Pesah in the Synagogue

On the first two and last two days of Pesah, the synagogue services follow the Festival pattern. As on the Sabbath (and unlike weekdays), the amidah contains only seven b’rakhot. The middle b’rakhah of the Festival amidah is a prayer that the holiday (in the present case, "this Festival of Matzot, the season of our freedom") will be a joyous one and an occasion for the strengthening of our Judaism. Tefillin are not worn in the morning, and the preliminary morning service is lengthened as on the Sabbath. Hallel is chanted, the Torah is read (with five aliyot) and musaf is recited. The Festival musaf service recalls the pilgrimages to Jerusalem made in ancient days and expresses the hope that this aspect of our national life will be restored, as, indeed, is beginning to happen in our time.

On the first morning of Pesah, we stop saying "mashiv haruah umorid hagashem" ("who makes the wind blow, and the rain fall") as part of the amidah, and, to mark this transition from the "winter" to the "summer" liturgy, we insert the prayer for dew (tal) in the repetition of the musaf amidah. In recognition of the vital nature of the orderly progression of seasons, the shaliah tzibbur (reader) wears a kittel for this service, and musical motifs from the High Holidays are used. The prayer for dew is most often recited in a poetic version composed by Rabbi Eleazar Hakallir, one of the greatest liturgical poets, who lived in Eretz Yisrael in the 8th century.

The services for Hol Hamoed Pesah (the Intermediate Days) combine weekday and Festival patterns. The weekday amidah, with the addition of the Festival prayer "yaaleh v'yavo", is recited at shaharit, minhah, and maariv, but the full Festival musaf is said. The Torah is read each morning, with four aliyot. Some people do not put on tefillin on Hol Hamoed, others do put them on, but remove them before Hallel (and the latter is our practice - GLB).

On Shabbat Hol Hamoed, the Intermediate Sabbath, the Sabbath amidah, with the addition of "yaaleh v'yavo", is said at shaharit, minhah, and maariv, and the Festival musaf is used, with special additions for the Sabbath.

On the eighth day of Pesah, Yizkor, the memorial service, is recited.

Hallel, Psalms 113-118, is a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. On the third through the eighth days of Pesah, Hallel is recited in an abbreviated form. The customary explanation for this practice is that it was on the seventh day of Pesah that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, and our joy is diminished by the reflection that our salvation was accomplished at their expense. Thus, we do not say the full Hallel on this day. Then, in order that Hol Hamoed not appear to be more significant than the seventh day, which is a full holiday, we abbreviate Hallel on those days as well.

There are readings from two Torah scrolls on each day of Pesah, as follows: First day - Exodus l2:21-5l and Numbers 28:l6-25 Second day - Leviticus 22:26-23:44 and Numbers 28:l6-25 First Intermediate day - Exodus l3:l-l6 and Numbers 28:l9-25 Second Intermediate day - Exodus 22:24-23:l9 and Numbers 28:l9-25 Third Intermediate day - Exodus 24:l-26 and Numbers 28:l9-25 Fourth Intermediate day - Numbers 9:l-l4 and Numbers 28:l9-25 Intermediate Sabbath - Exodus 33:l2-34:26 and Numbers 28:l9-25 Seventh day -Exodus l3:l7-l5:26 and Numbers 28:l9-25 Eighth day - Deuteronomy l5:l9-l6:l7 (on Sabbath, Deuteronomy l4:22-l6:l7) and Numbers 28:l9-25

The order of readings for the intermediate days depends on which day of the week Pesah begins.

These readings all mention Pesah or the Exodus do in some way. The reading from the second scroll details the offerings made in the Temple. The prophetic readings (haftarot) for Pesah are:

First day - Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2-6:1, 6:27 (The first Passover observed in the Land of Israel) Second day - II Kings 23:l-9, 2l-25 (the revival of Passover in the time of King Josiah). Intermediate Sabbath - Ezekiel 36:37-37:l4 (the vision of national revival). Seventh day - II Samuel 22:l-5l (the song of David, complementing the song of Moses in the Torah). Eighth day - Isaiah l0:32-12:6 (the return of Jews to the Land of Israel in the days of the Messiah).

On Shabbat Hol Hamoed Pesah, Shir Hashirim (the Song of Songs) is chanted after Shaharit. This book, attributed to King Solomon, is, on the surface a collection of romantic, often daring, poetry. The traditional interpretation makes it a reference to God's love for the Jewish people, in terms of which the period of the Exodus was thought to be the honeymoon. In the words of Jeremiah, "I accounted to your favor the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, in how you followed Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown."


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