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Shabbat HaGadol: How can one shabbat be ‘greater’ than all the others?

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How can any one shabbat be greater than all the others?

This coming shabbat will have the title ‘Shabbat HaGadol’ – The Great Sabbath. Many reasons are given as to why the shabbat preceding Pesach has this name. The great 14th century Jewish scholar, the Tur, explains, 

“Lefi shena’aseh bo neis gadol.” – “It’s because on that shabbat, a great miracle happened.” 

An Open Display of Faith

This was the shabbat preceding Pesach when the Jewish People in Egypt took a lamb, which was deified by the Egyptians, and sacrificed it to Hashem. In this way they showed confidence in their faith: despite so many years of bondage, they were able to openly display the features of their faith. 

Although this was a special miracle, it took place at a time when there were numerous great miracles; all the plagues, the parting of the waters of the sea and so on – so why is this called the neis gadol, the great miracle?


The term ‘neis gadol’ – great miracle – mentioned by the Tur – can also be translated as ‘the miracle of greatness’. 

Our people at the time showed greatness, and what was their greatness? It was the fact that they were proud of themselves and championed what they believed in without denigrating the Egyptians. 

Rebbe Yisrael Salanter the 19th century scholar would tell a story about two identical twins who were constantly taunting each other. Once he came across them arguing about who was taller than the other. One of the brothers pushed the other on the ground and said,

 “Ahah! Can you see? I’m now taller than you are!” 

Rebbe Yisroel Salanter advised him, “If you want to appear to be higher than your brother, why don’t you stand on a chair?”

Championing our Values

The point here is that in life, to promote ourselves, we should try to raise the level of our achievement through championing what we value rather than through pushing others down. If we all did this, and if nations would do this, this world would indeed be a better place. 

So therefore on this great shabbat, let’s all recognise the importance of true greatness. 

Shabbat shalom.

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