The Jewish world typically divides on the final day of Passover. On the seventh day of Passover, Israelis say “dayenu”, it is enough for us. At the same time, American Jews are still munching matza on the eighth day. This year the calendar worlds coincide as all Jews continue the foods of freedom for eight days. Rather than despair, another day of matzah can inspire you.
Passover ends on a Friday this year. As the seventh day ends, the sabbath begins. An observant Jewish family in Israel cannot pack up its Passover dishes and switch back to challah with its Shabbat wine. There is no time between Passover and Shabbat to leaven up their lives.
Meanwhile, those of us wandering in the diaspora debate when to end Passover. The tradition is that Passover lasts eight days outside of Israel. Some progressive Jewish movements have called it quits on the extra day of the holiday. The rabbinic reasoning of the Talmud does not resonate today. And yet, this year, if one is sabbath observant or even sabbath adjacent, the holiday of matzah must persist for one more day.
What does this calendar conundrum have to do with faith? In our Jewish mystical tradition, the end of Passover is a time to acknowledge the most spiritually potent moment of time. In the crossing of the Red Sea, every individual Israelite was in a transcendent state of being. The prior miracles of the Exodus story were brought about to affect the Egyptians. The miracle of the sea parting was God’s outstretched arm guiding each Hebrew to safety.
At that moment, each one had an experience of God. The miracle was personal. All the Hebrews needed to do was step onto dry land where there had been water. Imagine for a moment the sensation of safe passage in the world when the troubled waters are roiling on either side of you. Looking down you would see the muddy seabed. Looking up you would see a miracle.
Inspired by the crossing of the sea, the mystics dedicated the seventh day of Passover to welcoming a messianic time. The Jewish ideal is a space where roiling waters part for an era of peacefulness. In fact, each week we rehearse for that messianic time. That is the essence of Shabbat. We stop working, we rest, and we take time to appreciate the gift that is our lives. The eighth day of Passover coinciding with Shabbat doubles down on the utopian dream that has sustained generations.
At our seder table, we talked about our enslavement to work schedules and electronic devices. Some shared their hope to slow down in time just long enough to appreciate life. Thankfulness is a skill to cultivate, whether grateful for a patch of dry land that is our backyard or a passage to freedom.
This year, instead of bemoaning the eighth day of dry matzah, I will consider the dry land beneath my feet. Moreover, I will redirect myself toward the treasures in my life – a safe home, a supportive community, and a caring family. The end of Passover, for one day or two, is my “dayenu” moment. I have many blessings. Those blessings are enough.
Rabbi Evan J. Krame