Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues

Torah Attitude: Parashas Tzav / Pesach: Shabbos Hagadol and our spiritual freedom

Summary

The Jewish people slaughtered the lamb as a Pesach offering and ate it with matzah and bitter herbs. The Egyptians were very surprised to see them taking the Pesach offerings into their houses on Shabbos. The firstborn Egyptians were furious that the Jews took the animals that they worshipped and treated them with such disrespect. Due to the miraculous turn of events that took place on the Shabbos prior to the exodus from Egypt, this Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Hagadol, the "Great Shabbos". A double portion of Mann fell on Friday so that there should be sufficient Mann for both Friday and Shabbos. We pray that G'd shall provide us with double sustenance every Friday. Everything that happens throughout the week, every success and achievement, is dependent on the hidden blessing that is contained in the previous Shabbos. When a Shabbos observer succeeds during the week, it is a direct outcome of the Shabbos blessing he received. On Shabbos Hagadol, as the Jews withdrew from their idol worship and started serving G'd, they received a great Divine blessing that prepared them for the exodus. We are all obligated to relive the exodus from Egypt and feel as if we personally were freed from the slavery. In our day and time the spiritual exile is much stronger than the physical one.

Pesach offering

On Rosh Chodesh Nisan, prior to the exodus from Egypt, G'd instructed Moses to tell the Jewish people that on the tenth of Nisan every household should take a lamb or kid and keep it for four days. On the fourteenth day of Nisan, said G'd, they should slaughter it as a Pesach offering and eat it with matzah and bitter herbs (see Shemos 12:1-8).

Pesach offerings on Shabbos

The Talmud (Shabbos 87b) teaches that the day of the exodus, the 15th of Nisan, was a Thursday. Tosafos, in their commentary on the Talmud, point out that from this we know that the 10th of Nisan, when every household took their Pesach offering, fell on Shabbos. The Egyptians knew that the Jews observed Shabbos. The Midrash Rabbah (Shemos 1:28) relates that when Moses grew up in the royal palace by Pharaoh, he had convinced him to let them rest on Shabbos. Therefore, the Egyptians were very surprised to see the Jews taking the Pesach offerings into their houses and tying them to their beds. These were activities that the Jews would not normally get involved in on Shabbos (see the commentary of Perisha on Tur Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 430:2).

Firstborn Egyptians furious

The firstborn Egyptians were furious that the Jews took the animals that they worshipped and treated them with such disrespect. When they asked what they were planning to do, the Jews told them that on Wednesday night all the first born would be killed by G'd, and on that night the Jews were going to slaughter the Egyptian idol to show how worthless it was. At this point something unusual happened. Instead of attacking the Jews who ridiculed the idol that many of the Jews themselves had served, the fury of the firstborn Egyptians turned against their own fathers. The firstborns demanded that they let the Jewish people out of Egypt immediately before this major Divine punishment would take place. The Midrash Shochar Tov (Tehillim 136) relates that the firstborn said that so far everything that Moses predicted took place. "Do you not care about our lives", said the firstborns, "let the Jews out already." The fathers answered that whatever the cost in human lives, they would not let the Jewish people go. The firstborn then went straight to the palace and pleaded with Pharaoh to let the Jews go, so that their lives would be spared. Pharaoh turned the royal guard against them and a major civil war erupted, where fathers and sons fought against each other. This, says the Midrash, is what King David refers to when he says (Tehillim 136:1-10): "Give thanks to G'd to the One Who smote Egypt through their firstborn."

The Great Shabbos

Tosafos explains that due to the miraculous turn of events that took place on the Shabbos prior to the exodus from Egypt, this Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Hagadol, the "Great Shabbos". This is most unusual. Every event that took place in our history on a certain date, we commemorate it on that exact date. So why did our sages establish to commemorate the Shabbos prior to Pesach as Shabbos Hagadol rather than to make the tenth of Nisan a special day every year. The commentaries on Tur and Shulchan Aruch (ibid) discuss this question and suggest various answers.

Double portion of Mann

Maybe we can understand it with the words of the Zohar (Shemos 88a) that many people say Friday night before Kiddush. In Kiddush we recite the final verses from the Torah's account of the seven days of creation (Bereishis 2:1-3): "And the heaven and the earth were finished And G'd finished His work on the seventh day and G'd blessed the seventh day and sanctified it." Rashi quotes from the Midrash Rabbah (11:2) that G'd blessed and sanctified Shabbos with the Mann. G'd's blessing would manifest itself by the double portion of Mann that fell on Friday, so that there should be sufficient Mann for both Friday and Shabbos. And the fact that the Mann did not fall on Shabbos showed the sanctity of the seventh day.

