Shabbos HaGadol Lesson
- Hashem commanded the Jewish people to take a sheep, which was the god of the Mitzriyim, into their homes in order to slaughter it 4 days later on the 14th day of Nisan.
- Even though the Egyptians were really angry at the Jews taking their god to slaughter it, Hashem did not allow them to act against the Jews in any way. Because of this great miracle, which occurred on Shabbos, the Shabbos before Pesach is referred to as Shabbos HaGadol or Shabbos the Great.
- One of the reasons that Chazal, our Rabbis who passed down the Oral Torah to us, give, was that this was in order to fully separate the Jewish people from worshipping other gods besides for Hashem. There were some Jewish people who also worshipped the sheep like the Egyptians, by slaughtering it as a sacrifice to Hashem, the Korban Pesach, this would serve to uproot this foreign worship from the Jewish nation.
The Jewish people had just witnessed amazing miracles that the Creator of the World, Hashem himself, did in Mitzrayim. The makkos, plagues, that Hashem brought against the Egyptians clearly demonstrated that Hashem was the creator of the world and orchestrating everything in it.
How could the Jewish people still harbor any illusions that the sheep was a god?
Even though the Jewish people saw and knew of Hashem's control and oversight of the entire world, they hadn't yet acted upon that knowledge and inspiration.
Up until this point, the fact that Hashem, the G-d of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov, who had sent his servant Moshe to punish the Egyptians, was just something the Jewish people were observing. It was something that they knew logically, in their brain.
Until the Jewish people DID something to manifest their newfound belief in Hashem and their newfound discarding of their misguided worship- it wouldn't become part of them. Their knowledge would remain like any thing else that we know but don't REALLY KNOW.
By doing the Korban Pesach the Jewish people now became a nation that didn't only KNOW of Hashem, they now BELIEVED in Hashem.
To give an example: we tell our children to think how someone else feels when they hurt another's feelings. This will only be so effective. When we can illustrate an example of when the child themselves had their feelings hurt- they will KNOW this lesson on a whole different level.
There are many things in life that we 'know', the way to transfer that knowledge from merely a logical exercise and to use that knowledge to transform ourselves- it is necessary to act.
To tell people to 'do as I say, not as I do', is not only disingenuous, it is a lie. It is a lie to instruct people to behave in ways that we don't. To claim to 'know' that a certain mode of behavior is correct and for it to be applied in such and such a fashion is dishonest if we ourselves don't behave according to that advice. Why? Because until we ourselves act in a certain way, we don't really know what we are advising other people in.
We can know many things about Judaism, about character development, about interpersonal understanding- until we put these things into practice they will not become a part of us. In a very significant way, until we do put them into practice we don't really know them much at all.
There is a famous question that is asked on Shabbos HaGadol: Why is it that only Shabbos is commemorated for the miracle of the Egyptians not being able to stop the Jews from capturing their god for slaughter, why are Sunday and Monday not also commemorated?
We should call the Sunday and Monday before Pesach- 'Sunday HaGadol' and 'Monday HaGadol', why do we only refer to Shabbos as 'Shabbos HaGadol'? Sunday and Monday also, seemingly, had this miracle of the Egyptians not being allowed to harm the Jews.
One of the answers given is that the fact that the Egyptians could not attack the Jews on Shabbos was in fact a tremendous miracle but on Sunday and Monday it was not.
Meaning, on Shabbos the fact that the Egyptians could not attack the Jews and stop this travesty being done to their god, this was Hashem intervening into the regular laws of nature and preventing the Egyptians from acting on their anger.
However, on Sunday and Monday, Hashem did not need to intervene in the regular laws of nature! Since the initial provocation and inspiration to action, the Egyptians could not act on, their anger and inspiration naturally, by itself, subsided.
How important it is to ACT, IMMEDIATELY on inspiration! Once inspiration passes it loses its potency to spur a person to action.
Even though the Egyptians saw the Jews 'kidnapping' their god for execution in just a couple of days, since they could not immediately act on this anger the first day, it no longer spurred them to act on this travesty.
When we see things in society around us that inspire us to act in a good way, we need to act, in some way, immediately. We cannot let it 'sit around' even until tomorrow. At that point the inspiration will be lost and we will be unmoved by the same motivation in the future.
We see from the first lesson how important it is to ACT in order to change ourselves. If we have learned a logical lesson that we don't act on in our lives- we will not be able to change into better people.
We could even be first hand witnesses to the wonders of the plagues of Mitzrayim and we would still be mostly unchanged!
We see from the second lesson how important it is to ACT, IMMEDIATELY in response to inspiration to good behavior. To not act immediately will cause our inspiration to be lost and for us to then remain unchanged.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Eli Meir Kramer