• Rabbi Rubanowitz

Tzav-Shabbos Hagadol - 5778/2018~ “Chopped Liver?”

Taking a fresh look at the  Moniker for this Shabbos, which is  “Shabbos Hagadol-the “Great Shabbos”, I wonder if all the other Shabbats of the year scream or kvetch: “What are we, chopped liver? (Maybe that’s how it became a Kiddush favorite?)

Seriously, our Rabbis of the Talmud for example, warn us to refrain from praising one section of Torah over another, which if done, can impart  the idea that there are some parts of Torah that are “better” than others, an attitude one should never take with the words of Hashem-the Torah. Well, by specifying this particular Shabbos as the “great one”, aren’t we doing just that: implying that there is such a thing as a “less than great” Shabbos?

The answer hit me like a ton of Bedikas Chometz feathers. There ARE “big Shabbats” and “little Shabbats”. Each and every week we can experience two different types of Shabbos.  

One Shabbos is the “Shamor”. The “keeping” of Shabbos. No work. No iPhones. No driving. No cooking… That Shabbos is all about restrictions. Staying away from violations of the 39 Torah prohibitions on “creative work”- with the myriad of Rabbinic add-ons. We “rest” from “Melacha”, or work. I call this the “Small” Shabbos. Observed properly, there will at least be a “rest from creation”. 

But then there is another Shabbos. The “Zachor”. The Shabbos that creates memories as we remember IT. Yes, we might not be so busy because we stopped “working”-but how will we use our newfound time? This other Shabbos is the one which focuses not on what we can’t do but what we CAN do. Spend time with family, loved ones, spouses, children, grandparents, with friends and neighbors. With Torah. Music and singing. Shared wisdom and laughter. Bonding with new friends and strengthening ties with old friends. Infusing spirituality into our physical lives. Great Shabbat food, special Shabbat clothes…An elevated existence tied together by joyful communal prayer and gathering at Shul. That’s the “Big Shabbos”.  When it’s joined with the little Shabbos properly-it becomes the “Great Shabbos”. 

I think that while we should be observing a “great Shabbos” every week, our tradition recognized a special need to highlight this lesson right before Pesach. Passover is so replete with rules and “work”. Preparing, cleaning, eliminating any shred of Chametz, paying tons of money for things four times cheaper all year, eating weird for 8 days, etc… It’s like the “small Shabbos” on steroids. It seems so all about what we CAN’T do.  The great danger in entering Pesach thus is that we might get lost in the CAN’TS and miss what Pesach CAN do for us. Bring the family together. Share traditions and family wisdom. Reconnect with our roots, our community. Learning and relearning about the true meaning of freedom-releasing ourselves from all that holds us back from becoming who we could and should be…Pesach can do all that, if we don’t let the opportunity “Pass Over” by allowing it to be one big  kvetch-fest of “Oy vey, if I have one more piece of Matzo….

So right before Pesach, when we are at the greatest risk for getting lost in the details and missing the beauty and benefit of the Holiday, we are bid to remember about the “Big Shabbos”. The Shabbat Hagadol”. That other Shabbos that leaves us not drained and restricted, but energized and free-with a renewed spirit to carry on our lives in an even greater and more meaningful way. 

My blessing thus is that we merit to taste, touch and feel not only Bubbie’s delicious Matzo Balls and Gefilte Fish in the main room, but also luxuriate in the true freedom and royalty of one who has access to the spiritual VIP room of this most awesome of holidays!

Wishing you a GREAT AND HUGE SHABBOS and a truly wonderful Pesach and Passover Holiday.

Shalom Rubanowitz