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Friday, 20 Nissan, 5781

Halachic Times (Zmanim)
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Passover (Chol Hamoed)
Omer: Day Five - Hod sheb'Chessed
Tonight Count 6
Jewish History

Pharaoh's pursuit of the Jews (see Jewish History for the 18th of Nissan) ended on this day, on the shores of the Red Sea.

A terrified Jewish nation divides into several factions. Some advocated mass suicide, others wanted to surrender and return to Egypt, the bolder ones prepared to battle the Egyptians, while others advised the nation to pray.

G-d thought otherwise. He instructed the Jews to simply proceed onwards -- despite the sea which stood in their path.

The Jews complied, and the entire following night they went through the parted waters of the Red Sea (see Jewish History for the 21st of Nissan)

Links:
In Hot Pursuit
The Four Factions

R. Hai Gaon was the last of the Geonim, the brilliant Talmudic scholars who headed the great schools of Babylonia during the five centuries following the compilation of the Talmud. Son of R. Sherira Gaon, R. Hai was one of the greatest authorities of his time, and his decisions and guidance were sought after by Jewish communities across the world.

R. Hai served at his post as Gaon for forty years. He passed away on 20 Nissan 4798 (1038), at the age of 99.

Link: Rav Hai Gaon

Laws and Customs

Click here for a summary of the Passover Torah readings.

Of the eight days of Passover, the first two and the last two are "yom tov" (festival days). The middle four days are called chol hamoed--"weekdays of the festival," also called "the intermediate days." (In Israel, where Passover is observed for seven days, the first and last days are yom tov, and the middle five days are chol hamoed).

The yom tov days are days of rest, during which all creative work is forbidden, as it is on the Shabbat, with the exception of certain types of work associated with food preparation (e.g., cooking and "carrying"). On chol hamoed the prohibition of work is less stringent--work whose avoidance would result in "significant loss" is permitted (except when chol hamoed is also Shabbat, when all work is forbidden).

The "Yaale V'yavo" prayer is included in all prayers and Grace After Meals. Hallel (partial) and Musaf are recited following the Shacharit (morning) prayers. It is the Chabad custom not to put on tefillin during the "intermediate days".

Click here for a more detailed treatment of the laws of Chol Hamoed.

Tomorrow is the sixth day of the Omer Count. Since, on the Jewish calendar, the day begins at nightfall of the previous evening, we count the omer for tomorrow's date tonight, after nightfall: "Today is six days to the Omer." (If you miss the count tonight, you can count the omer all day tomorrow, but without the preceding blessing.)

The 49-day "Counting of the Omer" retraces our ancestors' seven-week spiritual journey from the Exodus to Sinai. Each evening we recite a special blessing and count the days and weeks that have passed since the Omer; the 50th day is Shavuot, the festival celebrating the Giving of the Torah at Sinai.

Tonight's Sefirah: Yesod sheb'Chessed -- "Connection in Kindness"

The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine Attributes" -- Sefirot -- that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchut ("Love", "Strength", "Beauty", "Victory", "Splendor", "Foundation" and "Sovereignty"). In the human being, created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness. Each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits. The 49-day Omer Count is thus a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one the forty-nine "sefirot."

Links:
How to count the Omer
The deeper significance of the Omer Count

It is customary to remain awake on the eve of the Seventh of Passover (i.e., tonight) and spend the entire night in Torah study and joyous celebration of the great miracle of the splitting of the sea.

Daily Thought

When the day came for the descendants of Israel to return to the promised land, the greatness of their forefathers was almost nowhere to be found. Among them were idolaters, slanderers, and every sort of vice.

But G‑d loved them and took them as His bride.

Today, as well, we must see past the outer shell, deep into the soul of every Jew, and uncover the beauty that lies there. For there is not a single Jewish soul that is dispensable, G‑d forbid, regardless of how distant that soul may have wandered.

Indeed, today, we are held together by a far deeper, more essential bond.

This time, no Jew will be left behind.