Friday, April 15, 2011

Shabbos HaGadol 5646 Second Ma'amar

Note:  This is the second ma'mar I posted today.  Don't miss the first one below this one!

In the previous ma'amar[1], the Sfas Emes explained that on the Shabbos preceding the very first Pesach, we as a nation came of age.  It was the first time we performed a mitzvah, as a nation, the mitzvah of taking the lambs for the Korban Pesach.  We had kept Shabbos as a day of rest before but that was Moshe Rabbeinu's initiative.  Therefore, this Shabbos is different than all those that preceded it.  We became "big", so to speak, on this Shabbos therefore it is called the "Big" Shabbos.

Chazal[2] teach us, though, that the process of the Korban Pesach occurred over three periods.  On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, God commanded us regarding the Korban Pesach.  On the 10th of Nissan which fell on Shabbos the year of the Exodus, we separated from idol worship and took the lamb.  Finally on the 14th of Nissan, we brought the sacrifice.  What then, was particularly special about the 10th of Nissan?

The Sfas Emes explains that each of these three periods represent a different phase of the redemption.  On Rosh Chodesh Nissan, God told Moshe Rabbeinu that the nation would be redeemed on 14th of Nissan, "כחצות הלילה אני יוצא בתוך מצרים .../At midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt …" (Shmos 11:4)  From God's perspective, the redemption was already completed on Rosh Chodesh.  Importantly, our souls have their source in the Shechina/Divine Presence.  Therefore, the roots of our souls experienced redemption on Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

On the 10th of Nissan, Moshe Rabbeinu told the nation, "משכו וקחו לכם צאן .../Draw and take for yourselves sheep …" (Shmos 12:21)  Chazal[3] infer from the seemingly extraneous word משכו/draw, that the nation drew away from idol worship before taking the lambs for the Pesach sacrifice.  The spiritual redemption for the nation occurred on the 10th of Nissan when we freed ourselves from Egyptian idolatry.

Finally, the physical redemption from Pharaoh and Egypt began on the 14th of Nissan when the lambs were sacrificed.

That the 10th of Nissan fell on Shabbos that year of the Exodus is significant.  The Zohar[4] teaches that the primary shefa/abundance that comes into the world on Shabbos is spiritual, not physical.  Shabbos, therefore, is a day on which sensitive souls can derive untold benefit.

It is therefore particularly significant that the 10th of Nissan, the day of our spiritual redemption, fell on Shabbos, the day of spiritual shefa.  Appropriately, it was this day of Shabbos that was established as the Great Day of redemption.

Still, from the perspective of the roots of our souls, from the perspective of the Divine Presence, the redemption began on Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  Why, then, is Rosh Chodesh Nissan not considered the Great Day?

Interestingly, Chazal[5] learn from pesukim in Yechezekeil that even though the time of redemption had arrived, the nation was unworthy of redemption until we performed a mitzvah.  "ואת ערום ועריה/And you were naked and bare," (Yechezkeil 16:7) – we had no mitzvos.  The beginning of this pasuk is, "רבבה כצמח השדה נתתיך ותרבי ותגדלי ותבואי בעדי עדיים .../I made you numerous, like the plants of the field.  You flourished and grew, and came to have great charm …"  The beginning of the pasuk implies that we were ready for redemption.  The end implies that we were not.  Chazal say that we needed a mitzvah.  Why was mitzvah performance important to the redemption?

The Sfas Emes explains.  From the perspective of the highest, most spiritual level of our souls the redemption was already experienced on Rosh Chodesh Nissan.  However, spirituality cannot be experienced in the physical world unless there is some vessel that can contain it.  The mitzvos are the vessels that can contain spirituality in the physical world.  Therefore even though our souls experienced spiritual redemption on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, we could not experience that spirituality in the physical world until we had performed a mitzvah that could contain it. 

The 10th of Nissan was the beginning of the spiritual redemption in the physical world because it is the day on which we performed our first mitzvah as a nation, the taking of the lambs.

[2] Mechilta Bo, Pischa, 3
[3] Mechilta Bo, Pischa, 11
[4] Zohar 2:205a
[5] Mechilta Bo, Pischa, 5

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