Shabbat Hagadol: Miracles Past and Future
I am writing this weekly blog on Thursday morning, resigned to realities of a winter Passover. According to the Torah, Passover is hag ha’aviv (springtime festival), but this year the designation is more theoretical and fantasy. Always the optimist, I will eat the Karpas (during the Seder) with the hope that spring will finally arrive and extricate us from our insufferable winter!
Weather aside, this coming Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol. Our commentators cite numerous reasons for the special designation. The following are two explanations for Shabbat Hagadol:
The first reason takes us back to ancient Egypt and specifically to the season of the Exodus. The Torah instructed all Israelite families to select – on the tenth of Nisan – a lamb for sacrifice. Each household must hold that lamb until the fourteenth of Nisan when it was to be sacrificed as the initial Passover offering.
In the year of the Exodus, the tenth of Nisan fell on Shabbat – the Shabbat which immediately preceded Passover. According to rabbinic sources, normally the Egyptians would become suspicious of any ‘deviant’ Israelite behavior (like the Passover sacrifice) and respond violently. That year, however, there were no incidents or repercussions. In gratitude for this ‘miracle’ the Shabbat before Passover is called Shabbat Hagadol / The Great Sabbath.
A second reason for the designation comes from the special Haftorah, drawn from the prophet Malachi:
Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the
awesome (or great/HAGADOL), fearful day of Adonay.
The first explanation refers to a past, historical event. The second explanation suggests a hope for the future; when Israel will celebrate Passover – and all festivals – in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Shabbat Hagadol, therefore, links us to both the past and the future. During the Seder, we certainly establish our link to the past but we also renew our commitment to building and preserving a future Am Yisrael. Whatever the contents of our Seder, we cannot simply recall past history without any responsibility to the future.
In contrast to the past, Judaism of the future is not yet written. The details await our interpretations, our creativity and our vision. The Seder, however, reflects the biblical ideal of celebrating a Passover far into the future.
With such a vision, our Passover of 2018 will truly be a great occasion, worthy of passionate celebration…
Photo credit: Wikiedia by RadRafe: https://it.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A_Seder_table_setting.jpg