Passover (Pesach) In the Community

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The synagogue services of Passover begin with the evening service prior to the seder. A unique feature at this festival service is the omission of the kiddush (blessing over the wine). On Passover it is assumed that even the poorest will have wine or be invited to a home where kiddush will be recited at the seder.

The morning service of Passover is distinguished by the reading of the excerpt from Exodus chapter 12 that discusses the Passover celebration. The traditional haftarah (prophetic) reading is from Joshua chapters 5 and 6, which contains the first mention of the Passover festival in the prophets. The Reform haftarah reading is from Isaiah 43 wherein the prophet reminds the people of God's protection throughout history and cites the salvation at the sea as the primary example.

Hallel is recited as part of the service. On the last days of Passover only a shortened version of Hallel is recited. One of the special additions to the first-day Passover service is the prayer for dew, "Tefillat Tal." This parallels the prayer for rain recited during the Fall holiday of Shemini Atzeret.

On the Sabbath that falls during Passover, the special reading is Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs), one of the megillot or five scrolls. The Torah reading contains parts of either Exodus 13, 14, or 15, depending on the particular synagogue's tradition. It is the story of the crossing of the Red (Reed) Sea. The haftarah is from Second Samuel 22, another prayer of deliverance. This time David is saved from the hand of Saul. The last day of Passover is one of the four times of the year we recite Yizkor, the memorial service for the dead.

The Counting of the Omer ("Sefirat HaOmer") commences on the second night of the holiday. Omer was the measure of barley brought to the Temple on the second day of Passover as an offering for the beginning of the harvest. The days will then be counted publicly for seven weeks (a week of weeks), which culminates on the 50th day with Shavuot.

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