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Isru Chag Shavuos by R. Yair Hoffman

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

The day after Yom Tov, beginning tonight, is called Isru Chag, which literally means “bind or connect the festival.” What is it all about? Where does Isru Chag come from?

A brief introduction: The Jewish nation was woefully assimilated after the destruction of the first Bais HaMikdash. A remarkable re-dedication of the Jewish nation took place under Ezra and Nechemya during the time of Sukkos. Ezra (See Nechemia chapter 8) carefully instructed Klal Yisroel all about the halachos of Sukkos and they celebrated it. On the 24th of the month, (Nechemya 9:1) they all fasted.

There is, however, a question.

Why didn’t they fast on the 23rd? Why did they wait until the 24th?

The Mishna L’Melech (Hilchos Kli HaMikdash) explains that it was because it was Isru Chag. Tosfos in Rosh haShana (19a “Bimei Ezra”) disagrees with this suggestion (it was suggested by Rav Yuden in the Yerushalmi AZ 1:1) saying that they did not yet observe the custom of Isru Chag and instead suggests that the month of Elul was an Ibbur month at the time. But others accept the Yerushalmi’s explanation. It is possible, however, that the Baalei Tosfos did not have our Yerushalmi as the Birchei Yoseph (494) actually states.


Regardless of the above dispute, the Gemorah (Sukkah 45b) tells us in the name of Rabbi Yochanan in the name Rabbi Yochanan HaMekusi:

“Whomever does a binding to the Chag with eating and drinking, the Pasuk considers it as if he had built a Mizbeach and offered korbanos upon it.” The Gemorah is actually making a drasha on the verse in Tehillim (118:27), where it states, “Tie the festival offering to the corners of the Mizbeach with strings.”

There are two explanations of the term “binding to the Chag” found in Rashi. The first explanation refers to the holiday itself. The second explanation refers to the day after the holiday.

This second explanation in the Rashi is referenced in the Ramah (OC 429:2).
According to Rashi’s second explanation, Chazal darshen that this means to continue the joy of the Yom Tov onward to the next day. In this statement it is clear that the sages wish us to continue the Yom Tov, and to do so in a festive spirit, including food and drink. Some even have the custom to limit activities (See Torah Lishma Siman 140).


The Arizal explains that there are still sparks of kedusha from the Yom Tov that are left over. These sparks should be channeled properly. Therefore, on isru Chag there is additional celebration in food and drink. We also do not fast or eulogize on Isru Chag (See Mogain Avrohom 425:8).

The Bais Yoseph (OC 494) writes that the Yerushalmi in Avodah Zarah 1:1 calls Isru Chag with the term “Bna d’Moada” which means offspring of the Moed – of the holiday.


We see from the Sdei Chemed (Aleph #154) an additional theme in the notion of Isru Chag. He writes that the practice originated in Eretz Yisroel because the Bnei Torah of Eretz Yisroel were concerned that the gentiles were feeling that the Jews were not united. Those outside of Eretz Yisroel observed two days of Yom Tov. Those within Eretz Yisroel observed one day. Gentiles perceiving this would erroneously think that the Jews were divided and alienated from one another. They therefore began the observance of Isru Chag to demonstrate the unity of the Jewish people.

This then is an additional theme that we can focus upon on Isru Chag. The extension of Achdus, friendship and unity, will help continue the message of the Yomim Tovim.


One final lesson. Rav Elyashiv zatzal writes (Divrei Agaddah p. 458) that on Isru Chag everyone should make sure that the infusion of spirituality that he or she had received during the Yom Tov continue to be tied to the rest of the year. This is the obligation of Isru Chag – the “binding of the holiday.”


Each Yom Tov has its own special and unique Avodah that strengthens us throughout the year.

Rav Yerucham Olshin Shlita gives a wonderful expnation of what Shavuos is about, one we can focus on during this isru chag.

He cites the Shla HaKadosh (Meseches Shvuos Ner Mitzvah 18) who says that it is the day we merited the “Crown of Torah.” He cites the Gemorah in Psachi where Rav Yoseph states that were it not for this day, he would be just another “Joe” in the marketplace.

It is not just the fact that we received the Torah that makes us happy – it is the fact that we merited its crown.

To understand this thought, the Rambam tells us (Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:13), “Even though it is a Mitzvah to learn Torah day and night, a person only learns the majority of his Torah at night. Therefore, someone who wishes to merit the crown of Torah should be careful to study it each night not missing even one of them in sleeping, eating, drinking, conversation etc. He should only engage in Talmud Torah and Divrei Chochma. This is called the Rina of Torah.

The Av Beis Din of Ponovech explained (cited in Zichron Shmuel p. 574) that there are two aspects of studying Torah. There is the aspect of studying it in fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Limud HaTorah. There is also an aspect of learning it as “HaShira HaZos.” In other words it is the song of the life of the person. In it he delights and takes pleasure. He does not delay in sticking to it on any account. Any difficult situation he engages in it and he sleeps in the depth of its halacha. Even when he is tired he studies it.

This is the fundamental idea of the Crown of Torah.

We can now better understand the Shla’s explanation of Shavuos.

The custom of Klal Yisroel learning all night is now also understood better. It is not just to make up for the fact that we slept then. No, the essence of the problem in that we slept was that we were not yet at the state where it was “the song of our life.” We are thus correcting this flaw in who we were or are as a nation.

We should take greater pleasure and joy in this Isru Chag because it symbolizes the song of our lives and this is the binding that Rav Elyashiv zt”l refers to.

The custom in Ashkenazic circles is to greet one another with a wish of a “Gezunter zummer – a healthy summer.” With that, may we all have a gezunta Summer!

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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