Reflections from Rabbi René – Shabbat Tzav

Shabbat HaGadol – ‘The Great Shabbat’

Its name “The Great Shabbat” is derived from the special haftarah read on this particular Shabbat, “Behold, I will send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Eternal” (lifney boy om Adonai ha-gadol v’ha-nora). According to our tradition, the first Shabbat HaGadol happened on the 10th of Nisan, five days before the Children of Israel had to flee from Egypt. They were commanded to prepare a lamb for sacrifice, the same one that appears on our Seder plates.

You have to take part in your own redemption….

There is a notion of preparation, anticipation even of the redemption that occurs on Pesach. You cannot expect everything to be done for you, and you have to take part in your own redemption. It is the same idea conveyed by the Midrash that talks about Nachshon ben Aminadav. When they arrived at the Sea of Reeds, the Children of Israel didn’t know what to do: behind them, the Egyptian army; before them, the deep sea. Nachson set his first foot in the sea, then the second, and it is only when the salty waters reached his nostril that the sea was split in the middle.

Everyone must have two pockets….

Any ritual we perform, any action we take requires total commitment. Every day is a yom Adonai haGadol v’haNora, a day that needs to be lived fully. Simcha Bunim Bonhart of Peshischa, one of the key leaders of Chasidic Jews in Poland in the early 19th century said, “everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: “For my sake was the world created.” But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: “I am but dust and ashes”. That is a very powerful wisdom for today when our world is upside down. There is a middle way that will lead us to quieter times.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Rene