Double sustenance every Friday

G'd did not limit this conduct to the fourty days our ancestors sojourned in the wilderness. In the popular Shabbos song Ki Eshmerah Shabbos, that many people sing at their Shabbos lunch, we describe the special miracle that happened every Friday in the wilderness when the double portion of Mann fell. And we pray that G'd shall provide us with double sustenance as well every Friday. I remember how my late father would travel weekly on business from Sunday till Thursday. However, it was not uncommon that he had more success on Friday in the office than throughout the week.

Hidden blessing from previous Shabbos

Asks the Zohar, if the Mann fell double on Friday, why does the Torah describe this as a blessing of Shabbos? The Zohar answers that the Torah is hinting at a hidden blessing that takes place every Shabbos. Everything that happens throughout the week, every success and achievement, is dependent on the hidden blessing that is contained in the previous Shabbos. Many people are tempted to work and do business on Shabbos, or they take care of things in the house and do their errands on this holy day. Little do they realize that the Shabbos observers get a special blessing that will help them succeed during the following week. This does not mean that every Shabbos observer is successful in whatever they do the next week. Obviously, there are many other factors that play a role in a person's success and failure. However, the truth is that no one ever lost anything by observing Shabbos. On the contrary, it opens up the Heavenly gates for a flow of blessings that enables the person to achieve and succeed.

Shabbos blessing

As mentioned last week, G'd is ready to supply us with all our needs and does not expect us to do anything on our own. If G'd assists those who do not, for whatever reason, observe Shabbos or any other commandments, it is absurd to suggest that we could lose anything by observing Shabbos or any other commandment. We must understand that when a Shabbos observer succeeds during the week, it is a direct outcome of the Shabbos blessing he received. The closer he gets to G'd on Shabbos, the more he will be blessed.

Withdraw from idol worship

In Egypt, Moses instructed the Jewish people in the name of G'd (Shemos 12:21): "Draw and take for yourself from the flock for your families and slaughter the Pesach offering." The Midrash Rabbah (Shemos16:2) explains that the deeper meaning of this command was to tell them that by taking the Egyptian idol, that they themselves had served, and slaughtering it as an offering to G'd, they were withdrawing from their idol worship of the past and embracing upon a close relationship with G'd. And, says the Midrash, in that merit G'd started the exodus and passed over the Jewish dwellings, when the plague of the firstborn took place. On that Shabbos, as the Jews withdrew from their idol worship and started serving G'd, they received a great Divine blessing that prepared them for the exodus. This great blessing justifies naming that Shabbos as Shabbos Hagadol, the "Great Shabbos".

Relive the exodus

On Seder night, we quote from the Mishnah (Pesachim 116b) that teaches how we are all obligated to relive the exodus from Egypt and feel as if we personally were freed from the slavery. Before we drink the second cup we recite a blessing in which we mention our redemption and the liberation of our souls. This double expression strongly indicates that when we are exiled and live under the rule of a foreign nation, it is not only our bodies that are affected but our souls are also strongly influenced by the culture and lifestyle of the country of our exile. This happened in Egypt where the bodies of our ancestors were enslaved with strenuous work, and at the same time their souls were influenced and they became idol worshippers.

Spiritual exile is stronger

Throughout the generations we have felt our exile on our bodies, but in our day and time the spiritual exile is much stronger than the physical one. Pesach is the time of our freedom when we have special Divine assistance to free ourselves from being slaves to the culture that we are surrounded by. This starts on Shabbos Hagadol, the "Great Shabbos", when we must heed G'd's instruction and withdraw from the modern-day idol worship of secularism and materialism, and get closer to the service of G'd. In this merit, may we soon see the complete redemption with the coming of Moshiach. Amen.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.

Shalom. Michael Deverett

P.S. If you have any questions or enjoyed reading this e-mail, we would appreciate hearing from you. If you know of others who may be interested in receiving e-mails similar to this please let us know at michael@deverettlaw.com .


Shema Yisrael Torah Network
info@shemayisrael.co.il
http://www.shemayisrael.co.il
Jerusalem, Israel
732-370-3344