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Thought for the Day: Shabbos HaGadol, Named for the Great Miracle That Happened That Day

The joke is that the Shabbos before Pesach (unless erev Pesach is on Shabbos, in which case we are talking about the Shabbos before the Shabbos before Pesach) earned the title "Shabbos HaGadol" because the rav speaks for a long time.  Shockingly, that's not the reason that the Mishna Brura (citation here) gives.

The reason given by the Mishna Brura for that title is because of the great miracle that happened on that day:  The korban pesach (Miriam's little lamb) was tied to the bedposts of the Jews four days before it was to be slaughtered (for b'dika).  When the Mitzrim asked about the nature of that lamb, the Jews answered that they were going to slaughter it at the command of HaShem.  The Mitzrim were quite aggravated (set their teeth on edge, actually) because the lamb was their god, but they couldn't do anything about it.  That's the great miracle.  The Jews left on Thursday, so the lamb was slaughtered on Wednesday, so the tying up happened on Shabbos.  voilà -- Shabbos HaGadol!

That's actually more shocking.  First, the Mitzrim certainly knew that we ate sheep.  After all, that's why Yosef haTzadik (before revealing his identity) didn't eat with his brothers and why Paroh was told that the shvatim were and had been shepherds since sheishes y'mei b'reishis.  So what, exactly, shocked and enraged them?  Moreover, shouldn't this be celebrated on the 10th of Nissan (which is the date on which it occured), instead of Shabbos (which is day of the week on which it occurred)?

The B"ach (from a Zohar) says that what really got the Mitzrim aggravated was the reason we told them we slaughtering these lambs -- representing their god -- here on earth, and the HaShem was in parallel going to slaughter their god -- the one represented by these lambs -- in heaven.  Ok, I can understand why that's aggravating.  They had been nice and given us our freedom of religion, allowing us to eat their god on Shabbos (and the leftover cholent during the week).  But now we are telling them, "Not only do we not believe in your religion, we are telling you that we are destroying your religion.'  That's pretty in your face.

Why on Shabbos?  The L'vush says that was a reward for us keeping Shabbos in Mizrayim.  The reason the Mitzrim noticed the lambs because they knew that we didn't usually busy ourselves with lambs... especially not tying them up, since they also knew that knots are problematic on Shabbos.

The B"ach adds another reason for celebrating on Shabbos instead of the 10th of Nissan.  Since a few decades later the Jordan river would be split on the 10th of Nissan for Y'hoshua and Klal Yisrael to enter the land.  Chazal were nervous that people would get mixed up over the generations and think that splitting the Jordan was the great miracle, instead of the lamb being tied up and Mitzrim getting aggravated thing.  Hmm... actually, I really would have thought that the Jordan splitting for us was a bigger miracle.  What makes tying the lamb and aggravating the Mitzrim such a big miracle -- bigger than splitting the Jordan -- and worth commemorating each year?

Splitting the Jordan was done for a purpose; to get us across the river.  Ok, it was a big (non)splashy way to get us across; but at the end of the day, it served a practical purpose.  Aggravating the Mitzrim served no practical purpose; it was just a way of HaShem demonstrating in public His exclusive love for Klal Yisrael.  It was a clear announcement from each and every Jewish home that HaShem and the Jewish People enjoy unique and exclusive relationship of love.  That's worth celebrating.


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