The Shabbat before the holiday of Pesach is known as Shabbat Hagadol, the great Shabbat. Many explanations have been given by our sages as to the reason this Shabbat is called “Hagadol”. The famous Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher (1269-1343) in his Tur Shulchan Aruch writes “The Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat Hagadol because of the miracle that occurred on it. That Shabbat, the Shabbat of leaving Egypt, took place on the tenth of Nissan. That same day the Jewish people were commanded to take a lamb, the very animal that was worshipped by the Egyptians, and to tie it to their beds preparing to offer it to G-D on the 14 day of Nissan. The Egyptians observing this then asked the Jews – “What you are doing?” The Jews answered that they are preparing to offer their lamb to Hashem. The Egyptians were grinding their teeth and churning their stomachs in anger but were not able to do anything to prevent this Pesach sacrifice from taking place. The great miracle was that the Jewish people, although a slave nation, nevertheless, were able to find the courage to overcome their fears and defy the evil Egyptians their tormentors and say – “We are going to slaughter your false gods.”
An insight into this unique event is that the Jewish nation was on the way to leave the world of slavery to serve Hashem in complete freedom! The Egyptian world power was entrenched totally in idolatry and lust. The Jewish slave nation that they oppressed and held hostage were holding within them the light of G-D which was waiting to shine forth. As we all know from our prophets, the Jewish nation has an important function in this world to be a light unto the nations. Am Yisrael didn’t waste any time in fulfilling this mission on their last four days as slaves, they were commanded in practicing out this mission in Egypt when they took the Egyptian idols and tied them to their bed posts. They were declaring to the Egyptians that they must stop this idol worship and worship only Hashem!
Idol worship can be defined as any worship that focuses their worship to a creation and not to the Creator. The Egyptians, instead of worshiping Hashem, were worshiping His animals. Throughout history the nations of the world have replaced the Egyptain lambs with other forms of pagan idolatry as we know many have turned man into a god. The Talmud in the tractate of Sanhedrin brings down in the name of Rabbi Nechemaya that the generation of the coming of the Messiah the nations of the world will become heretics. The famous Jewish commentator Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abbarbanel (1437-1508) explains that the Talmud is teaching us that the gentiles of the world will rebel against their own religions. They will no longer accept their pagan ways and will truly seek the truth. They will turn to the Jewish nation for guidance. We must be there to reach out to them and show them the proper way. This is a process which is taking place right now throughout the world and will eventually lead to Hashem being the one G-D for all the nations. ” And Hashem will be king over all the earth; in that day the G-D will be the only one, and His name the only one.” Zachariah 14:9
Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith