On the first and second days of Pesach we sing the full Hallel (‘praise’ – a collection of Psalms praising God) (in Israel, this is sung only on first day as the second day there is already Chol haMo’ed). This is appropriate because we remember the miracles He performed for us that made it possible for us to escape from slavery in ancient Egypt. But for the remainder of Pesach we sing only the ‘Half Hallel’ (a shortened version). This is because we remember that on the 7th day of Pesach the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea whilst attempting to catch the fleeing Children of Israel. Such a loss of life is a tragedy and we are told by the rabbis to temper our joy in the face of it – hence we sing only a shortened version of the Hallel, not the full joyous version sung at other times.
Tal, the prayer for dew, is a prayer that is recited during the Musaf service during Pesach. It asks God for an abundance of dew. On Pesach we do not ask for rain, for too much rain would be very harmful to the ripening crops that have started to develop in the fields. Hence we ask for dew, as dew will provide adequate moisture for the crops without harming them.
During the Amidah, the blessing “Mashiv haroach omorid hageshem” (“He who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall”) is replaced by “Morid hatal“, (“He who causes dew to descend”).
During Ma’ariv Chol Hamo’ed a weekday Amidah is said. 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 recited on the seventh day of Pesach.
Havdalah is recited at the conclusion of the first two and last two days of Pesach (this happens outside in Israel – inside Israel, it is done at the end of the first day and at the end of the final, or seventh, day of Pesach). If the day happens to be a Shabbat, then we say the usual Havdalah. If it is not a Saturday night, we leave out the first paragraph and say only the blessing for wine.
Torah Readings during Pesach
The Torah reading differs for each day of Pesach, although each reading deals with the seasonal topics of leaving Egypt, eating matzah and not chametz (leavened bread) and the sacrifices made at the Temple.
On each of the days of Pesach, two Torah scrolls are taken out (one scroll for the readings mentioned below, and the other for reading a passage that begins at Numbers 28:19).
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 at a later stage.
The Haftarah on this day is taken from Joshua (Chapter 5), which explains how the Jews celebrated their first Pesach when entering the Promised Land.
Five people are again called up, this day to read Leviticus 22:26- 23:44, which describes all the festivals of the year. (In Israel, when it is already Chol Hamo’ed, only four people are called up). This text makes reference to the Omer (measure of barley) which Jews would bring to offer at the Temple.
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 onwards, 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.
This is observed only outside Israel – within Israel Pesach lasts only seven days.
The reading for this day is taken from Deuteronomy 15:19 – 16:17.
The Megillah (scroll) of Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs) is read in the synagogue on Shabbat Chol Hamo’ed, before the reading of the Torah.