By Rabbi Elie Mischel
Growing up, I waited all year long for the first night of Passover, when we, like Jewish families all over the world, would celebrate the magical seder night. Since my parents did all the cooking and hard work to prepare for the seder, the first night, for me, was pure, unadulterated joy (except for the 20 minutes of heartburn I’d suffer after drinking too much sweet wine!).
There was only one problem: the first night of Passover was so great, the rest of the holiday felt like a let down! I could never understand why God wanted us to celebrate for seven days, and why the last day of Passover is considered as holy as the first.
Only as I grew older did I discover the secret holiness of the last day of Passover.
During the first days of Passover we re-experience the Exodus, God’s awesome redemption of the people of Israel from the slavery of Egypt. It was the first time in history that God redeemed His people.
But the Kabbalists explain that on the last days of Passover, our hearts and our minds turn from the first redemption to the final redemption of Israel.
On the last days of Passover, Jews traditionally read two passages from the prophets that reflect our yearning for the final redemption.
First, we read from David’s final song of praise to God, in which David gives thanks to God for redeeming him from all of his enemies:
“David addressed the words of this song to Hashem, after Hashem had saved him from the hands of all his enemies and from the hands of Saul… All praise! I called on Hashem, And I was delivered from my enemies” (II Samuel 22:1,4).
David, God’s anointed one, is the ancestor of the Messiah. His song of thanks to God at the end of his life, when he was finally safe and secure from all of his enemies, is meant to express our own yearning for the final redemption; when the people of Israel will finally be saved from all its enemies. By reading this passage at the end of Passover, we turn our attention from the original redemption from Egypt to the longed for final redemption!
The second passage that we read at the end of Passover is taken from Isaiah, where the prophet beautifully describes the end of days when David’s heir will redeem his people:
“But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse, a twig shall sprout from his stock… he shall judge the poor with equity and decide with justice for the lowly of the land. He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth and slay the wicked with the breath of his lips” (Isaiah 11:1, 4).
From the passages we read at the end of the holiday, it is clear that the end of Passover is no mere afterthought. To the contrary! It is the most awesome moment of the entire year, when we bring to the surface and express, through song and prayer, thousands of years of pain and longing for redemption!
The sages teach that “in the Hebrew month of Nisan we were [originally] redeemed [through the Exodus from Egypt], and in the Hebrew month of Nisan we will once again be redeemed in the future.” The holiday of Passover is not only a time to remember and celebrate our original redemption, when God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and made them His chosen nation. The holiday of Passover is also the time when God will one day bring the final redemption!
For this reason, during the final hours of Passover, Jews all over the world celebrate the “Meal of the Messiah.” As the sun sets and the final day of Passover draws to a close, we once again sing passages of faith from the Haggadah (the text recited at the seder). Only this time, we sing not to remember the past, but to express our longing for the future, when God will remove all of our pain and bring joy and gladness to the entire world.
May we soon see that day!