Pesach: The Eighth Day

Joyfully shall you draw water from the wellsprings of redemption…((Isaiah 12:3) from the Haftarah of the eighth day of Pesach, and in Israel of Yom Ha’Atzmaut).

Each year we tell the dismal tale of bondage:
the exit from the confines of the straits
on a journey that traverses arid sands.

We eat the greens, awash in brine;
unleavened bread that dries the tongue.
We swallow down the bitter herbs

then forge ahead, foreseeing freedom,
celebrating with four cups of heady wine, yet
redemption is suspended beyond reach.

We have not found the wisdom and the valor
to wipe out wanton misery and vice;
nor yet can trust the feral with the helpless –

we have not yet drawn water from the wells.


In a commentary about the last day of Pesach, http://learn.jtsa.edu/content/commentary/pesah/5772/last-day-passover, Dr Alan Cooper discusses the eighth day of Pesach, (which in Israel is already no longer Pesach). He notes “…many Hasidim relax some of the dietary restrictions of the first seven days, and they also gather for a special meal called a se’udat mashiach (messianic feast), reminiscent of the seder in its inclusion of matzah and four cups of wine. This meal, allegedly instituted by the Baal Shem Tov himself, is a lovely complement to the haftarah that we recite on the eighth day (Isa. 10:32–12:6), which looks forward to the messianic era as a time of universal peace.”
He says while the first seven days of Pesach relate the historical events from the hasty exodus from Egypt on the first day, until the crossing of the Red Sea on the seventh, the eighth day “brings us back to the present and reorients us towards the future.” He cites Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet who says, “Just as the first day celebrates the redemption from the first exile, the last day celebrates the future redemption from our final state of exile. The two are intimately connected, the beginning and end of one process, with God in the future redemption showing wonders ‘as in the days of your exodus from Egypt’ (Micah 7:15).”
The haftarah recited on this day*, (and by many in Israel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) which is celebrated shortly after Pesach) contains a series of prophesies spoken by Isaiah, anticipating a great redemption to come. As the Etz Hayim (Commentary of the JPS) notes, “It moves from foretelling an end to foreign oppression to utopian visions of national justice and ingathering….A vision of social and natural transformation lies at the center of this haftarah…” It envisions leadership through “wisdom and insight…counsel and valor…devotion and reverence for God.” Aside from the prophesy of justice and equity towards the downtrodden, Isaiah foresees radical changes in the natural world in which predators and prey will live peacefully together.
The haftarah contains some of the verses recited at the conclusion of Shabbat, in the Havdalah service, including “Joyfully shall you draw water from the fountain springs of salvation.”(Isaiah 12:3)
Dr Cooper suggests that this is the day “to redirect our gaze from the past to the future, and the haftarah… encourages us to envision and yearn for a better, safer, and healthier world. ” However, he concludes that we have to take an active part in striving for the fulfilment of these prophesies of peace and justice.

*Translation from the JPS Tanakh can be found at this link:

http://learn.jtsa.edu/content/translations/pesah/haftarah-portion/pesah-day-8

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