Worldwide, the Shabbat immediately preceding Pesach is given a unique title: Shabbat Hagadol, the Big or Great Shabbat. Other than possibly the length of the Rabbi’s drasha, what makes this Shabbat worthy of such a title?
A number of answers are given, but I would like to suggest the explanation by the great Gerrer Rebbe, the Sfas Emes. Taking the reader on a tour of the classical writings of the Chazal, he finds a few places where the term ‘Gadol’ is used descriptively. The first is the Shabbat of Creation. There, in the first week of creation, G-d demonstrated his Presence and control over the world. This indeed merited the term ‘Gadol’ - ‘Great’.
Fast-forward a few millennia later, and the Jewish people are languishing in Egypt, steeped in a culture of godlessness and idol worship. A few days before the great Exodus from Egypt, the 10th of Nissan, which was a Shabbat, the Jews were commanded to take a sheep, slaughter it and spread it’s blood on the doorposts. This was the ultimate act of defiance to their former masters, for whom sheep was a deity.
This not only required bravery but also a deep intellectual understanding and realization: the idol-worshiping culture around them were wrong, and Hashem is the true G-d. This great Shabbat was the day that Hashem was acknowledged and so-to-speak brought down once again into a world which had largely forgotten Him. For this, this seminal Shabbat receives the appellation Shabbat Hagadol.
We should all merit to see and experience G-d in our lives, and have a Chag Kasher V’Sameach.