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Rabbi Elazar Hakalir Apparently Only Observed One Day of Rosh Hashana

September 24, 2015

And this has significance because it backs up the Baal Hamaor’s assertion that in Eretz Yisrael before the arrival of the students of the Rif (sometime after the Crusades decimated the Yishuv of that time), Rosh Hashanah, like the other biblical holidays, was observed for only one day.

Take a look at the your Mahzor for Rosh Hashana (the Ashkenazic rite), and open up to the leader’s repetition of Musaf on the second day. Notice how that service, unlike the previous day’s Musaf and the Shaharith services for both days, has no set of piyutim by Rabbi Elazar Hakalir, who, from the best we can gather, lived in the Geonic Period. Instead, it just has two general piytutim said on every day of the High Holy Days, Un’thanneh Thoqef, and La’el Orech Din. Why would that be?

Well, get out your other mahzorim and take a look now at the specific piyutim the Kalir wrote for the first two days of Tabernacles, the first two days and the last two days of Passover, and the piyutim for Pentecost, and for the morning services on Rosh Hashana.
Notice the following:
1. For Pentecost, a one-day festival that never falls on the Sabbath in the Land of Israel, the Kalir only composed one set of piyutim for the morning service. The repetition for the second day has piyutim composed by two other, later authors.
2. For all the other holidays, there are seemingly two sets of piyutim composed by the Kalir, one for the first day and one for the second day, but,
3. if you notice, they all come with a caveat: The piyutim get switched around when one of the days is the Sabbath, seemingly because with each pair, one is more appropriate than the other for the Sabbath day, or because one is specifically inappropriate for the Sabbath.
4. Only one of the first days of Passover has a unique set of piyutim.

All of this indicates that Rabbi Elazar Hakalir observed only one day of Yom Tov for all of the Biblically mandated holidays, but composed alternate liturgies for those days that could potentially be on the Sabbath, and this was due to the changing nature of those days when they were on the Sabbath.

Rosh Hashana was one day long, but approximately two out of every seven years it was on the Sabbath, and therefore the shofar was not sounded thereon. The piyutim for musaf had a malchuyoth theme, and therefore were used whether on a weekday or the Sabbath. However, the piyutim for shaharith had a specific shofaroth theme, one that was replaced with a zichronoth theme when Rosh Hashana was on the Sabbath. However, once his piytuim made it to the Diaspora (many old Ashkenazic customs can be traced to Geonic- and Talmudic-era Israel), both sets of morning piyutim were utilized, the shofaroth theme on the first day and the zichronoth theme on the second day, and of course when the shofar is only blown on Sunday because the first day is the Sabbath, the piyutim switch days. Only the first day’s Musaf has a specific piyut, because that is all the Kalir composed, and no one has stepped up and written one.
For the first day of Tabernacles, the Kalir also composed two sets of piyutim, one for when it fell on the Sabbath, and one for when it did not. Once again, communities that observed two days found themselves with a set for each day, but because one is more appropriate for the Sabbath, it is said on the first day when it is the Sabbath and not on the second day. Why does the Sabbath matter? Because of the lulav. The biblical commandment to wave the lulav was only applicable on the first day, while the sages ordained that outside of the Temple, the lulav be taken all seven days, and even later, the sages ordained that the lulav not be taken on the Sabbath, even if it is the first day.
The first day of Passover is not really affected by whether or not the it is the Sabbath (although the day before is). However, because the nature of the seventh day is essentially different when it is on the Sabbath day, it does have two sets of piyutim. The seventh day of Passover is not a new holiday in its own right, and when it coincides with the Sabbath, the Sabbath aspect of the day overpowers, as it were, the festival day, so the occasion warrants its own set piyutim. This is reflected, by the way, in another old custom of the cantors. Normally, the evening service for Yom Tov has a tune different from that of the Sabbath evening service, and when the two coincide, the Yom Tov tune is used. The exception is when the seventh night (or by extension, the eight night) of Passover is on the Sabbath, at which time the ordinary Sabbath tune is used.

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From → halacha, original

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