LAST DAY OF PE­SACH

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - RABBI DR MICHAEL HAR­RIS

“They will not hurt nor de­stroy in all My holy moun­tain, for the earth will be filled with knowl­edge of the Lord as the wa­ters cover the sea” Isa­iah 11:9

PE­SACH is of course a fes­ti­val of mem­ory. It marks a sem­i­nal event, the Ex­o­dus, oc­cur­ring at the dawn of our peo­ple’s his­tory.

Yet even as we re­call the an­cient past at the Seder, we also an­tic­i­pate the fu­ture. We sing “Next year in Jerusalem” and Adirhu, an­tic­i­pat­ing mes­sianic re­demp­tion. The final bless­ing re­cited be­fore the Seder night meal is also highly sig­nif­i­cant. The Mish­nah records a dis­pute be­tween Rabbi Tar­fon and Rabbi Akiva (trac­tate Pe­sachim 10:6). Ac­cord­ing to Rabbi Tar­fon, this bless­ing need men­tion only the past, prais­ing God “Who re­deemed us and our an­ces­tors from Egypt”.

For Rabbi Akiva, how­ever — and it is his view that we fol­low in prac­tice — fu­ture de­liv­er­ance must also be em­pha­sised. Just as God re­deemed us from Egypt, so may He bring us to fes­ti­vals still to come, “joy­ful in the re­build­ing of Your city and glad in Your ser­vice”.

The theme of fu­ture re­demp­tion is brought to the fore even more ex­plic­itly on the final days of Pe­sach. The se­lec­tion for last day’s haf­tarah is Isa­iah’s beau­ti­ful mes­sianic vi­sion. And while for the non-cha­sidic Ashke­nazim who com­prise the ma­jor­ity of Bri­tish Jewry, the high­light of Pe­sach is prob­a­bly the Seder nights and the clos­ing days of the fes­ti­val some­what anti-cli­mac­tic, other Jews give the end of Pe­sach its due.

The Cha­sidic world has its Seu­dat Mashiach to­wards evening on the last day, herald­ing mes­sianic re­demp­tion. Ori­en­ta­tion to­wards the mes­sianic fu­ture is ev­i­dent, too, in Maimouna, the fes­ti­val cel­e­brated at the ter­mi­na­tion of Pe­sach by Sephardim of North African ori­gin.

Pe­sach, the fes­ti­val of mem­ory, is also the sea­son of hope.

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