Our view of the Galile

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shabbat HaGadol- Acharei Mos- Greatfully Proud

Insights and Inspiration
from the 
Holy Land
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz

"Your friend in Karmiel"
April 15th 2011 -Volume I, Issue 26–12th of Nissan 5771
Parshat Acharei Mos/ Shabbat HaGadol

‘Great’fully Proud

I’m so proud of them. It was only 10 months ago that we were living in Seattle Washington. My children were all “Americans”. Hebrew was a subject some of them struggled with in school, certainly not one they enjoyed speaking. They lived in a culture that had baseball, two car families, large houses, backyards, English books, magazines, radio and videos. A country that ran on dollars and cents. And in one day their lives changed.

 They moved to a place where their teachers didn’t understand them. They had to sign language their friends to make them understand them. They sat through hours of class barely knowing what subjects they were learning. No Baseball. No radio they could understand. Money that looks like it came out of a monopoly set and learning brand new forms of entertainment that included marbles, nuts, little rabbi flipping cards, elastic “Gummi” bands” and for my one year old, tully,- stray cats. But they have persevered. They have transformed. Dare I say, they have even flourished. They can all speak Hebrew at different levels now. My three year old Elka, being the first that is actually thinking in Hebrew as she expresses herself naturally many times in Hebrew words. Video computer games are a thing of the past they barely remember. They love playing in the park walking around and shmoozing with friends and my oldest Shani can negotiate sal eprices in shekels in the store with the best of them. My American baby’s are growing into Sabras, and not a day goes by that I don’t have nachas from every one of them. {Bli Ayin Harah- phew phew phew}

This Shabbos, being the one before the holiday of Pesach is called Shabbat HaGadol the “Great Shabbat”. The commentaries attribute different reasons for this title. Some explain that it commemorates the first Pesach in Egypt when the tenth of Nissan, the day of taking the Paschal lamb, fell on the Sabbath. There is also the great Haftorah from the prophet Malachi that speaks of the "great day" and the great zayin that appears in that Haftorah that symbolizes the 7th day. But the truth is that the title is granted to this Shabat simply because of its association with the holiday of Pesach. The holiday when Hashem showed us how special we were and proud he was of us.

What is the greatness of this holiday? It is the first of our Jewish holidays. Each holiday and each Shabbos we recall in our Kiddush Zecher Li’yitziat Mitzraim- the memory of our Exodus from Egypt. Yet for all the plagues wreaked upon our enemies and miracles performed for us the holiday’s name Pessach/Passover, which notes how during the final plague God passed over our houses and killed only the Egyptian first born, remains the incident by which the holiday is recalled. What makes this seemingly minor detail in the plethora of the wonders and great picture of our Exodus after 210 years so significant? The great Magid Rav Yackov Galinski suggests that the word skipping over Pesach (which incidentally is phonetically similar to the word doorway or opening -Pessach with a Taf) is meant to note the great love Hashem had for us. The Talmud tells us that Hashem says to the Jewish people
“Pischu Li Pesach Ki’Machat-open up [your hearts] for me an opening the size of the eye of a needle- and I will open up towards you the size of a banquet hall.”

All year around, all Hashem requires from us is a small tiny step towards Him to return… to achieve forgiveness… to receive all His blessing. On Pessach though, Hashem skipped over even that opening- that Petach. He picked us up and saved us out of pure unconditional love. The love he felt for our ancestors and our forefathers is what we recall each year. Hashem saw the greatness within us, beyond the 210 years of idolatry and assimilation that we engaged in while being enslaved in Egypt. We barely had the strength to do more than walk out of Egypt, let alone accept the commandments and the entire spectrum of leading the world as a nation and becoming the representative of the Almighty who redeemed us. Yet Hashem saw within us that spark of greatness and for all times recalls what the prophet says was
Chesed Neurayich-Lechtech Achari BaMidbar- the kindness of our youth and the faith we had in leaving what was our sovereign nation for centuries and moving forward to the Land of our Forefathers.

It doesn’t cease to amaze me here in Israel. The stores are all full of Passover products. Neighbors of mine who are not necessarily observant all year around are all cleaning their homes for Pesach and even eating outside as their homes are ready “Chametz-free”. To a large degree the State of Israel is a secular one- yet it is at times like this when we see that it is an incontrovertibly Jewish one. Underneath all of the fights and the assimilation Klal Yisrael remains the Nation that Hashem has chosen and is proud of. The overwhelming majority of this country will sit down with their families and recite the Haggadah, drink four glasses of wine, eat matzah and tell their children the story of how we became a nation. Pesach is when all the sins, lapses and disappointments of the whole year are skipped over. It is the holiday of love and our greatness. For over 3000 years we have never forgotten it and until today it is the time when all can come home.
 The prelude to that Pesach is this Shabbos. The Shabbos of greatness. To quote  Rabbi Berel Wein “
Greatness is an emotion that comes from self-confidence and self worth. Great people have always felt within themselves the beat of greatness. Greatness presupposes a feeling of being special, of importance and purpose.”

As I am proud of my children and how far they have come and how much they have accomplished since they have left their birth country and moved up to the land of our forefathers. How much more so must our Father in Heaven feel as He looks down upon his children’s Pesach Sedarim? It is a night when we can and should tell our children how much they mean to us. How important their questions are and how important their stories are. It is a night when Hashem as well skips over all of the past and just wishes to hear our stories, praises and love as well. There is no greater night when we can bask in our greatness and feel that special beat form within us. May each of us merit to celebrate this Shabbas and the Pesach with joy, love, peace and inspiration.

Have a GREAT Shabbos and a  joyfully inspiring Pesach ,
Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz
Cool Passover Videolink of the week-

1 comment:

  1. Yasher Koach Rabbi Schwartz. Beautiful dvar Torah and inspiring. A Chag Kosher Visameach. Binyomin