This letter was sent to Rabbi Betzalel Wilshanski, one of the early members of the chassidic community in Australia.1

B”H, 16 Sivan, 5709

Greetings and blessings,

Your previous letter was received and your letter from 12 Sivan has now arrived. No doubt, my response from the day before Shavuos [to your first letter]together with the kuntreis for the holiday of Shavuos reached you a while ago and you have shared it with people at large. I hope that you will begin exerting yourself in our holy mission, particularly with regard to nifneh2and with regard to establishing study sessions in public. You should begin [anew] with what you concluded in Paris and continue with success.

With regard to establishing oneself in a new enterprise or a new place: A connection can be drawn and instruction taken from what I previously heard from my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita:3 “After our4 wedding, rooms were built for us (in the [family] home in Lubavitch). The first step was to bring a class of young boys there to study.”

Implied is that opening a channel is through the medium of the Torah and its mitzvos. It is possible to add the following: It is well known that the Torah and its mitzvos are not merely vessels that receive influence, but [are comparable to] limbs that draw down spiritual light and vitality. (See the maamar from Shavuos, the conclusion of sec. 1,5 and the sources cited there.) This also applies with regard to [Torah and its mitzvos serving] as a medium [for] material influence that is drawn down through them.

* * *

With regard to your questions concerning the fact that in the course of your journey [from Europe to Australia], you skipped one day. You ask concerning the [general] reason for the matter and, in particular, how one should conduct himself with regard to the Counting of the Omer.6

The reason for [skipping a day] can be explained as follows:

a) Since the earth is round and not flat, the shining of the sun is not visible at one time in all parts of the world.

b) Since the sun moves from the east to the west, people in places that are furthest east will see the rising of the sun earlier, and those located in the west will see the rising of the sun later. This is indicated by our Sages’ statement in Rosh HaShanah (20b; see the gloss of the Meor [HaKatan]) that there is a six-hour difference between Jerusalem and Bavel.7 The Zohar (III, p. 10a) states that there are different places in the earth and if it is day here, it will be night in another place. See also the beginning of Shaar HaCollel.

c) Based on the above, when, in Jerusalem, it is the moment of noon on Sunday — i.e., when the sun is above the heads of everyone — it is already six hours past midday in the eastern reaches of Bavel. And in the eastern reaches of Siberia, which is as far east from Bavel as Bavel is from Jerusalem, it is midnight on Monday. If, however, you consider the distance from Jerusalem westward, when you proceed to the East [Coast of] America which is approximately the same distance as the distance of Bavel from Jerusalem, at the time it is noon on Sunday in Jerusalem, at this very moment, it is six hours before that time, i.e., [six in] the morning in America. And in a place which is such a distance to the west [of the East Coast of America], which is approximately six hours east of Siberia, it is six hours before that, i.e., midnight on Sunday. Thus if you come to one place from east to west, you will say that it is Sunday, but if you come [to the same place] from west to east, you will say that it is Monday.

In order to solve this difficulty, you have to find a place from which the days will start.

And this touches on the crux of the problem. Since the heavens and the earth are round and circular, the concepts of beginning and end are not relevant. Thus any point [on the earth or in the heavens] could be considered the beginning.

Veteran Torah scholars (see the responsa entitled Bnei Tziyon and HaYomam by Rav Tokachinski, et al.) have debated the issue. There are three opinions regarding the place where the day starts: a) [a place] 90 degrees east of Jerusalem; b) 145 degrees east of Jerusalem; and c) 180 degrees east of Jerusalem.

With regard to Australia, according to the last two opinions, since it is east of Jerusalem, its place in the reckoning of the days is the same as that followed by the non-Jews living there. And thus, you should also conduct yourself in this manner, as is the practice of the Jews living there. (Moreover, [it is possible that this would be the ruling] even according to the first view, since [according to that view], the Date Line intersects Australia.8 There is no need to elaborate concerning this view, since, in any case, it is a minority opinion.)

When does the above apply? To the laws that are dependent on the days of the week or the days of the month.9 The laws of the Counting of the Omer,by contrast, are dependent on the passage of time. If so, on the surface, there is no connection to the above discussion. [Instead,] a question [arises concerning] a person who crosses the [International] Date Line, i.e., the place where one either skips or loses a day in the midst of the Counting of the Omer. Thus if he follows the practice of the people in the place of his destination, he will have counted only 48 days or 50 days in the Counting of the Omer.10What are the laws applying to him regarding the Counting of the Omer and the holiday of Shavuos which is dependent on the Counting of the Omer and not on the days of the month?11

As of yet, I have not found anyone who discusses this issue with regard to the Counting of the Omer. Hence all of the following remarks should be considered no more than abstract study. To explain, [there are two concepts of fundamental relevance concerning this issue]:

a) All 49 days of the Counting of the Omer are connected to one another and are considered a single continuum and concept with regard to many matters. When one counts the first day, in addition to counting that day, he is beginning the counting of the 48 days that follow, which is an obligation incumbent on the person (not dependent on the place where he is located). Accordingly, it is necessary [for every individual] to count 48 more days; not 47 or 49. For it is written:12 “They shall be seven perfect weeks,” neither decreasing nor increasing [a day]. (This concept, by contrast, is not relevant with regard to the days of the week and the days of the month. Think well about this.)

b) Conversely, however, it can be said that there is a connection between the Counting of the Omer and the days of the month (for if the Beis HaMikdash was standing, the Omer offering [must be brought on the sixteenth of Nissan]). For example, since according to Torah law, in one’s place it is the thirtieth day of Nissan and not the twenty-ninth, it would be appropriate to count fifteen days to the Omer and not fourteen.

There is another way to explain [the rationale behind] the two [patterns of] counting: Do we go according to the person counting or do we go according to the days of the month? If one would say that we go according to the person counting, do we go according to his counting and as of yet, he can only have counted thirteen days,13 or do we go according to his reckoning of the days of the month?

[Conversely,] it is possible [to raise the question]: Is the Counting of the Omer one concept for the entire Jewish people just like the offering of the Omer is only one matter, or is it a matter relevant to each individual personally, i.e., each individual is obligated to count [the Omer] individually? Or should one say: When he counts: “Today is the fifteenth day of the Omer,”it is sufficient to have the individual day in mind, i.e., that the day is the conclusion of the fifteenth day of the Omer,or is it necessary to mention the sum of fifteen days while counting?

Since there are rationales supporting both positions, one should count both ways and therefore should not recite a blessing [before doing so]. In particular, [a blessing should not be recited according to the opinion of D’var Avraham, Vol. I, Responsum 34, who writes that counting [the Omer] must involve certain knowledge and not a doubtful reckoning. ([It must be emphasized] that this is not the view of the author of the Meor [HaKatan] who, at the conclusion [of his gloss to tractate] Pesachim, uses a different rationale to explain why, [in the Diaspora,] we do not count twice [each day] because of the doubt [when Pesach falls].)

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The above leads to the second question: How should one conduct oneself with regard to the holiday of Shavuos?6 In my humble opinion, since the holiday of Shavuos is dependent solely on the Counting of the Omer, [one should do the following] although it involves somewhat of a new halachic insight. According to the first opinion mentioned above, [a person in such a situation] should celebrate the holiday of Shavuos on the second day of the holiday according to the reckoning of the Jews of Australia, [for the celebration of] Shavuos is dependent on the Counting of the Omer alone. He should consider this as the first day of the holiday because of the doubt involved (and not merely because one is upholding the custom of one’s ancestors), for perhaps the first opinion is correct. And he should observe the first day of the holiday observed there because of the doubt (that perhaps the second opinion is correct). The observance of neither of these days is a certainty. Hence, he should count the forty-ninth day and put on tefillin on the first day of the festival ([because of the doubt, thus resolving the issue] in a manner similar to the resolution mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, sec. 31).14 He should not receive an aliyah on either day.

{Upon further consideration I have changed my mind, for there is a third option: Both of the opinions regarding the Counting of the Omer are valid, i.e., that Shavuos should be celebrated on the fiftieth day according to the first reckoning and also on the fiftieth day according to the second reckoning, because both of the opinions are equally weighted and should be respected. Accordingly, he should observe the two days of Shavuos as a single continuum of holiness,15 and [an egg] born on one of the days is forbidden on the other. (According to all opinions, even those who rule leniently regarding the second day of Rosh HaShanah)16 one should take a new fruit for the Shehecheyanu blessing[in Kiddush].

According to this opinion, he should recite a blessing before counting the Omer, because he is not in doubt. It is clear to him that he should count fourteen days according to the first opinion and fifteen days according to the second opinion and the commandment to count both ways is incumbent upon him. Nevertheless, one blessing is sufficient for both countings. For, although he counts twice, they are both one mitzvah. A parallel [would be putting on both] the arm tefillin and the head tefillin [with one blessing].

