In the written text of our Torah portion, the last letter of the first word VaYikra, an Alef, is mad. This Shabbat, the Shabbat before Passover, is traditionally referred to as Shabbat HaGadol, the great Shabbat. There are several reasons suggested as to why this Shabbat is considered to be particularly "great." In honor of Shabbat HaGadol, we will be reciting a special Haftarah, where the word "HaGadol" is used. In addition to the special Haftarah we recite, on Shabbat HaGadol the rabbi traditionally offered an incredibly long and extra profound sermon.
He reminds us that on the Shabbat before Passover, the Israelites fulfilled their very first mitzvah; after leaving Egypt. They prepared their Passover sacrifice. Doing so was "Gadol" because it marked an important step in the lives of the Israelites as a nation and in their relationship with God. The Pri Hadash compares it to their B'Nai Mitzvah. By performing their first mitzvah, the Israelites had matured from a fledgling nation into adulthood and into a nation now responsible for their relationship with Jewish tradition, community, and God.
Just like it was for the Israelites in the dessert, Passover presents us with an opportunity to engage with traditions and rituals. For some of us, we may have been observing the holiday and celebrating it for many years. For others of us, we may be taking on new roles and mitzvot for the very first time. However it is that we may be celebrating Passover this year, it is my hope and prayer for all of us that we take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate it as a chance to move forward and mature in our relationship with each other as a community, with Jewish tradition, and with God.
Rabbi Josh Dorsch