Shabbos HaGadol – the Great Shabbos. It was on this Shabbos , about 3300 years ago, that G-d commanded the Jewish people to take a sheep, the Egyptian deity, and tie it to their bedpost in preparation for slaughtering it as a Passover offering four days later. Although the Egyptian people were quite taken aback, Hashem (G-d) performed a great miracle and afforded the Jews total protection from any violent protests. So yes, on this Shabbos, a great miracle occurred back in Egypt… or did it?
Granted, back in Egypt the great miracle did occur on Shabbos, but the date was the 10th of Nissan, and we always celebrate holidays based on the date when they occurred as opposed to the day of the week, which differs from year to year. So why do we commemorate Shabbos HaGadol , the great Shabbos, when it seems that we actually should be celebrating the 10th of Nissan as the “great day” on which the miracle of taking the sheep occurred back in Egypt?
I would like to share a thought with you, based on the teachings of one of the heads of the Lakewood Yeshiva, Rabbi Olshin. When celebrating a Yom Tov, a festive Jewish Holiday, not only do we rejoice in sharing the occasion with family and friends, but we also have the opportunity to learn valuable lessons and grow from our experiences.
The holiday of Pesach (Passover) is rich with many such teachings. One of the most fundamental principles that we learn from Pesach is that Hashem (G-d) is in total control of the events that take place in this world. This was clearly evidenced by the Ten Plagues, through which Hashem struck down the world’s superpower at that time, Egypt, and took His chosen nation out of slavery. This same idea is also clearly expressed in the context of the events that transpired on that Shabbos day in Egypt: Hashem once again demonstrated His complete control over the world by divinely protecting the Jews as they tied a sheep, the Egyptians’ god, to their bedpost in preparation for slaughtering it. No matter how the Egyptians may have felt about this action, G-d rendered them powerless to stop the Jews.
This concept, that G-d is constantly in complete control of the world, is a basic tenet of our faith. In fact, it is an extension of another fundamental component of our belief – that G-d created the world. It is for this reason that we celebrate the holy day of Shabbos: Just as G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, so too we work for six days and rest on Shabbos.
By marking and celebrating the great miracle that occurred in Egypt each year on Shabbos, the special day of the week, rather than on the date of the 10th of Nissan , we are coming full-circle to recognize and reaffirm the most basic tenets of our faith in G-d: We observe Shabbos attesting to G-d as the Creator of the world, and simultaneously we celebrate Shabbos HaGadol , attesting to G-d’s ongoing and constant control and supervision of the world.
As we observe this Shabbos HaGadol and Pesach, let us strengthen our belief in the majesty and power of G-d. No matter what challenge we may be facing, we only have to turn to G-d, acknowledging his complete control of the world, to appeal to Him for the salvation that we seek.
Wishing you a great Shabbos and a chag kasher v’sameach, a beautiful Passover holiday!