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Tsav Shabbat HaGadol – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis

This week is when we read Parshat Tzav on the fourth of the special Shabbatot before Pesach, Shabbat Hagadol. But why is it called Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Sabbath? Surely every Shabbat is “great”

The name seems to appear in medieval Germany with all the terrors that we faced and took up the idea of the coming of Elijah presaged in the Haftorah. That was the view of the Maharshal, Solomon Luria, who lived in the 16th century in Poland.

There is a suggestion that from the earliest times it was to set out the laws of Pesach and it became a custom for the rabbi to deliver a “great” or at least a very long sermon detailing a list of the laws of the festival, especially relating to “chametz”.

There is also the idea that the Shabbat recalls the 10th Nisan, 5 days before the actual date of the exodus on 15th Nisan. This was the day when we were told to prepare the Pascal offering before leaving Egypt.

What we are being told is to prepare and to set things aside. It seems to be very pertinent to our own times.

This year we will be celebrating a very different Seder night. Many of us will be in isolation in some form or another. Both the Chief Rabbi and our own Rabbi Wittenberg have shown rationality in terms of how we can celebrate. Some of us will have already brought in our Pesach supplies and have been clearing out and checking what we have. Others may need our help.

Some of us will be with only our close family and some of us will be by themselves but we are all part of the same people. Whatever we are able to do we are still bound up in our traditions. In the Sedra Tzav it says:

A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.

Whatever the coming days, weeks or even months will hold may we all go forward in good health and bound together as a loving and caring community.

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