On the first 2 days of Pesach we say the full Hallel during morning services at the synagogue. ‘Hallel’ means ‘praise’ and is the name for a group of psalms we sing to praise God. Although some of these psalms are said quietly, several are sung out loudly and joyously, such as B’tzeit Yisra’el (‘When Israel went out from Egypt’).
During chol ha’mo’ed (the middle days of Pesach) we say only ‘half Hallel’ (a shortened version of the Hallel service with fewer songs) because these days are not as joyous as the first two days.
On the 7th and 8th day of Pesach we still say only half Hallel, but for a different reason. Normally, we would say the full Hallel on these days as the final two days of Pesach are yom tov and joyous occasions. We are happy on these days and remember how we escaped slavery in Egypt and thank God for it, but we also temper our happiness because these days are also the anniversary of when the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. Although they were treating the Jews badly, they were also God’s creatures and it is sad whenever any of God’s creatures dies. So we temper (moderate) our happiness on these days and sing only half Hallel instead of the full Hallel.
(Hallel is also said on a number of other occasions during the year, such as Rosh Chodesh – the new month – and the other pilgrim festivals of Shavuot and Sukkot).
Pesach falls at the beginning of spring in Israel, just after the rainy season. Instead of asking for rain, we now ask in our prayers for tal, ‘dew’, that it will come and provide moisture for the land of Israel and all its crops. On the 2nd day of Pesach we say this special prayer, and afterwards we add a special line to our daily prayers asking for dew.
During Ma’ariv Chol haMo’ed we say a weekday Amidah. The blessing “Baruch Aleinu” (“Bless this year for us”) is replaced by “Vaten brachah” (“And grant a blessing”).
Yizkor (the prayer to remember the dead) is said on the seventh day of Pesach.
We say Havdalah at the end of the first and last days of Pesach, as well as at the end of the 7th and 8th days. If the day is a Shabbat, then we say the usual Havdalah. If it is a weekday, we leave out the first paragraph as well as the blessings over spices and the candle.
TORAH READINGS DURING PESACH
The Torah reading changes for each day of Pesach. On each of the days of Pesach, two Torah scrolls are taken out.
Five people are called up to read Exodus 12: 21-51, which explains how the Jews in Egypt were commanded to put a lamb aside that would be sacrificed. The Haftarah on this day is taken from Joshua (Chapter 5), which explains how the Jews celebrated their first Pesach when they arrived in Israel.
Five people are again called up, this day to read Leviticus 22:26- 23:44, which describes all the festivals of the year.
The reading for this day is taken from Exodus 13.
The reading for this day is taken from Exodus 22:25.
The reading for this day is taken from Exodus 34:1, except if it is Shabbat. If it is Shabbat, then the reading only begins from Exodus 33:12 (because there are seven call-ups to the Torah instead of four).
The reading for this day is from Numbers 9.
Five people are called up for this reading of Exodus 13:17 – 14:26.
The reading for this day is taken from Deuteronomy 15:19 – 16:17. This day is observed only outside Israel; in Israel, Pesach finishes at the end of the 7th day.
The Megillah of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) is read in the synagogue on Shabbat Chol haMo’ed, before the reading of the Torah.