The day after vacation is often a time of distraction and disorientation. The same is true of the day following a religious holiday, especially after one of the week-long holidays (Passover and Sukkot), during which the focus for an entire week is on the spiritual, rather than mundane, matters.

In recognition of the challenge of transitioning from a religious festival back to everyday life, a semi-holiday known as Isru Chag follows each of the three pilgrim festivals (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot). Translated literally as “bind the festival,” the term Isru Chag comes from Psalms 118:27, which reads “Bind the festival offering with boughs to the corners of the altar.” From this verse, the sages determined that, “Whoever 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” (Talmud Sukkah 45b).

In truth, the celebration of Isru Chag has little effect on the day-to-day conduct of most people. However, parents of children in a religious school may find the school closed for Isru Chag. Isru Chag also affects some aspects of the daily prayer service, in that Tachanun (a supplicatory prayer), as well as memorial prayers are omitted, and private fasts are generally not permitted. (Example of a private fast: an Ashkenazi couple who is to wed on Isru Chag will not observe the custom of fasting before the chuppah.)

The idea of Isru Chag is that this day 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 became customary to eat and drink a little something extra on Isru Chag to continue the feeling of celebration.

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