First he should count the lesser number — according to the explanation given with regard to the recitation of the passages Retzei and Yaaleh VeYavo [in Grace]17 when the conclusion of a festival falls on Friday night. After the fact, he fulfills his obligation even if he counts them in the opposite order, because they are two separate countings.}

One should not raise difficulties because of the prohibition “Do not collect in [separate] groups”18 (— and there are those who consider that [this interpretation of] the prohibition is of Scriptural origin; see Sdei Chemed, Klal Lo Sisgodidu —), nor because it involves a denigration of the festival, because it is a chance occurrence and [he acts in] private.19 Hence we are not concerned about these matters. It is no greater difficulty than a person from Eretz Yisrael who visits the Diaspora [during a festival],20 people who put on tefillin on Chol HaMoed,21 or the like.

On the surface, it is possible to say that he should also celebrate a third day, for perhaps the halachah follows the first view and then the second day observed in the Diaspora according to his reckoning is the day following the holiday for the Jews of Australia.

The latter suggestion is not correct. For the observance of the second day of a festival for us — who are knowledgeable concerning when the holidays are to be observed22 — is not because of a doubt when the festival should be observed, but so as not to deviate from the custom of our ancestors.23 Were our ancestors to have dwelled in Australia, they would have observed only the first two days; [therefore] he should not observe a third day. A similar rationale is employed regarding a person who seeks to fast for two days on Yom Kippur (see Tur and [the gloss of Rama to] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, sec. 624:[5], et al.).

* * *

At first glance, it is possible to explain that all of these doubts and [the advice on how to] conduct oneself should also apply to someone who crosses the [International] Date Line on Chol HaMoed Pesach or Chol HaMoed Sukkos with regard to the observance of the Seventh Day of Pesach and Shemini Atzeres.For they are also dependent on [the observance of] the first day of Pesach or Sukkos and not on the date of the month.24

A distinction can, however, be made between the two instances. Regarding the Seventh Day of Pesach, Scripture reiterated the command to observe it and established it also according to the dates of the month, as it is written (Shmos 12:18): “until the twenty-first day of the month in the evening.” And more fundamentally, the concept of “perfect [weeks]”25 is not mentioned at all with regard to the holidays of Pesach and Sukkos. Hence, since the Seventh Day of Pesach or Shemini Atzeres is being observed in this particular locale, it is not significant that one person skipped [the observance of] one of the days [of the festival] or added another day, just as it is not significant whether one adds or subtracts a day between the observance of one Shabbos and the next.

Further analysis is still required with regard to all the above.

* * *

The following must be made known. The opinions whether a day should be skipped or added when one crosses the Date Line, and Shabbos and the festivals are observed on that basis, apply only with regard to determining the days of the week or the month in a settled community. The laws that apply to people who are journeying on a ship and who cross the Date Line are not clarified in the above discussion. From the time they cross the Date Line until they reach a settled community, they should be stringent and observe both days.

Similarly, the laws applicable in Alaska have not been clarified. There, the Date Line crosses directly in the middle of the settled areas. It is impossible to say that it would be Shabbos on the eastern side of the street, while on the western side it would be Sunday, for that would create a truly laughable situation. (See Eruvin 76a, the conclusion of the chapter entitled Hadar.)

My answer was delayed due to many taxing factors. The kuntreisim and the texts that you ordered will be sent to you. At that time, we will notify you concerning how much you owe and how they will be sent. You will no doubt be active now in spreading this printed material in your country. Until now, almost nothing has been done about this matter.

Regarding your note to Tanya, ch. 5, which mentions the intellect grasping and the concept being grasped, [you ask:] Since the intellect grasps [the concept], it is obvious that the concept is grasped. What is [the text] telling us?

As of now, I do not know of a maamar in Chassidus that explains this concept. In my humble opinion, it appears possible to say [the following]:

a) even if [the Alter Rebbe] was not communicating a new concept [with this phrase], he states it explicitly, because it is relevant to the conclusion: [that the comprehension of a Torah concept involves] “a wondrous unity.”

b) With regard to Torah study, this indeed involves a very great innovative concept: even when one studies without the proper intent and even when, with regard to the student, it is said:26 “To the wicked, G‑d said: ‘To what purpose do you relate My statutes,’” and the Torah becomes a potion of death for him,27 nevertheless, his intellect grasps [the concept] and the concept is grasped to the extent that [it becomes internalized within him,] becoming like his flesh and blood, [as it were]. See the Alter Rebbe’s Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:3.28

Concluding with wishes for everlasting good in all matters and with greetings to all those who seek our welfare, and in particular to Mr. Feiglin and the members of his household.

M. Schneerson
Chairman of the Executive Committee