Image: Matzah! Matzah! Matzah!
Calendar-wise, Passover is complicated.
Some Jews will finish Passover at sundown after the seventh day. Others finish at sundown after the eighth day. Why?
Inside the land of Israel (the geographic area, not the State) we celebrate 7 days of Passover, with one yom tov on the first day, and one at the end.
In the Diaspora (outside the Land) most Jews celebrate 8 days of Passover, with two days of yom tov at the beginning and at the end. The exception to that is that some Reform congregations (but not all) follow the Israeli practice.
Why the difference? When the Temple still stood the calendar was set by astronomical observation from the Temple Mount. Signal fires were lit to let Jewish communities farther away from Jerusalem know that the holiday had occurred. Since long distances were involved (think Jerusalem to Babylon, Jerusalem to Rome, Jerusalem to Spain) the second day was added for the Diaspora. Later on, the calendar was set by mathematical calculation, and we could have gone back to one day of yom tov for everyone, but by then the custom was set. Local custom (minhag hamakom) is a powerful element in halakhah (the Jewish way,) so the double yom tov was set for most Diaspora Jews.
That’s why some Jews are a little vague about the end of Passover. Find out what your local Jewish community is doing, and follow them. Most Jews at my home congregation do not observe the second day, so I don’t either. If I moved to a place where Reform Jews kept the second day, I’d keep it.
Whether they end Passover on the seventh or eighth night, one thing remains constant: by then the matzah has gotten a little stale and everyone is looking forward to eating bread and other chametz. I don’t know what percentage of Jewish families will be eating pasta or pizza on that first night after Passover, but I know there will be many!
Are you tired of matzah? What are your favorite things to eat during the week of Passover? What are you looking forward to eating when it’s over?