The Last Two Days of Pesach
Passover in Israel has one day of full Holiday, followed by five days of Chol Hamo’ed, followed by one day of full Holiday.
Passover outside of Israel has two days of full Holiday, followed by four days of Chol Hamo’ed, followed by two final days of full Holiday.
As in the previous article, we will concentrate on the Diaspora.
Let’s go back a day. The sixth day of Passover is the last day of Chol Hamo’ed. That night it will be full Yom Tov again, and the entire spectrum of Yom Tov Laws apply. One of those Laws is the prohibition against lighting or extinguishing fires. Since you won’t be allowed to light a fire during Yom Tov, it will be necessary to light them on the sixth day, before the full Yom Tov begins.
To be clear: it is forbidden to create fire on Yom Tov. If it was lit before Yom Tov, you may move it on Yom Tov, and even use it to light another candle. However, you may not extinguish flame on Yom Tov. (See the article “Two Levels of Holiday” for a fuller explanation of this.)
So what many people do is light one long-burning candle before Yom Tov begins, big enough to burn for a few days. Whenever they need fire, they take it from that candle. Many people also leave one of their stove burners on low and take flame from there. That way, they can also put pots and pans on that flame when they need to cook or heat up food during Yom Tov.
On the sixth day of Passover, before nightfall, the men go once again to shul (synagogue), and pray a Chol Hamo’ed Minchah. Once the stars come out, full Yom Tov has begun again, for two more days. Therefore, we pray a Holiday Maariv, which means, basically, that we pray a Holiday Shemona Esray. It is now Shevi’i Shel Pesach, the Seventh Day of Passover.
The Seventh Day of Pesach
Now that it is full Holiday again, we are required to eat a Holiday Meal after Maariv. This begins with the woman of the home lighting the Yom Tov Lights (candle or oil). As we learned above, you may not strike a match to do this. You must take an existing flame and light the candles.
If that Yom Tov night is on a Friday night (i.e., Shabbos) you must light the lights before sunset, before Shabbos begins.
We then say Kiddush. At the end of Kiddush, we do not say the Blessing of Shehecheyanu, which is a Blessing we say at the beginning of each Yom Tov to declare our joy for the Holiday. This is because it is not a new Holiday, but merely a continuation of Passover.
We wash our hands and eat matzah (in place of the usual challah, which we may not eat during Pesach), and eat a Holiday Meal. (See Holiday Meals for more information about this.)
Shacharis on the seventh day of Pesach is again the full Holiday Prayer, and is followed by a Torah Reading, which is followed by Musaf.
Musaf on Yom Tov includes Birchas Kohanim. The Kohanim (Priests) all assemble at the front of the shul, cover themselves with their prayer shawls, turn to face the congregation, and bless the people. The Torah commands the Kohanim to bless the Children of Israel (Numbers 7:22-27). In Israel this is done every day. Many Sefardic communities do this every day no matter what country they live in. Ashkenazi communities, however, do this only on Yom Tov. Parents bring all their children to shul to be there when the Kohanim bless us, even those children too young to appreciate
We do not look directly at the Kohanim during Birchas Kohanim, even though they cover their hands. We look down at the floor in front of us. Men also cover their eyes with their hat or with their tallis, and we look down.
After Musaf we return home to eat another Holiday Meal. We begin with a very short version of Kiddush: one verse (optional) and the blessing over wine. It should be in your prayer book. Then we wash our hands for matzah and eat a Festive meal. Just as discussed for the first two days of Yom Tov, this day must be conducted with constant awareness of the holiness of the day. It should include the study of Torah, as well as some rest time.
Later in the day the men return to shul to pray a Holiday Minchah. After the stars come out, the next day begins.
The Eighth Day of Pesach
It is now the twenty-second day of Nisan. If you live in Israel, it is no longer Pesach. You go home and say Havdalah, and put away all the Passover dishes and so forth.
If you live anywhere outside of Israel, it is now the Eighth Day of Passover, usually referred to as “Acharon Shel Pesach,” the Last [Day] of Passover.
Acharon Shel Pesach is Yom Tov, a full Holiday like the seventh day of Passover. Maariv is therefore also a Holiday prayer. We go home and eat a Holiday Meal, beginning with Kiddush, and washing for matzah, just as we did last night.
The next morning, Shacharis is the same, with its own Torah Reading. After the Torah Reading, Yizkor is said. Yizkor is the Remembrance Prayer for the Dead, in which anyone — man, woman or child — who has lost a family member prays for the souls of the departed. It is the Custom (I assume in all communities) that all those who have not lost any family leave the shul for the few minutes while Yizkor is being said.
After Yizkor, everyone returns to the shul, and everyone says the prayer of Av Harachamim (Father of Mercy). In this prayer we pray for the souls of all Jews who have been martyred, and ask that Hashem remember them with mercy and in a good light. We ask that Hashem also avenge their murders.
Passover is a particularly poignant and relevant time to pray for the souls of the martyred, considering how many tens of thousands of Jews have their lives during Passover because of blood libels. While anti-Semites didn’t need any special impetus to harm Jews, Passover was a time when they came out in force, accusing us of the most vile and disgusting crimes, particularly the old lie that we add Christian blood to our matzos. Moreover, Passover is a time we celebrate our continuing existence despite almost ubiquitous anti-Semitism, as we say in the Hagadah, “In every generation people rise up against us to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from them.” Still, we must remember those we have lost and pray to Hashem to rescue us from this exile (no matter how comfortable we have become in it) and bring an end to our troubles.
But let us not forget that Pesach is a Yom Tov, a Jewish Holiday, and the Torah commands us to be happy during the entire Yom Tov.
After Yizkor we pray Musaf, complete with Birchas Kohanim again.
After Musaf we all return home to eat a Holiday Meal, like yesterday. We begin with the short Kiddush again. Again, as we have said before, this day must be conducted with constant awareness of the holiness of the day, as is true every day of Yom Tov.
The men return later to shul for a Holiday Minchah. After Minchah on the Last Day of Pesach many communities have the Custom to eat a Festive Meal (without Kiddush) to “say goodbye” to the Yom Tov as it ends. There are other reasons for this meal as well. However, this meal is not mandatory.
This meal is called “Ne’ilas Hachag,” the “Closing of the Holiday.” During the meal we sing some of the Passover songs and pray that Hashem will send us the Final Rescue from exile soon.
As Passover Ends
After the stars come out, we end the meal, say the Blessings After Meals, and pray a weekday Maariv. We insert into Shemona Esray the small prayer “Attah Chonantanu” that is said after Shabbos and after Yom Tov. It is sort of a mini-Havdalah. If you forget to say it, do not repeat Shemona Esray; just say “Boruch Hamavdil bain Kodesh lichol,” which means, “Blessed is He Who separates between holy and mundane.” We do not say Hashem’s Name in this brachah.
We then go home and say Havdalah over a cup of wine. If Acharon Shel Pesach was on Shabbos, then we say the full Havdalah, like any other Saturday night. If Acharon Shel Pesach occurred on any other day of the week, then we say the “Half Havdalah,” which includes only the blessing over the wine and the blessing of Havdalah itself, as explained near the beginning of this article.
Passover is over. It is time to clean the Passover dishes and put them away. All the Pesach items should be stored in boxes and put away in closets or closed rooms.
As it says in one of the Passover songs: “Just as we have merited arranging the Passover Seder, in imitation of the time when we brought the Passover Sacrifice, so may we soon merit actually bringing the Passover Sacrifice.”