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Pesach

04/23/2019 09:57:24 PM

Apr23

Sam Shnider

The seventh day of Passover (Shvi'i shel Pesach) is celebrated on Friday and Saturday, with Yizkor at the conclusion of services on Saturday.

The final days of the Passover holiday celebrate the completion of the festival of unleavened bread, (matzot), also known as Hag HaAviv (the festival of spring), see Leviticus 23:10-11:


10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.


Passover is the festival of spring, the festival of renewal, and the time of the barley harvest in Israel. "The day after the Sabbath" is interpreted in Jewish sources as the day after the first holiday of Passover, the day on which we bring the "Omer" (Sheaf Offering) which is the celebration of the spring and the new barley harvest. Traveling around the land of Israel at this time of year, one can see all the new crops reaching their maturity at this time, a reminder of the abundance of the natural world, and inspiration for thanksgiving for the agricultural cycle. 

The Torah pairs the agricultural meaning of the holiday with the historical events of the exodus. The account in Leviticus is parallel to the account of the holiday in Exodus 12. In the historical account, the seven days of the Passover holiday correspond to key points in the journey of the newly freed Hebrew slaves. The night of the seder corresponds to the very night on which the Israelites had to run from the bondage of Egypt with their possessions and all their families in tow. The seventh night of Passover corresponds to the standoff, one week later, when the newly freely slaves are almost annihilated by the sea. 

 

Pharaoh realized what he had done by releasing all of his workforce. Galloping after his escaping slaves, he finally corners them by the banks of the Red Sea. That night (which corresponds to the seventh night of Passover) Pharaoh's army encircled the Hebrews. There were no choices but to surrender, or fight or cast themselves into the raging waves. But the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud, which had been guiding them, now descend on the camp, and protect it (Exodus 14:19-21):
 

Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them,20coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.
 

Then as the dawn arrives, Moses splits the sea, and the Israelites are led through, and they sing the lyrical prophetic Song of the Sea in joy and gratitude. 

 

The Torah finds no contradiction in these two themes of the holiday. In many aspects of Jewish tradition, there is both a celebration of the natural order of the world, and the supernatural or more intimate relationship of the People of Israel to the Divine, that breaks through all boundaries. Both aspects of the tradition can give us strength; but perhaps it is important to remember, as we see all the signs of abundance and beauty of the natural world, especially in this Island, that there is also a still small voice that speaks to each one of us personally, and breaks through all boundaries to remind us of who we are. 

 

Thu, May 23 2019 18 Iyyar 5779