A GREAT SABBATH – Shabat hagadol – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

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A GREAT SABBATH – Shabat hagadol – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

          The Sabbath just before Passover is traditionally called shabat hagadol – the Great Sabbath.  Why is this Sabbath greater than any other?  Same length, same rituals.  What’s different?

          Historically, of course, we could look back to Biblical times and observe that this was the last Sabbath our ancestors spent in slavery.  By next week they would be out of Egypt.  Free.  Likewise for us this Sabbath could be a day to anticipate the future freedom, when the Messiah will arrive to make the whole human race free.  So, appropriately, in the special Haftorah scheduled for this week, the last prophet, Malachi, speaks of the great prophet Elijah who will come to announce the Messianic age when the hearts of parents will turn to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.  Only a few thousand years we are waiting for Elijah to arrive and lead us to that future.  No wonder we open the door for him every Seder night.

          Very possibly this year we could learn something more from Malachi.   Reading his message on Shabat hagadol, think of the times he lived in.  Judging from his other preachings, we gather that many of his contemporaries rejected his message.  In fact they increasingly rejected G-d and the whole religious approach to life.  If they had a Pew report, it would probably show a majority of non-practicing Jews.  As Malachi quotes them, “it is vain to serve G-d!”  True, the Second Temple was standing and would stand for some five more centuries, but things happened slowly back then.  The people of Israel were losing interest in what it meant to be the people of Israel.    Malachi saw this and tried to wake their spirits.

          Gathering with our families this Seder night, can we fulfill his dream?  Can we turn generations to each other and to G-d, for family unity and Divine inspiration?  It’s worth a try.  Hag Sameach!

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One Response to A GREAT SABBATH – Shabat hagadol – by Rabbi Baruch Cohon

  1. Gladys Hanfling says:

    Dear Rabbi, Many years ago, when our family lived in New York my husband would hold his head when Purim was over and he would say “the crazy cleaning has begun!”
    Of course it was much easier then…I was younger, I had help from my husband and my two sons, and we had a Passover closet in our finished basement. It was hard work because I also had a full time job; but it was a family thing; it was a social thing (we usually had twenty people at our Seder table), and I loved everything about Passover, even the deep Spring cleaning. At the beginning of our marriage my father-in-law conducted the Seders; when we had our own home, and a couple of guest rooms the Seders were at our house, and then my husband was the leader. And you are so right…Passover was the warmest , friendliest and busiest holiday. I lived to see the twinkle in my husband’s eyes when I finished setting the table. He was so proud.

    I really look forward to seeing you both next week.

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