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Shabbos Hagodol

Written by Anonymous

A MYSTERY All these explanations though, seem to point to the significance of the 10th of Nissan, rather than to the Shabbat which precedes Passover. While that 10th of the month in Egypt happened to fall on Shabbat, its significance has apparently no intrinsic connection with Shabbat. Our conclusion, based on the sources we have seen thus far, is that we should celebrate the 10th of Nissan as well as the 15th. but Shabbat Hagadol remains a mystery. In order to understand the idea we must first explore the relationship between Shabbat and the other holidays. Shabbat and the Jewish holidays should be seen as different orbits. Shabbat is a commemoration to creation, while the holidays have an historical impetus. Moreover, Shabbat exists in a system established with, and as a result of, creation. Every 7th day is Shabbat, independent of any other calendric input. The Divine precept which introduced the Passover holiday began with a command to keep time, to anoint time. And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: “This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘In the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house.'” (Exodus 12:1-3) It is the responsibility of the Israelites to sanctify time. The court decides that the new month has arrived; then, and only then are the holidays set up. It can be said that Shabbat comes from above while the holidays come from below. The Shabbat was holy due to God’s creation and rest: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore, the Lord blessed the Shabbat day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11) * * * THE JEWISH CALENDAR Man dictates the calendar and the holidays: Rav Yochanan said: “When the ministering angels assemble before God and ask, ‘When is Rosh HaShanah and when is Yom Kippur?’ God says to them: ‘Why do you ask Me? You and I, let us all go to the Court on earth [and inquire of them].'” (Midrash Rabbah – Deuteronomy 2:14) While Shabbat existed from the time of creation, only God was bound by this concept; Shabbat did not seem to have much to do with man. The description cited above of Shabbat being the result of creation is absent the second time the Ten Commandments are written in the Torah. There, the verse illuminates a different aspect of Shabbat: And remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and with a stretched out arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Shabbat day. (Deut. 5:15) Here we find an historical component to Shabbat. Our duty to observe Shabbat is not due exclusively to the theological concept of creation and God’s rest. Rather, the historical events of our slavery and redemption are the focus. The Sfat Emet explains that the term “Shabbat HaGadol” results from the Shabbat taking on new significance. Only with the Jews redemption from Egypt did Shabbat acquire the historical identity which intertwined with the theology. The Sfat Emet explains that Shabbat had now become “greater”: Now the second aspect of Shabbat, articulated in the repetition of the Ten Commandments, would be realized. * * * WHY IS THIS SHABBAT DIFFERENT? This Shabbat in Egypt was different from all other previous Shabbatot. Now man joined God in His holy day. Ironically, the mode of observance was not resting in the classic sense. Man was bidden to take his lamb, in what we have already noted was a strong polemical statement hurled at the polytheistic, lamb-worshiping Egyptians. The Sfat Emet states that by taking the lamb the Jews observed Shabbat in Egypt. This was their first Shabbat as a people, a moment of passage in the national sense: They had reached the age of majority, became adult (“gedolim”), with responsibilities. This was Shabbat “HaGadol”. The most basic teaching of Shabbat is the acknowledgement that God created the world in six days. By taking the lamb the Jews rejected idolatry and accepted God. This was not merely an action which took place on the tenth of Nissan. This was a watershed of Jewish history. Now the Jews joined God in a Shabbat. The Talmud teaches that one who desecrates Shabbat is guilty of idolatry, for he has rejected the works of God. Now we see that those who rejected idolatry were viewed as “Shabbat observers.” Moreover, in taking the lamb, they kept their only Shabbat commandment. This “perfect track record” made it a truly great Shabbat. Our sages teach us that if all of Israel fully observe just two Shabbatot we will merit the coming of the Messiah: Rav Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai: “If Israel were to keep two Shabbatot according to the laws thereof, they would be redeemed immediately.” (Shabbat 118b) Interestingly, according to the mainstream Jewish approach the world was created in Nissan, which means that the Shabbat which takes place around the 10th of the month was the second Shabbat in the history of the world. Had those two Shabbatot been kept properly the world would have been redeemed. In the Sifrei Hapardes, Rav Yeshiel Epstein writes that the two Shabbatot which must be observed are Shabbat Hagadol and Shabbt Shuva. Each of these Shabbatot have a special power to them: One falls between Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, it is a Shabbat which teaches man how to return to God. The other Shabbat is the first Shabbat observed in Egypt. It is a Shabbat which contains within it the secret of redemption. If man could master these two Shabbatot, the Messiah would quickly arrive.

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