LAST DAY OF PESACH
“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.