AFTER the longest possible interval since last Pesach, it is now upon us — starting tomorrow evening (Friday). For the next two weeks, we take a break in the normal weekly cycle of sedras as Pesach begins on Shabbat and ends next Shabbat (except, of course, in Israel where Pesach ends on Friday).
In fact, this constitutes the longest possible gap without reading a sedra!
On each day of Pesach — including Chol Hamoed — a second sefer is taken and the maftir is read. This is from the sedra Pinchas and discusses the sacrifices offered on Pesach. Unlike Succot, an identical sacrifice is offered every day.
On Shabbat, we read from sedra Bo. This tells of the tenth and final plague — the smiting of the first-born — which took place at midnight on the 15th of Nissan.
Pharaoh finally allows the Children of Israel to leave — albeit subject to Terms and Conditions! We are told about the ritual of the Paschal lamb.
On the second day (Sunday), the reading from the first sefer is taken from the sedra Emor and discusses the festival cycle. The Chol Hamoed readings all concern Pesach in some way. On the fourth day, we read from Beha’alotcha and discuss “Pesach Sheni” — the second Passover held in Iyar for those who were unable to celebrate Pesach in the Temple.
This was not an option merely because the second date was more convenient, rather it was only offered to someone who was ritually “tamei” — impure — or who was too far away to reach Jerusalem in time for Pesach.
Whole Hallel is recited on the first two days, but only half-Hallel on Chol Hamoed and the last days’ yomtov.
We recite Tefillat Tal on the first day and from then on we no longer recite “Mashiv Haruach” till Shemini Atzeret and we no longer insert “Tal Umotor” in the weekday Amida.
The Counting of the Omer commences on Saturday evening — the second seder night.
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