Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Achrei Mot - 5774

My friends,

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol - the Great Shabbat. There are several reasons why this is THE GREAT SHABBAT.

The Shabbat which precedes the Exodus from Egypt is always called Shabbat Hagadol. According to tradition, the Children of Israel were commanded to get the lamb for the Pesach offering on the 10th day of the month of Nisan. The year of the Exodus, it happened to be on Shabbat. We call it Shabbat Hagadol because it was great to begin the preparations for the liberation that will be coming four days later. It also showed great courage on the part of the Israelites to get a lamb and bring it to their homes - something that would anger the Egyptians as they considered the lamb to be sacred.

Another reason given is based on the Haftarah that is read on Shabbat Hagadol. It is taken from the book of Malachi, chapter 3. The last four verses in that reading are as follows:

"Remember the teachings of my servant Moses which I commanded him at Sinai, laws and rules for all Israel. Behold I will send you the prophet Elijah, before the coming of the awesome (Gadol) and fearful day, the day of the L-rd. He shall return the heart of the parents to their children, and the heart of the children to their parents, so I do not strike the whole land with utter destruction."

It would seem that one of the major tasks of the Prophet Elijah is to bring reconciliation between the parents (the old generation) and their children (the new). The parents are the ones who are supposed to take the first step. Rather than giving up on their children, they have to show understanding of how the young feel, surrounded by new realities. When the parents show love and compassion (the heart) then the children's hearts will also return to their parents.

Elijah plays a major role in our Seder. We open the door to welcome him. Could it be that the opening of the door is also symbolic of our readiness to welcome back those whom we may have alienated, and at the Seder we seek to bring them back to our homes, our traditions?

At the end of the Seder we all sing "Leshanah Haba-ah Biyrushalayim" - "Next year in Jerusalem". How about making this year the year that you will visit Jerusalem? I am taking a group to Israel this fall from November 9 to November 20, 2014. It would be great to have you join us. Call me or write me for more details.

Wishing you and your dear ones a Happy, Joyous and Kosher Pesach!

Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach!