Isru Chag - חג אסרו

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


Isru Chag[1] - אִסְרוּ חַג,[2] which refers to the day after each of the three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Torah: Pesach, Shavuot, and Succoth. Isru Chag acts as a transition between the holy and the mundane.[3] This is a key pasuk that ties David’s commentary on this chapter of Psalms with our Torah portion. In the Torah we are reading the critical mitzvot that must be absorbed when we transition from dwelling in the wilderness to dwelling in Eretz Israel.[4]

 

In Eretz Israel,[5] Isru Chag would be the eighth day of Pesach, the second day of Shavuot, and the ninth day of Succoth.

 

In the diaspora, Isru Chag would be the ninth day of Pesach, the third day of Shavuot, and the tenth day of Succoth.

 

On Isru Chag most of the sacrifices that the pilgrims brought with them, for the pilgrimage festival, were offered because the festival offerings which as individual offerings could not be brought on the festival itself. On Pesach and Succoth, when there were intermediate days between the Festival days at the beginning and end, it was possible to bring these sacrifices on those days. Shavuot, however, is celebrated only for one day.[6] The day following the festival was therefore set aside for the bringing of these sacrifices and this day, Isru chag, is consequently referred to as “the day of offerings”.[7]

 

Isru Chag is the day the pilgrims who have gathered in Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals[8] traditionally depart from Jerusalem and head for home.

 

The origins of the phrase ‘Isru Chag’ is from a Psalm that is part of Hallel[9] which is said on festivals:

 

Tehillim (Psalms) 118:27 God is HaShem, which hath shewed us light: bind (Isru) the Festival (Chag) offering with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

 

This verse, according to the Sages of the Gemara, should homiletically be understood to mean “Whosoever makes an addition to the festival by eating and drinking is regarded by the Tanach as though he had built an altar and offered thereon a sacrifice”, as we can see from the following Gemara:

 

Succah 45b R. Jeremiah citing R. Simeon b. Yohai, and R. Johanan citing R. Simeon of Mahoz[10] who had it from R. Johanan of Makkuth stated, Whosoever makes an addition to the Festival by eating and drinking[11] is regarded by Scripture as though he had builded an altar and offered thereon a sacrifice. For it is said, Make an binding for the Festival[12] with fat cattle, even to the horns of the altar.

 

This verse, according to the Sages of the Talmud should be understood to mean “Whosoever makes an addition to the Festival by eating and drinking is regarded by Scripture as though he had built an altar and offered a sacrifice”.[13]

 

The two most common interpretations of ”a binding for the festival” are those cited by Rashi in his commentary to the Talmudic passage:

 

(1) A group of friends who assemble or “tie themselves together” for eating and drinking on the festival;

 

(2) The day after the festival, which is “tied” or appended to the festival by eating and drinking on that day as well.

 

After a festival, we don’t go directly from a joyous festival back into the mundane world. We need a day to “cool down” from the joy of the Holiday.[14] Isru Chag is that day. “Isru Chag” literally means “bind or connect the festival”. That is, take the happiness and meaningfulness of the festival and bring it with you into the rest of the year.[15] The idea of Isru Chag is that one draws some of the holiness of the festival celebration into the less spiritually elevated reality of everyday life. It enables us to transfer the lessons we learned during the festival into our everyday lives. Since feasting is one of the ways in which Jews celebrate festivals, it became customary to eat and drink a little something extra on Isru Chag to continue the feeling of celebration.

 

In Temple times, festive offerings were brought on Isru Chag of the Shavuot Festival. Isru Chag remains a semi-festive day, even today when there is no Temple.

 

In Practice

 

In practice, Isru Chag has little impact on most Jews.

 

Some religious schools are closed on Isru Chag.

 

We omit Tachanun[16] and memorial prayers from our prayers. The Sephardic minhag is not to recite tachanun, lamnatze’ach, or tefillah lidavid from Rosh Chodesh Sivan until the 12th.[17]

 

Private fast are generally forbidden. An example of a private fast: An Ashkenazi couple who is to wed on Isru Chag will not observe the custom of fasting on the day they enter the chuppah.

