Sunday, April 11, 2010

Celebrating Pesach the Way G-d Intended

This was our first Pesach in Eretz Yisrael (Israel), where the biblically commanded number of days are kept for the holiday -- 7, rather than the number that were added for celebrating chutz la'aretz (outside of Israel), where 8 days of the holiday are kept with two Seders and two final holy days. In Israel there is one Seder which coincides with the one holy day at the beginning and a single holy day at the end - 7 days in all.

With this I realized that the celebration of the Jewish Holidays in galut disrupts their natural rhythm and distorts the meaning of the days.

This was the first time I have experienced the holiday in a way that made existential, not just theoretical, sense. The two Seders at the beginning were always confusing ("Why is this second seder night different from all other nights?") and the counting of the Omer during Yomtov evening of the second day, and sometimes even at the Seder, made no sense at all. At the end of the Holiday we have the seventh day of Pesach (the last in Israel) which is the climax of Pesach when the Jews cross the split Yam Suf, and Pharaoh and his forces are destroyed in the returning waters of the sea. But outside of Israel this seventh climactic day is followed by an 8th anti-climactic day which celebrates what exactly?

But in Israel, it all made sense for the first time. On the 14th day of Nissan, the Jews would have brought the Pesach sacrifice (Pascal Lamb) during Temple times. Then they would return home with it to eat on that night, the night of the 15th of Nissan, with marror and matzos, at their Seder, telling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The next day would be the celebration of the Holiday. As that day concluded, chol ha'moed would be ushered in with the evening counting of the Omer. Then everyone goes home to enjoy the intermediate days of the holiday until the final, climactic 7th day, also a Holiday, when we would celebrate the splitting of the Yam Suf, the destruction of Pharoah and his forces, and the ultimate delivery from Egyptian slavery. And that's it. Every one goes home. And that's how G-d intended it.

A gut yohr.

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