The New Year and New Fruit
By Rabbi Chaim Binyomin Kaye

It is well known that in Eretz Yisrael, Yom Tov is observed for one day only, whereas in the Diaspora, two days are observed. This second day of Yom Tov is known as Yom Tov Sheni Shel Golias. Rosh Hashana is the one exception to the rule, and is celebrated as a two-day Yom Tov throughout the world, including Eretz Yisrael.

In order to understand this distinction, we must first understand why two days are observed for the other Yomim Tovim outside of Eretz Yisrael. We will endeavour to explain why Rosh Hashana is different. We will also explore any further halachic differences between Rosh Hashana and the other Yomim Tovim. Finally, we will address the custom of eating a new fruit and the laws pertaining to the bracha "she'hechiyanu" that is recited on the second night of Rosh Hashana.

We celebrate two days of Yom Tov because, initially, Rosh Chodesh - the onset of a new month - was not pre-determined, as is the case today. It used to be sanctified by the Beis Din in Eretz Yisrael, based on the testimony of two witnesses who saw the new moon. In any given month, Rosh Chodesh would fall on either the thirtieth or the thirty-first day. Once the day had been sanctified, Jewish settlements everywhere would be notified which of the two days was Rosh Chodesh, and thus they would observe the Yom Tov or Yomim Tovim of that month accordingly.

In those days, e-mails and telephones did not exist even in dreams, so the Beis Din had to dispatch messengers to notify all the Jews when Rosh Chodesh would be. Those who lived too far away, or could not be reached for other reasons, could not be sure when Rosh Chodesh would fall (and therefore when Yom Tov should be observed). Thus, they had to observe two days of Yom Tov.

The Gemara adds that although this doubt is no longer relevant, since our Rosh Chodesh is pre-determined, we are still Rabbinically bound to observe a second day, in case a doubtful situation would rise again(1).

Since observing the second day is a Rabbinic decree, rather than a Torah decree, there are certain leniencies. For example, even though Jews may not perform a funeral on Yom Tov (due to the various melachos that are involved), it is permissible to do so on the second day of a Yom Tov(2). Also, the prohibition of taking medication on Shabbos or Yom Tov does not apply on the second day of Yom Tov(3).

However, the Poskim rule that these leniencies do not apply on the second day of Rosh Hashana. The reason is that the second day of Rosh Hashana has another reason for being observed. Rosh Hashana is the only Yom Tov that falls on Rosh Chodesh itself. Therefore, not only in the Diaspora, but even in Yerushalayim itself, there was a doubt on the thirtieth of Elul whether it was actually the thirtieth of Elul or the first of Tishrei, which is Rosh Hashana.

Therefore, they observed the night of the thirtieth as Rosh Hashana. The following day, if witnesses would testify that the moon had been seen the previous night, the thirtieth was proclaimed as Yom Tov. If no witnesses arrived, it was obvious that it had not been Rosh Chodesh, and the following day was sanctified and observed as Rosh Hashana.

This was the practice for many years, until a halachic mishap occurred. It was the thirtieth of Elul and the Leviim, who sang praises in the Beis HaMikdash twice a day, were not sure whether to sing the Yom Tov or the weekday songs. Was it Yom Tov or was it a weekday? Therefore, they did not sing any shira (some opinions state that they sang the wrong shira). To ensure that this would not happen again, Chazal decreed that witnesses would not be accepted on the thirtieth day after midday. Therefore, if they arrived in the morning, only the thirtieth would be observed as Rosh Hashana. If they came in the afternoon, their testimony would not be accepted, and the Beis Din would sanctify the following day as Rosh Hashana (Beis Din has the right to push off Rosh Chodesh one day).

Even when witnesses came in the afternoon, the thirtieth was observed as Yom Tov until night. This was to prevent people from not observing the thirtieth day as Yom Tov the following year, rationalizing that it had not been Yom Tov on the thirtieth the previous year. Therefore, in the case where witnesses came in the afternoon, two days of Yom Tov were observed because of Chazal's decree, rather than out of doubt(4). Therefore, the second day of Rosh Hashana is more stringent than that of the second day of other Yomim Tovim, and the usual leniencies do not apply.

This distinction between Rosh Hashana and other Yomim Tovim has another interesting halachic ramification. As a rule, the bracha of Shehechiyanu is said on Yom Tov to thank Hashem for bringing us to that happy and holy day. It is said on both the first and the second night, as they are both considered Yom Tov. However, concerning Rosh Hashana, there are those who say that a Shehechiyanu should only be said on the first night. Since the second day of other Yomim Tovim is observed due to the original doubt of which night to observe, Shehechiyanu is said on both nights as if each is the first night. On Rosh Hashana this is not the case. The second day was kept even when only one day was really Yom Tov. Therefore, the two days are considered as one long Kedusha and one day of Yom Tov. Only one Shehechiyanu is then required.

Rashi has a conflicting opinion that two Shehechiyanu's should be said. His rationale is that even though the two days are not kept individually, they are two separate days of Yom Tov. He adds that on the second day, a Shehechiyanu should definitely be said - the reason for observing two days is because of the case where witnesses arrived after noon, and then the second day was the real day of Yom Tov, and of course Shehechiyanu was said.

The Shulchan Aruch rules that since reciting Shehechiyanu on the second night is debatable, one should try to have a new fruit or wear a new garment during Kiddush on the second night of Rosh Hashana. Thus, the bracha will definitely not be in vain. If the second night does not require a Shehechiyanu, the bracha will refer to the new fruit or garment only. If a Shehechiyanu is required, it will cover both the fruit and the Yom Tov.

If a person does not have a new fruit on the second night, Shehechiyanu should nevertheless be recited, since the halacha follows Rashi's view, that the Yom Tov itself requires a blessing(5).

A few halachos to bear in mind concerning the new fruit:

1) Only the one reciting Kiddush must eat from the new fruit. The rest of those assembled fulfill their obligation by listening to his Shehechiyanu. However, the minhag is that everyone partakes of the new fruit(6)

2) The fruit should be eaten straight after Kiddush, before washing for bread(7). No unnecessary interruptions should be made before eating the fruit(8).

3) Women who recite the Shehechiyanu during candle lighting should light candles shortly before the meal. They should not make any unnecessary interruption between their Shehechiyanu and eating the fruit. The fruit should be on the table when they light the candles, and they should have the new fruit in mind when reciting their Shehechiyanu(9).

4) If a kezayis of the fruit was eaten, a bracha achrona must be recited(10), unless a person had intention that his bracha of "Boreh Pri Ha'etz" should exempt the fruit he will eat for dessert at the end of the meal as well. In such a case, the bentching will cover the first fruit too(11).

5) It is important to remember that the Shehechiyanu refers to both the new fruit and the Yom Tov(12).

6) If the one reciting Kiddush has already eaten the new fruit placed in front of him that season, and there is no other fruit for him to say Shehechiyanu on, the Shehechiyanu should be said by someone who has not yet eaten from that fruit. The one reciting Kiddush should listen and answer 'Amen' with intention of fulfilling his obligation with that Shehechiyanu(13).


1. Beitza 4b. 2. Shulchan Aruch 526:4. 3. Shulchan Aruch 496:2. 4. Rosh hashana 31a. 5. Shulchan Aruch 600:2 6. Mateh Ephraim 7. Ibid 8. Kitzur Hilchos Moadim 9. Mishna Berura 599:4 10. Mateh Ephraim 11. Shmiras Shabbos K'hilchasa ch.47 note 222 12. Minchas Shlomo Siman 20 13. Maharil Diskin

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