Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Great Shabbat

The upcoming Shabbat, which precedes Passover, is called Shabbat haGadol, the Great Sabbath What makes it worthy of the title “great?”
It was Shabbat, the tenth of Nissan, 2448 and the Jews of Egypt were given a special mitzvah just for that year: each man should take a lamb for the household, a lamb for each home (Exodus 12:3).  What is the significance of this unique one-time command?
The Egyptians believed in Aries as the chief constellation that guided all of existence, and therefore, worshipped its physical counterpart: the sheep.   It was specifically for this reason that G-d chose the sheep as the Pascal Offering.   Furthermore, G-d commanded the Jews to sacrifice the lamb during the first third of the month, when Aries is at its peak, and yet, would be powerless to stop the sacrifice.  This underscores the existence of G-d and His supremacy over all.
But it wasn’t only the Egyptians who worshipped idols.  In fact, when Moses told the Jews that they’d be redeemed shortly, they initially expressed surprise: “How could we possibly be redeemed, given that our idolatry fills Egypt?” 

Imagine the emotional journey it took to get from that place to one where they willingly sacrificed the idol they had previously worshipped.  Surrounded by Egypt's overt displays of power and might, its gods, they had the courage to defy it.  
To me, that’s a hopeful thought; an acknowledgment that when we finally meet the truth, we be willing to toss out all the stale ideologies we had hitherto worshipped, in favor of one overarching truth: G-d and His power.
And that is great.

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