The Seventh Day of Pesach commemorates the Splitting of the Sea of Reeds, the climax of the Exodus from Egypt. Until that time, the Jews remained in dread of Egypt’s military might; some were even prepared to submit to slavery again. After the Splitting of the Sea, however, all fear of the danger from the Egyptians ended and the Jews experienced true freedom.

Our Sages explain that Moses commanded the Jewish people to proceed into the sea even before it split. Nachshon ben Aminadav, the leader of the tribe of Judah, plunged into the Red Sea, followed by his tribe and then by the entire Jewish people. They pressed onward until the water reached their nostrils. Only then did the sea split.

G‑d had promised Moses: “When you bring the people out of Egypt, you will serve G‑d on this mountain,” Nachshon’s sole desire was to reach Mt. Sinai. No matter what the obstacles, his resolve would not be shaken. Not even the sea would stand between himself and that goal. When G‑d saw that the Jews’ commitment caused them to go beyond all self-concern, He brought about a miracle that went beyond all the limits of nature.

Looking to the Horizon

The Haftorah reading for the last day of Pesach centers around the coming of Mashiach. Itcontains Isaiah’s stirring prophecies of the unique era that Mashiach will introduce: “A shoot shall emerge from the stem of Yishai and a branch shall sprout forth from his roots. The spirit of G‑d will rest upon him.... The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the young goat...The earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the sea covers up the ocean bed.’

Moreover, our experience of Mashiach does not remain confined to the realm of thought. Towards the setting of the sun on this final day of the holiday, we follow the custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov, partaking of Mashiach’s Seudah, “the feast of Mashiach.” Partaking of Mashiach’s Seudah translates our awareness of Mashiach into a meal, a physical experience, which associates this concept with our actual flesh and blood.

Simply speaking, there are many Jews who recite daily a shortened version of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith. The twelfth of those statements is: “I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Mashiach. Even if he delays, I will wait every day for him to come.” For many, however, this statement is precisely that: an abstract principle of faith, divorced from their actual reality. The feast of Mashiach brings Mashiach down to the point where it is tangible, something that affects our lives in the here and now.

Why make a feast? Because as Mashiach’s coming draws closer, it is not enough to consider Mashiach as a spiritual concept. We must begin thinking of him in physical terms, as a human being who will redeem Israel, rebuild the Temple, and initiate a new world order. Partaking of the Feast of Mashiach helps us appreciate these spiritual truths as actual reality.