Read the information then click on the links below it to do the exercises.
THE REST OF PESEACH
The first two days and the last two days of Pesach have special sanctity. The days between are called, 'Chol Hamoed'. The rules of observance for Chol Hamoed allow us to work, drive and of course go to school. We do not eat chametz on any of these days.
Why are the last two days of Pesach special?
Seven nights after the Israelites left Egypt Moses led them into the Red Sea. By dawn the Israelites had crossed and the waters came crashing down to drown the armies of Pharaoh. In synagogue the Torah reading on the seventh day of Pesach is the story of crossing the Red Sea.
The Rest of Pesach
Rabbi Berman laughed. “I’m delighted you were listening, Sara,” he said. “Could it be that sermons aren’t always boring?” I felt myself blush.
Yom Tov had just gone out and it was chol hamoed. I had dialled Rabbi Berman’s number for an argument. I enjoy arguing with him and he’d said some things in his sermon that morning that I had to tackle him about. “So what can I do for you?” he asked.
“Remember you said that the first two days of Pesach are yom tov, and so are the last two, but the middle four days are chol hamoed – an in-between time when there are some kinds of work we can and cannot do? Anyway, I was hoping you’d say we’re not allowed to go to school, but you didn’t. “I heard him laugh again.
“Well, you said that in Israel Pesach is seven days long not eight. Why is that?” “OK,” he began. “Originally Succot and Pesach were only seven days and Shavuot was one day. But when Jews began living outside Israel it took so long for messengers on horseback to get there and tell them when Yom Tov was that they often didn’t know in time. So they kept an extra day as a precaution.” “So what about nowadays?” I asked.
“Today we keep the extra day to show how great Eretz Yisrael is, “he explained. “In Israel you can achieve what you are supposed to achieve on Pesach and Succot in seven days. Everywhere else in the world it takes a day longer.”
“I like that,” I told him, “but what do we celebrate on the last days of Pesach?” “The seventh night of Pesach is when our ancestors went into the Reed Sea,” he began. “By dawn they’d got across and the waters came crashing down to drown the armies of Pharaoh. That’s why the Torah reading for the seventh day of Pesach is the story about the crossing of the Reed Sea.”
“OK,” I went on, “but what was it you said then about Mashiach?” “In Chassidic
communities, and some others too, the last day is celebrated with a festive meal.
Some even have a meal similar to the seder, with matzot and four cups of wine. They call it Seudat Mashiach, the Feast of Messiah.”
“Why’s that?” I asked. “That,” he began explaining, “is because the final freedom, which Mashiach will bring about, will be like the first freedom, brought about by Moshe. You see, we believe that one day the world will be changed. A man, a descendant of King David, is going to bring in a new age. We call him Mashiach, the Messiah, that means anointed one. No-one knows who he is nor when he’s going to come. But when he comes, all wars will end, families will live in harmony, there will be neither sorrow nor death, all the Jewish people will be gathered to Eretz Yisrael where they will live in peace and joy with God’s spirit dwelling within them. Mashiach will rebuild the Temple on its rightful place and people from every nation will come to worship God there.”
“You really believe all that’s going to happen?” I asked. “Sure,” answered Rabbi Berman. “It all sounds so unreal,” I protested. Rabbi Berman laughed again, “A lot of people find it unreal,” he said, “but that’s only because of the way people are brought up today. They think that religion is just about ceremonies and rituals and that miracles don’t really happen – miracles are just things believed in a long time ago.
“But don’t you think that people 100 years ago would have thought it unreal if someone would have told them about air travel, heart transplants, or microwave ovens? And what about computers, fax machines and spy satellites? Frankly I think it’s a lot easier for us that it was for our great grandparents to believe in a world that can change.” “You’ve got a point,” I said. “I must think about it.”
“You do that,” I said. “I must think about it.” “You do that,” he said,” and the night after Pesach is out, make sure you help your mother putting away the Pesach crockery and things.” “I will,” I said. “Bye.” “Bye, shavuah tov.” “Shavuah tov.”
FACTS IN FOCUS:
• Chol Hamoed is really part of Yom Tov. However these types of work are permitted:
Something which is needed for YomTov, but could not have been done before Yom Tov (eg sewing a button on to a jacket if it came off during Yom Tov).
• A job where you will lose out if you put it of till after Yom Tov (eg someone selling vegetables – they will rot if they are not sold till a later date).
• Jobs done by poor people who risk losing wages if they do not work.
• Work for the benefit of the community.