It is told in Hassidic circles that the year in which the Baal Shem Tov (the Besht) died, on the Shavuot holiday, one of his top students – Reb Pinchas of Kuritz – had spent the last day of Pesah, six weeks earlier, with him. Reb Pinchas wasn't feeling so well that day, and he was unsure about whether he should immerse in the mikveh, as was his custom. In the end, he decided not to.
During the festival morning prayers, Reb Pinchas saw with his spiritual powers that it had been decreed that the Besht would soon pass away. Reb Pinchas began to pray extra hard, but he could sense that it was not helping. He felt terrible that he had not gone to the mikveh, because he could have learned of the decree earlier and then prayed more effectively.
After the prayers, the holy Besht asked his student if he had gone to the mikveh the day before. When he heard that he had not, the Besht said, "The deed has been done, and nothing can change it." [From the work Shivchei HaBesht, 216]
This very profound story alludes to a unique aspect of Shvi'i shel Pesah – an aspect that is central and fundamental to the entire process of the Final Redemption. It concerns the Chabad tradition that the Besht instituted an afternoon meal on this last day of Passover, known as Seudat Mashiah [Feast of the Messiah].
As an interesting aside, let us note that this feast unites several different sectors: The Gaon of Vilna, who did not support Hassidut, also held that a "Third Meal" should be eaten at this time, unlike on all other holidays, in order to ceremoniously part from the mitzvah of eating matzah. This means that the misnagdim – literally, "opponents" [of Hassidut] – also partake of this feast. In addition, Breslov and other Hassidic groups also commemorate a great miracle experienced by the Besht on this date when he sought to ascend to the Holy Land; they call it the Feast of the Besht. Finally, the religious-national public also has a bond with this day, because of the following calculation, most of which appears in Shulchan Arukh Orach Chaim 428:
If we take the last seven letters of the Hebrew alphabet, starting from the last one, tuv, and on towards ayin, we see that each of them corresponds to a day of Passover. That is, the weekday on which the first day of Passover falls is the same as the day referenced by tuv, namely, Tisha B'Av, will fall that year; the second day of Passover is the same day on which Shavuot will fall; the third day is that of Rosh HaShanah; etc. Until the creation of the State of Israel, the seventh day of Pesah had no match for the letter ayin – until it turned out that this was the day of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day! Thus, the seventh day of Pesah has additional great importance for those who see the Messianic significance of the establishment of the State of Israel.
And so we see that Shvi'i shel Pesah, the day of the Crossing of the Red Sea on the way to Israel's first great Redemption, stands for the unity of Israel in the coming Final Redemption and the days of Mashiah.
Back to our story: We saw from Reb Pinchas and the Besht that Shvi'i shel Pesah contains the nucleus of the Shavuot holiday - but this nucleus requires special protection and purity. Only by purifying oneself in a mikveh can one take action on this day to ensure that on the following Shavuot, the light of the Besht will continue to shine.
On this special day [exactly 3,333 years ago – ed.], we merited to experience the revelation of the Divine Presence in the miracle of the Crossing of the Red Sea, on which our Sages tell us "even a lowly maidservant saw miracles that even the Prophet Yechezkel did not see." Unlike the night of the Exodus six days earlier – a total gift from G-d, as we were still mired in the 49 Gates of Impurity – here we had already been purified somewhat, and we took part to some extent in the miracle by jumping into the sea, in accordance with the Divine command to "get a move on!" (see Ex. 14,15), at which time the Red Sea indeed split for us to travel through.
But this was just the beginning. We still had to go through an upward trek of 49 days, beginning with the Exodus, up to the complete revelation of Shavuot and the Stand at Mount Sinai. On Shvi'i shel Pesah, we are still on the very first baby steps of this trek. As is known, a little baby is most sensitive, and therefore requires extra protection. And spiritually too, when a matter is just starting out, it must be protected more intensely.
Shvi'i shel Pesah is therefore a most important day, on which the great light of Shavuot and of the Complete Redemption begins to shine. But since the process is only at the beginning of its path, we must safeguard it very well. The same is true regarding the process of Shivat Tzion, the return to Zion in our generation – that which we commemorate on Independence Day, corresponding to Shvi'i shel Pesah noted above. We know, as our Torah giants have taught at length, that it is in its early stages, and therefore requires extra special protection. For this reason, the rabbis teach, the Redemption began via people who were not Torah-observant, in order that the "forces of sanctity" should pass through them in a hidden manner (in a manner of speaking), and not be noticed or disturbed by opponents of the Divine plan.
For instance, this is how Rabbi Yisachar Teichtal, author of Em HaBanim Smeichah [a Holocaust-period work championing the cause of national return to the Holy Land in our generation from a Torah standpoint], explained the Medrashic teaching that the tidings of the Redemption will be brought by impure birds: so that the tidings will not be disrupted by its opponents.
From this day we learn that when a sensitive matter is in its beginning stages, the best idea is to keep it secret as much as possible, because at this stage, "blessing is found only in matters that are hidden from the eye." In truth, this is no surprise to anyone, such as politicians and company heads, who is even slightly involved in the execution of sensitive and complex matters. If things are revealed before the appropriate time, they might be prevented from ever coming to fruition. Only after a while, when sufficient steps have been taken to stabilize the matter, is it a good idea to spread the issue and involve other people.
May it be G-d's will that we merit to receive the great lights of Shvi'i shel Pesah and the Shavuot holiday in totality, in the purest and holiest of manners. Pesah Same'ah (Happy Pesah)!