D’var Torah: The Second Days of Pesach
In his D’var Torah for the last two days of Pesach the Chief Rabbi asks, “What will we be doing on the day after Pesach?”
The day immediately following Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot is given a term – it’s called Isru Chag. That term is taken from the Hallel, Psalm 118, where we declare, “isru chag ba’avotim ad karnot hamizbei’ach” – “Let us bind the festive offering with cords, to the corners of the alter”, suggesting that we do not want the festival to pass. We want to hold on to it for as long as possible.
In this spirit, the Gemara in Masechet sukka (daf mem hey amud bet) tells us that by keeping Isru Chag, it is as if we are building an altar and making a sacrifice upon it. The great sixteenth century Kabbalistic Sage, the Ari Hakadosh, taught that by keeping Isru Chag, we are taking the spiritual light of Pesach and enabling it to continue into following year.
In Sephardi circles, the festival of Mimouna is kept with beautiful and lovely customs. I believe that everything relating to Isru Chag inspires us to concentrate on follow-up, because whenever we have an event – an experience of great significance – it is what follows that will make all the difference.
In drawing on our experiences of Pesach, I believe that amongst all the beautiful lessons contained therein, there is one prime lesson: during Pesach we look to our past in order to gain inspiration for our present and our future.
The Talmud tells a story of a man who was on his way to a destination he hadn’t previously visited – he arrived at a crossroads and alas, the wind had blown down the signpost. He didn’t know whether to go right, left or straight and he sat on the ground to bemoan his fate. Then suddenly a thought crossed his mind – he did know what one of the directions was – he knew where he had come from. He ran up to the signpost and placed it in the ground, with the arrow pointing in the direction of his point of origin, and from this, he could work out which way to go.
Our Sages tell us that from here we learn that it is only when you know where you are coming from that you can know where you are going to.
That is the prime message of Pesach – ‘Zecher letziat Mitzrayim’ – that we should remember our Exodus from Egypt and that we should draw on the lessons of our past. We are rooted in Jewish history and as a result, we can gain inspiration for the sake of our Jewish present and future.
So that is what we should do on the day after Pesach. We should look to our past for the sake of our future.