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THE GREAT SHABBAT: TRANSCENDENCE



The Shabbat before Passover is called “The Great Shabbat” (Shabbat HaGadol), because a great miracle occurred on that day.

 

First, we need to understand that all the festivals in the Bible are set to a day of the month rather than a day of the week. Biblical Feasts represent transcendence of the natural order. For example, we have the Exodus on Passover, the miraculous dedication of God’s Altar during Hanukkah by a small ragtag group who took on the world dominating force of their day, the deliverance of God’s people from certain death commemorated during Purim, etc. These are all landmarks of the miraculous in the terrain of time. Every year, we are afforded the opportunity to tap into these reservoirs of the supernatural, so we can remember who and what we truly are, and the incredible God that we love, worship, and serve.

 

There seems to be an exception to every rule. The Great Shabbat is this exception. The Shabbat HaGadol commemorates a great miracle that transpired shortly before the Exodus from Egypt on the 10th of Nisan 2448 (1313 BCE), which was five days before the Exodus. Since the Jewish people exited the land of Egypt on 15th of Nisan, which was a Thursday, we know that 10th of Nisan was a Sabbath that year. However, instead of commemorating the miracle on the monthly lunar date of its original occurrence (as is done with all the other festivals and commemorative dates), it is remembered every year on the Sabbath that precedes Passover, which is today.

 

The Hebrew Sages give various reasons for this departure from the standard practice. Let’s simply note that the name of this day – The Great Shabbat – suggests a deeper reason for this exception to the rule.

 

What happened on The Great Shabbat five days before the Exodus? God had commanded that the Jewish people bring a Passover Offering (korban pesach) to God on the eve of their departure:

 

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. 10 You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:3-13).

 

Jewish history records what happened when 600,000 Jews began to round up lambs on the 10th of Nisan. Note that the lamb was one of the many animals worshipped as a deity in ancient Egypt. As you can imagine, it caused quite a commotion, especially since the Egyptians had already experienced the first nine plagues.

 

When the Jewish people were asked why they were rounding up all these lambs, the Egyptians were basically told: We are preparing an offering to the Most High God. In four days, at the stroke of midnight, God Himself is going to pass through Egypt to execute His tenth and final plague, which is all the firstborn will die and the Jewish will become free. This was not good new to the firstborn of Egypt who held key positions in Egyptian society.

 

Having already witnessed nine devastating plagues, these leaders of Egypt knew this was not an idle threat. So, they approached Pharaoh and his generals to demand that the Jewish people be freed immediately. When Pharaoh refused, these firstborn of Egypt and those with them took up arms against Pharaoh’s troop. They killed many. Especially those guilty of atrocities against the Jews were killed on that day, which is alluded to when the Psalmist sings: “[Give thanks to the LORD] who smote the Egyptians with their first born, for His kindness is eternal” (Psalms 136:10).

 

What is so great about this miracle? Was it even a miracle that the firstborn of Egypt took up the cause of the Israelites? Although they had inflicted heavy casualties on their own government forces, they had failed to force the freedom of the Jewish people to save their own hides. Since the conditions in Egypt were unchanged by the events of Shabbat HaGadol, this could be the reason that this event was placed in the “weekly” or natural time-cycles, rather than the “monthly” miraculous orbit.

 

The Great Sabbath was a perfectly natural chain of events, yet it is marked as a miracle. In fact, it is uniquely marked as a “great miracle.” Many miracles happen as we work within the natural circumstances of our lives. Great miracles transcend reality. It’s where we elevate our circumstances through partnering with God to perfect them into a higher transcendent reality. This is what was achieved in Egypt on The Great Shabbat.

 

God’s people were slaves to the Egyptians, yet they refused to be intimidated because they had seen the reality of the greatness of their God and His ability to deliver them. Without hesitation, God’s people explained their obedient actions to the leading citizens of the superpower that ruled them.

 

On The Great Shabbat a transformation took place. It was not a transformation that overturned the natural circumstances of the Jewish peoples’ everyday life. However, due to obediently and courageously fulfilling the divine will that was given to them, they caused the most prestigious segment of Egyptian society to press for their freedom and redemption.

 

Whether something is successful in the natural is far less relevant than the fact that the natural and the normal became the springboard for the miraculous Exodus from Egypt due to their bold obedience to the One who could save them. That this is called the Great Shabbat exemplifies the true significance of what happened in the natural realm of their lives. Never underestimate the miraculous power of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. His blood will make you free!

 

Shabbat HaGadol from my home to yours!

 

Give em heaven!!!

Robin Main

 

 

Written April 19, 2024 – Sapphire Throne Ministries – Robin Main. Copyrighted – If you are going to copy this, please copy it right by giving attributions to this source. Blessings!

 

SOURCE: Based on an address by the Rebbe, Shabbat Hagodol 5743 (March 26, 1983)

 

 

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PHOTO: Gibraltar Falls by Ari Rex

 

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