A remarkable thing about Judaism is whichever synagogue one goes to around the world, one expects the Torah portion will be the same. But sometimes the reading in the diaspora is incongruous with the reading in Israel.
This year is one of those occasions, because Israel celebrates seven days of Pesach, whereas for us the eighth day falls on Shabbat when we’ll be reading the portion for Yom Tov.
In Israel they’ll have moved on to Acharei Mot, and so on. Our convergence doesn’t reoccur until 1 August, when in Israel they read Masei and, here, we’ll read Matot-Masei. Personally, this divergence leaves me wanting to make more effort to unite with those living in Israel during the coming months.
For the eighth day in the diaspora, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim have special customs for the festival conclusion. The custom among Asheknazim is to host a Seudat Mashiach (Messiah’s Feast) between Mincha and the close of the festival. The more devout will eat matzah and drink four cups of wine (or grape juice) as at the seder. Often such a gathering includes a lecture about the Utopian world of the Messiah.
Sephardim have the North African tradition of Mimouna, celebrating the first eating of Chametz after the festival.
The Talmud tells us that “in Nisan, the Israelites were redeemed and in Nisan they will be redeemed again”. Whichever way one commemorates the end of Pesach, hopefully it will help bring forward our complete redemption.
- Rabbi Jeff Berger is the founding rabbi of Rambam Sephardi Synagogue in Elstree/Borehamwood