This Shabbat is called Shabbat HaGadol – the Grand Shabbat. It is always the Shabbat before Pesach, and there is much debate in our texts on how it got its name. An interesting comment suggests that as we prepare to leave Egypt, we are given our first commandment as Jews. We are told to separate the lamb to be sacrificed at Pesach. We are still in Egypt, still slaves, yet being commanded to start to think as free people –to make choices. The first choice we must make is one of identity. Do we choose covenant and freedom, or do we choose Egypt and slavery?
This same view tells us that the moment of Jewish choosing happens when we are Bnei Mitzvah, when each of us reaches Jewish adulthood. That is the moment we are responsible for the commandments, and for adding our voice to the choir of Jewish thinkers throughout time. On that day we become an adult, or, in Hebrew, Gadol. That is how this Shabbat gets its name. We step over the threshold into the understanding of freedom and choices. We accept that while we are commanded to obey the Torah, it will always boil down to our free will –we choose to express ourselves through this identity.
Starting with Shabbat HaGadol, and growing in excitement as the Seders approach, we remember that our Jewish choices are there to enhance us, to enrich us, and to elevate us. Lofty ideals, igniting concepts –one might even say stepping into the Grand Shabbat. How better to prepare for our celebration of freedom!
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.