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Shabbat Hagadol 5761

Haftarah Parshat Tzav
Shabbat Hagadol
(Malachi 3:4 – 23)
April 7, 2001

The Shabbat prior to the festival of Pesach is known as Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Sabbath. Among the reasons given for this name, two are particularly striking. The first, brought by the Kol Bo, an early 14th century rabbinic work, recounts that the very first mitzvah which God commanded the children of Israel was to select a sheep to sacrifice on the first Pesach (see Exodus 12,3). That day, the tenth day of Nisan, fell on Shabbat. What was so “great” about that Shabbat? Its message was that God did not want our ancestors to be passive recipients of His good will; rather, the redemption from Egypt required their active participation through the performance of a mitzvah – a divine command. God wanted them to be His partners in their redemption from Egypt.

Another tradition associates the name of this Shabbat with a verse from the special Haftarah for this day where Malachi, the last of the Biblical prophets, refers to the great and awesome day of the final redemption in the following words – Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the “great” and fearful day of the Lord (Malachi 3,23). This final redemption, according to tradition will also take place on Pesach.

If the redemption from Egypt required our ancestors to take an active role in determining their fate, how much more so should we be concerned with our role in our future redemption. When Malachi rebukes us for doing things which prevent our redemption – adultery, lying, and cheating workers, widows, strangers, and orphans (verse 5) – his intention is that we repair God’s world by mending our ways. For Malachi the formula for bringing about redemption is two pronged: loyalty to the Torah (verse 22) and reconciliation with our fellow people, especially within the context of the family (verse 24).

God requires of us an active role in bettering His world, in order that it be worthy of redemption. This same message resounds both in the words of our first prophet, Moses, as well as in the words of the last of the prophets, Malachi. May this same message bring us together as God’s partners in redemption this Pesach.

About This Commentary

This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in  Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva.  He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
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