I would like to state my disagreement with Rabbi Engelmayer on the second day of Yom Tov for Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot (“What a difference a day makes,” September 26).
There are two reasons. First, while the original reason for the second day of Yom Tov in the diaspora was about doubt over when the holiday should be, over the centuries a second reason developed. That reason is the spiritual centrality of the land of Israel for Jews. We must observe another day outside of Israel because we are on a lower spiritual level if we live outside of Israel. As many American Jews disengage from the land and State of Israel, this reason remains important. This is also why there is strong resistance to this idea within the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly and no support at all within Orthodoxy.
Secondly, Rabbi Engelmayer’s rationale smacks a religion of convenience, which does not ask for commitment. This continued acceptance of a religion of convenience may be one of the reasons for the decline of the Conservative movement.
Interestingly, there may be a change in how the second day of Yom Tov is celebrated. As the barriers between Jews in Israel and the diaspora dissolve (many American Jews live part time in Israel or have family members who made aliyah), the determination of whether you celebrate a second day of Yom Tov may be changed from where you live to where you actually are. Both positions have strong basis within Jewish law. The reason for adopting the second position is a change of the facts on the ground, not convenience.