The End of the First Two Days
In Chapter 1 of this Schedule, I detailed the schedule of Passover from the day before the Holiday begins until the end of the first day(s) of Yom Tov. We will now discuss the second part of Pesach (Passover), which is called Chol Hamo’ed. Chol Hamo’ed is a lesser level of Holiday, but it is still Holiday. (You can read about that at “The Two Levels of Holiday”). Passover begins with Yom Tov (full Holiday), has Chol Hamoed for a few days, and ends with more Yom Tov.
In Israel there is one day of Full Holiday at the beginning and one day at the end. Everywhere outside of Israel there are two days of Full Holiday at the beginning and two days of Full Holiday at the end. Since I think most of the readers of this web site live outside of Israel, I will confine the scope of this article to Passover in the Diaspora.
Chol Hamo’ed begins after the first two days of Yom Tov end, when the stars come out. (Remember, in Judaism a new “day” begins at night and continues the following daytime, ending when night comes again.) The date on the Jewish calendar is the 17th of Nisan. That night, we pray the regular weekday Nighttime Prayers (Maariv), but add Yaaleh Viyavo, the special insertion that mentions the Holiday.
It is still Pesach, and therefore chometz is still forbidden.
After Maariv, we go home and say a partial Havdalah. (It is forbidden to eat or drink anything until we say or hear Havdalah.) “Partial Havdalah” means that we don’t say the entire Havdalah that is usually said when the Sabbath ends. We begin with the blessing over a full goblet of wine, skip the following two blessings, and say the final blessing of Havdalah, which is: “Blessed are You, Hashem, King of the universe, Who separates between holy and mundane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the other nations, between the Seventh Day and the Six Days of Creation. Blessed are You Hashem, Who separates between the holy and the mundane.” Then we drink the wine.
Even though it is Chol Hamo’ed, which is still Yom Tov, albeit Yom Tov with fewer restrictions, we still say that same blessing. We still mention in Havdalah the Sabbath and differentiate it from the Six Days of Creation. After all, Yom Tov is a lesser form of Sabbath, and shares many aspects of Sabbath, including its holiness. In fact, the Torah sometimes uses the word “Shabbos” (Sabbath) when it is referring to Yom Tov (see, for example: Leviticus 23:23; 23:39, etc.).
The Intermediary Days
The following deals with the general schedule of Chol Hamo’ed. For a basic introduction to the Laws of Chol Hamo’ed, see my article “Some Laws of Chol Hamo’ed.”
The morning of Chol Hamo’ed, the men and boys return to shul for the Morning Prayers. Shacharis (the Morning Prayer) is essentially the same as on any weekday, with a few minor differences. We insert Yaaleh Viyavo in Shemonah Esray (the silent, standing Amidah prayer). We say “Half” Halel (the psalms of praise), meaning that we omit several passages, as you’ll find delineated in your prayer book.
We do not say Tachanun (putting down our heads in penitent prayer) the entire Pesach (Passover).
The Torah Reading
After Halel we take out two Torah Scrolls from the Holy Ark and read from them.
Each day of Passover we read a different passage from the Torah, calling up three people to the Torah. Each day’s passage is taken from somewhere in the Torah where Pesach is discussed.
After that is done, the first Torah Scroll is closed, a fourth person is called up to the Torah, and we read from the second Torah Scroll.
The fourth and final section read is the same each day. It discusses the Musaf — the Additional Sacrifice that must be offered each day of Pesach when there is a Holy Temple.
You should be able to find these readings in the back of the thicker prayer books, the ones that have all the prayers. They are probably not printed in the prayer books that have only weekday prayers.
The Additional Prayer
After the Reading of the Torah, we say a few more of the daily psalms and such, and then move on to the next prayer, Musaf, the “Additional Prayer.” This consists of Ashrai (Psalm 145 with a few other verses before and after), and a special silent Amidah Prayer. We pray it standing up with our feet together. It has all the same Laws as the daily Shemonah Esray.
Musaf is generally the same for most Holidays, with an interchangeable short passage inserted that very briefly describes the Sacrificial Musaf Offering of that day. It is generally one or two Torah verses. Take note which you say because you should say the passage relevant to that day. If for some reason you cannot say it, or you are not sure which one to say, you may pray Musaf without saying those verses.
After Musaf we say the final few passages with which we end the Morning Prayers every day, such as Alainu. We may then go home, though it is best to stay and study Torah for a while first.
Remember that it is still Pesach. All chometz is still forbidden.
In the afternoon, some time before nightfall, men return to synagogue to pray Minchah. Minchah is the same as the weekday prayer of the rest of the year, with the addition of Yaaleh Viyavo.
After the stars come out, we pray the regular weekday Maariv (Nighttime Prayer), with Yaaleh Viyavo inserted.
We follow the same pattern for all days of Chol Hamo’ed.
Chol Hamo’ed is followed immediately by a full Holiday, which we shall discuss, Hashem willing, in the next article, “Passover Holiday Schedule: Chapter 3.”