The haftarah for Shabbat: Eighth day Pesach

“The wolf shall live with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the  calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” Isaiah  11:6


The last days of Pesach lead us into the future.  The Passover story doesn’t end with the exodus from Egypt nor the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, not even with the building of a sanctuary in the desert where God can come and live among us. The true ending is the arrival of the Messianic Age (or an actual Messiah, depending  on your theology), when everyone will be free.

The haftarah of Isaiah, on the eighth day of Passover, is a message of hope,  of acknowledgement that the world still needs to be repaired and that there is a greater redemption still to come.

In kabbalistic thought, there is something about the number eight that hints at miracles. The world was created in seven days. Seven represents the completeness of the natural world — eight symbolises something beyond nature, the miraculous.

But although the whole festival of Pesach  is infused with the miraculous — the parting of the Sea of Reeds which we celebrate on the seventh day of Pesach is the ultimate symbol of a Divine supranatural intervention —the actual liberation from Egypt is a very human miracle.

In the Haggadah last week we heard that “God heard our wailing and God remembered the  Covenant, with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob”. God forgot about us for a while and then remembered. Why did God remember us again? Because of our wailing. “God heard our voices”.

We get to change our fate when we lift our voices to protest. In Jonathan Safran Foer’s American Haggadah, Jeffrey Goldberg comments that “one of the joys of being Jewish is membership in a group that is eternally dissatisfied with the way things are. We are, at our core, a  messianic people.”

This is the true theme of this Shabbat and the last day of Pesach: that by raising our voices in protest, we can help to liberate the entire world. If we want God to remember the Covenant with us, we must raise our voices.

And in a democracy,  that means raising our voices for the changes we want to see in politics and in society, whether that is supporting refugees, or dealing with climate change or economic injustice. The need to change the world is the legacy of Pesach that stays with us in the days and weeks to come.

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