 

One final lesson. Rav Elyashiv zatzal[18] writes[19] that on Isru Chag everyone should make sure that the infusion of spirituality that he or she had received during the Yom Tov continue to be tied to the rest of the year. This is the obligation of Isru Chag – the “binding of the holiday.”

 

Difficulties

 

When Isru Chag Pesach, for Israelis, falls out on Shabbat, is there any practical room to say that on that Shabbat one may use his chametz that was sold to a non-Jew? Hakham Ovadiah allowed this.[20] How can the Jew buy it back or make a kinyan on Shabbat to allow this?

 

Hakham Ovadiah is lenient in this matter. His main debate is concerning the matter of muktzeh,[21] but he adds that concerning the problem of making a kinyan from a non-Jew, a clause is included in the deed of sale that permits the Jewish owner to eat the chametz on the Shabbat following Pesach.

 

For sales of chametz that don’t include this clause, the chametz (which still belongs to a non-Jew) cannot be eaten on the Shabbat following Pesach.

 

Conclusion

 

Festivals are a time of intense spiritual connection with HaShem. The idea of Isru Chag is that one draws some of the holiness of the festival celebration into the less spiritually elevated reality of everyday life. Since feasting is one of the ways in which Jews celebrate festivals, it has become customary to eat and drink a little something extra on Isru Chag to continue the feeling of celebration.

 

 

 

 


 

Isru Chag Events

 

Nisan  22  

       Isru Chag in Eretz Israel.

       The Omer, day 7, week 1.

       Water swells on the earth in the days of Noah. Day 112. Genesis 7:24

       Isaac is circumcised. Genesis 21:4, Exodus 12:40-41, Genesis 18, 19, Rosh HaShannah 10b

       Yocheved hides Moses after a 6 month and one day pregnancy - day 45. Artscroll Mesorah on Shavuos, page 61.

       Israelites start crossing the desert of Etham, without any water. Day 1  Exodus 15:22, Numbers 33:8

       Joshua begins his march around Jericho, day 1. Seder Olam 11

       Zechariah and Elizabeth circumcise, and name, John the Baptist.  Luke 1:57-63 

       Yeshua, at 12 years old, stays in Jerusalem, teaching while look for Him.  Luke 2:41-51  

       Paul leaves Phillipi after spending 3 months there. Day 1  Acts 20:6

 

Nisan 23  

       Isru Chag in the diaspora.

       The Omer, day 8, week 1 plus 1 day.

       Water swells on the earth in the days of Noah. Day 113. Genesis 7:24

       Yocheved hides Moses after a six month and one day pregnancy - day 46. Artscroll Mesorah on Shavuos, page 61.

       Laban learns that Jacob has fled from him.  Genesis 31:22  Book of Jubilees

       Laban pursues Jacob. Day 1  Genesis 31:23  Book of Jubilees

       Israelites continue crossing the desert of Etham, without any water. Day 2  Exodus 15:22, Numbers 33:8

       Joshua is marching around Jericho, day 2. Seder Olam 11

       Some say that on this day were hung the seven sons of King Shaul, as demanded by the Givonim. 2 Samuel 21:9

       Yeshua, at twelve years old, stays in Jerusalem, teaching while parents go home.  Luke 2:41-51  

       Paul leaves Phillipi and travels five days to Troas. Day 2  Acts 20:6

 

 

Sivan 7

       Isru Chag in Eretz Israel

       Moses goes up on Sinai, the first time, to receive the Torah - day 1.   Rashi 32:1, Exodus 24:18

       Uriah gives Bathsheba a conditional divorce before going to war.  Shabbat 56a

       Hosea, the son of Beeri, died.

 

 Sivan 8

       Isru Chag in the diaspora.

