Shabbat chol hamo'ed pesach
"And the seventh day shall be a sacred occasion for you: you shall not work at your occupation" Numbers 28:25
This reminder, shared with us on Shabbat Chol Hamo'ed Pesach, ensures that the end of Pesach is marked as a sacred occasion. It is especially timely when we consider the huge build-up normally associated with Pesach.
Our calendar leads up to the festival with four special parashiyot - two before Purim and two before Pesach, ending with Shabbat Hachodesh which heralds the imminence of the month of Nisan - followed by Shabbat Hagadol just before the big event. Not only that but we also feel the festival looming in our own homes.
The cooking, cleaning, shopping and Seder preparation means that Pesach comes in with such a fanfare, that it begs a question about the end of the festival: what is the significance of it that we need to be prepared for it during the Shabbat of the Intermediate Days?
The clue comes with what is read on the Seventh Day. It is at this time that we remember the parting of the sea, the deliverance of the Children of Israel to safety and the drowning of the pursuing Egyptian army. The beginning seems to focus on what we are leaving behind - the symbols of the Seder plate remind us of hardship and bitterness - yet how would we function as a community if we remained so steeped in the pain of the past? This Shabbat we also focus on the importance of ending the festival appropriately so that we appreciate life beyond the pain.
It is easy for a people, as well as an individual, to get caught in a cycle of remembering the pain that they once faced; the real challenge as we look to the end of Pesach is to recognise our deliverance and let the past inform the future, not cause it to be embittered.