The Festival of Passover consists of 3 separate festivals that are cumulatively called Pesach: • Chag HaPesach - 14 -15 Nissan i.e. 1 day only • Chag HaMatzot, - 15 Nissan onwards for 7 days • Bikkurim (First Fruits) – the day after the Sabbath.
Now, the 1st and last days are considered to be a set-apart as the 7th day Shabbat. These are the 14th day of Nissan (Chag HaPesach) and the 21st day of Nissan. The days beginning with the 15th day and concluding on the 20th day of Nissan are known as half holidays or Chol Hamoed. Here, the laws are less stringent and certain types of work are permitted. Obviously, there is a weekly Shabbat during the celebration of Pesach and when the Sabbath falls during the intermediary days, it is known as Shabbat Chol Hamoed – Pesach!
And, obviously too, there will also be a Shabbat Chol HaMoed – Sukkoth because Sukkoth is also celebrated for 7 days.
The morning Torah reading of Shabbos Chol Ha-Moed consists of selected portions from Parashat Ki Tisa - Exodus 33:12 - 34:26, Numbers 28:19 - 28:25. One would automatically think that the Torah reading on the Shabbat that falls during Pesach would focus on the exodus, for this is logical. However, the Torah portion from Ki Tissa focuses on Moshe's supplication to Hashem to forgive the Jews for the sin of the Golden Calf. The fact that Moses came down again with a 2nd set of tablets is, according to the sages, indicative of G-d’s forgiveness.
Shabbat Chol HaMoed is unique, for the character of the day is not just that of Shabbat or an intermediary day blended together. Instead, they fuse to create a new, unparalleled and dynamic status. Allow me to explain to the connection between the festival and the Shabbat.
Shabbat is symbolized by its coming to the Jews. As Yeshua articulated in Mark 2:27 – ‘the sabbath was made for man , and not man for the sabbath’.
• Kabbalat Shabbat
The introductory part of the weekly erev Shabbat service is called Kabbalat Shabbat. HaShem stretches out His Hand and extends the Sabbath to us and we accept the gift of the Shabbat. Six Psalm – Psalms 95 -99 plus Psalm 29 – are read during the Kabbalat Shabbat introduction to the erev Shabbat service.
• Lecha Dodi
Next comes the poem Lecha Dodi which is a Jewish liturgical song recited at the beginning of the erev Shabbat service to welcome the Shabbat prior to the Ma’ariv (evening) service. Lekhah Dodi means "come my beloved," and is a request of a mysterious "beloved" that could mean either HaShem or one's friend(s) to join together in welcoming Shabbat that is referred to as the "bride": likrat kallah ("to greet the [Shabbat] bride"). During the singing of the last verse, the entire congregation rises and turns to the open door, to greet "Queen Shabbat" as she arrives. It was composed by Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz in the mid-1500s.
So, on erev Shabbat, the Shabbat comes to us as a gift from above! And, as part of this coming, we also anticipate and welcome malachim - Divine visitors on the Shabbat.
Now, any creative work that alters the nature of a substance or a thing, is prohibited on the Shabbat. The Hebrew word for ‘work’ is ‘melacha’. The root word is ‘malach’, which is also the word for an angel or a divine visitor. So, a ‘malach can either be a human or a divine ‘messenger’. I suggest that when we refrain from doing the work that is prohibited on Shabbat, HaShem responds by sending a divine being – a malach – as a blessing and kedushah.
Now, on the Shalosh Regalim - The Three Pilgrimage Festivals - Torah commands us to bring our sacrifices to HaShem in Jerusalem, the place which G-d chose to reveal His Name! And, as we draw near the Temple bringing our sacrifices, we draw near to the Shechinah, the divine Presence that resides behind the Parochet (the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place) above the Mercy Seat.
On Shabbat, HaShem comes to visit us but on each of the major festivals, we go to encounter Him!
I believe that what we have on Shabbat Chol HaMoed is a fulfilment of Ya’akov 4:8 “draw near to God and He will draw near to you”. WE DRAW NEAR TO HIM AND GRATEFULLY RECEIVE THE FREE GIFT OF THE SABBATH AND SIMULTANEOUSLY, HE DRAWS NEAR TO US AND GIVE US THE GIFT OIF SHALOM, JOY AND CONTENTMENT!
And the combination of the two together, is greater than the separate blessing of each individually.