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Parashat Tzav and Shabbat HaGadol- 5777

Dear friends,

The Shabbat before Passover is always known as Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat, emphasizing that this is the week when we welcome the Festival of Pesah, Passover, the Festival of Freedom.

In addition to all the cleaning and preparations before Pesah, ensuring that the house is totally clean of anything that may contain Hametz (leaven), the family looks forward to the Seder, the Festive meal that takes place on the first and second night of Pesah.

It is a most favorite Jewish holiday - especially the Seder - when families and friends get together to celebrate our liberation from slavery of long, long ago, discuss messages pertinent to our own lives, and join in the family's favorite Haggadah songs.

The children play a major role in the Seder. They get to ask the questions, and it is our duty to use this opportunity to teach the story of the Jewish people. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Britain's Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013, put it this way:

"The message of Passover remains as powerful as ever. Freedom is won not on the battlefield but in the classroom and the home. Teach your children the history of freedom if you want them never to lose it."

In addition to the rituals of drinking the four cups of wine, eating Matza and bitter herbs, and reciting the various blessings, we are also commanded to see ourselves as participants in this story of liberation, as it is stated in the Haggadah:

"Bechol Dor Vador Hayav Adam" - "In every generation, one is obligated to think of himself/herself as having personally left Egypt."

Note that the emphasis is on 'having personally left Egypt', not on being a slave and then leaving Egypt, but 'having personally left Egypt'. Mitzrayim in Hebrew means Egypt, and it also means 'tsarot', troubles or tight places. As a people, we have had our share of experiencing Mitzrayim in many generations. As individuals, we have also experienced at one time or another Mitzrayim/tsarot in our lives. On this evening of the Seder, which in the Torah is called 'Leil Shimurim', 'the night of watching', when G-d watches over us, we are commanded to leave the 'tsarot' behind us and hope for the redemption that has been promised.

I wish you and your family a Happy, Joyous, and Kosher Pesah!