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The Last Two Days of Passover In a Nutshell

The Last Two Days of Passover In a Nutshell

What and How We Celebrate

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The seventh and eighth days of Passover are celebrated as Yom Tov, holidays, capping the weeklong celebration that begins with the first Seder. In Israel, only the seventh day is celebrated (you can read up on why that is so here). In Hebrew, the last two days are known as Shvii shel Pesach (Seventh of Passover) and Acharon shel Pesach (Last of Passover), respectively.

What happened on the seventh day of Passover?

On the 15th day of the month of Nissan, the children of Israel left Egypt, where they had served as slaves for generations. Despite his original stubborn refusal, after 10 debilitating plagues, Pharaoh relented and allowed Israel to leave Egypt for a three-day spiritual retreat in the desert.

Three days later, when the Israelites failed to return, Pharaoh realized that they were gone for good, safely on their way to independence and freedom in the Promised Land. He bridled his best warhorse and called his nation to join him in pursuit of his erstwhile slaves.

After a short chase, the Egyptian army caught up with the Israelites at the banks of the red sea. The Israelites were trapped; there was nowhere to go but into the sea.

Then G‑d commanded Moses to raise his staff and the sea split, allowing the Israelites to comfortably cross on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to follow the Israelites across, the sea came crashing down on them. Chariots, riders and horses all perished in the churning sea.

Overwhelmed with gratitude, Moses led the Israelites in singing the Song of the Sea. Miriam led the women in an additional song of thanks, accompanied by tambourines and drums.

This miracle took place in the wee hours of the morning of the Seventh of Passover.

What do we do to celebrate?

The seventh and eighth days of Passover are full holidays. Like other holidays, we do no work, other than certain acts connected to food preparation, and we recite holiday prayers. But there are also special practices for the last days of Passover:

  • Don’t blink. Many people have the custom to remain awake the entire night preceding the seventh day of Passover, studying Torah as a way of thanking G‑d for the miracle He did at that time.
  • Read it again. During the morning services of the seventh day, the Torah reading includes the biblical narrative of our miraculous salvation at the sea and the song we sang.
  • Sip and dip. Many people have the custom to make sure that the matzah does not come in contact with moisture, lest some leftover flour become leavened. On the eighth day of Passover, this restriction is relaxed, and matzah can be mixed with water and other liquids to create Passover favorites like matzah balls and matzah brei.
  • Yizkor. During the morning services of the eighth day, Yizkor memorial prayers are recited for departed relatives.
  • Futuristic dining. The Baal Shem Tov remarked that on the last day of Passover, the rays of the messianic redemption are already shining bright. He instituted that a special meal be held during the waning hours of the day. Rabbi Shalom Dov Ber of Lubavitch added four cups of wine to the meal, mirroring the Seders held on the first nights of the holiday. (In Israel, this meal and Yizkor are observed on day seven).
Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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