       Moses goes up on Sinai, the first time, to receive the Torah - day 2.   Rashi 32:1, Exodus 24:18

 

 

Tishri 23

        Isru Chag in Eretz Israel

        Rebecca’s nurse, Deborah, dies. Book of Jubilees

        Moses waged war on Og. Tanhuma, Hukkat 24

        Solomon sends the people home, with joyful and glad hearts.  II Chronicles 7:10

        Yeshua rebukes a demon in a boy and heals him.  Luke 9:37-45

        Adulteress brought to Yeshua. He says, "let him who is without sin cast the first stone". John 7:27 - 8:11

        Yeshua spends the night on the Mount of Olives.  John 7:37-53

        The disciples debate "who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."  Luke 9:44-48

 

 Tishri  24th   

        Isru Chag in the diaspora.

        The Ezra's people fast, in sackcloth and ashes, read the law, and rededicate themselves to God.  Neh. 9:1 - 10:39

        The Jews under Nechemia cried out to Hashem and made a new covenant with Him. Yoma 69b 

        HaShem gave the evil inclination of idolatry into their hands, and it came flaming out of the Holy of Holies. Yoma 69b 

 

 


 

 

* * *

 


This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address:  gkilli@aol.com

Web page:  http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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Send comments to Greg Killian at his email address: gkilli@aol.com

 



[1] literally “Bind the Festival”.

[2] In the Jerusalem Talmud the day is known as bereih de-mo’ada (“the son of the festival”; TJ, Av. Zar. 1:1, 39b).

[3] The concept of Isru Hag is explained in the Yerushalmi as being the day after the holiday that has a part of the holiday itself.

[4] The ‘Land of Israel’.

[5] Lit. The Land of Israel

[6] In the Land of Israel.

[7] This paragraph is an edited excerpt from: The Book of Our Heritage: The Jewish Year and Its Days of Significance, Volume 2, by Eliyahu Ki Tov

[8] The Shalosh Regalim.

[9] Tehillim (Psalms) 113 – 118.

[10] A place in Israel not to be confused with Mahuza in Babylon.

[11] Sc. enjoys himself with better food and drink on the Festival, or, alternatively, enjoys himself in this way on the day following the Festival. The alternative interpretation is the origin of the name Isru hag given to the day after a festival.

[12] issur lahag

[13] Shulchan Aruch 429:2,

[14] In a responsum to a community that had inquired as to the rationale behind the observance of Isru Chag, Rabbi Yosef Hayyim (1832 - 1909), known as the Ben Ish Chai, cited the famous Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534 - 1572), known as the ARI, to the effect that we [Jews] connect the day after the holiday to the holiday itself due to the remaining “light” of the holiday – in other words, so that the sanctity of the holiday will be extended. - Shu”t Torah Lishmah: Orach Chaim, Question 140

[15] Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah 1:5

[16] confession of sins

[17] Yalkut Yosef Moadim page 445, Chazon Ovadia Yom Tov page 329.

[18] Early on, it was standard to refer to great Rabbis who had passed away with the appellation “Zal” - “zichronah livracha “May his/her/their memory be a blessing” (see here). Over time, people started using the appellation “Zatzal” - zecher tzadik livracha “May the memory of this tzaddik be a blessing” - when talking about great rabbis who have passed away.

[19] Divrei Aggadah p. 458

[20] Yecheveh Daat 2 Siman 64, and Yabia Omer Orach Chaim 9 Siman 46

[21] Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Yecheveh Daat 2:64) cites many authorities who are lenient concerning this matter, in particular because the chametz has been sold to a non-Jew, and there is no prohibition of muktzeh on a non-Jew’s chametz. Muktzeh (Hebrew: מוקצה; also transliterated as muktzah, and either spelling without the ending -h) is a Hebrew word that means "separated", or "set aside". The generally accepted view regarding these items is that they may be touched though not moved during Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) or Yom Tov (Jewish holiday). These items include things like pen, pencil, and money.