, you are done.  It has nothing to to with יום טוב שני של גלויות.

In fact, the same could be said for the Sukkah itself.  You really could make a שהחיינו on just building the Sukkah.  That is why, in fact, we make the שהחיינו after the לישב בסוכה on the first day's kiddush, but before the לישב בסוכה on the second day.  On both days we are saying the שהחיינו for the Yom Tov, but on the first day, we are also making the שהחיינו on the joy of sitting/eating/living in our Sukkah.

One parting remark.  That hurdle about יום טוב שני של גלויות and how we have so many forms of instant communication nowadays that it really shouldn't be necessary.  Please recall that originally Chazal used signal fires, but switched when the "good" Samaritans messed with our system and tried to send false signals.  Apparently security breaches now cost industry something like $4 million per incident.  I regularly get emails about changing my password and/or reports of suspicious activity.  Hmm... maybe Chazal's requirement of two days instead of relying on "instant communication" makes even more sense now than it did 2000 years ago.


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