This Friday and Shabbos we mark the end of the Passover holiday. Each of the three major holidays in the Torah, (Passover, Shavuos, and Succos) have their particular message. More than just giving us a message, these days each have their own particular influence that is bestowed from heaven upon us. On Passover that influence is one of freedom, as we call these days in our prayers zman chairusainu – the time of our freedom. This is a time when every Jew can and should feel a spirit of freedom, a special ability to break away from the past and make a fresh start. On the last days of the holiday, we are told that there is an atzeres – a day of “gathering”. On a simple level, it is a day that we gather all Jews together to serve Hashem. Understood on this level, the gathering we talk about is that of the Jewish people. On a deeper level, the gathering we speak about refers to gathering the lessons of the Holiday. We are taught that this is a time that we gather all the strength, ideas, and feelings that we have amassed over the holiday.
As we close a holiday, we are taught that we have to take something with us to hold onto until the next holiday comes. This is the idea of the wording that we use in the amidah – the shemona esrai prayer, asking Hashem “Vahaseienu” – that He “load us up” with the blessings (or “messages”) of the Holiday. On Passover, we are asking that we be granted the true feelings of freedom, the true blessing of being able to break from our past and make a new beginning. As we celebrate these last two days of the holiday, whether at the time we read of the crossing of the Sea, the time we hear Shir Hashirim – the song of songs, at Yizkor, or at the special holiday meals, at one point we have to try to reflect on what we are taking from the holiday with us, and what we will remain with. Hopefully this will make these days into.