Friday, April 11, 2014

Shabbos HaGadol (Acharei Mos) 5649 First Ma'amar

Why do we associate the Shabbos preceding Pesach with Pesach.  Chazal[1] teach us that a great miracle happened on this Shabbos.  The Shabbos before the Exodus fell on the 10th of Nissan.  On this day, God instructed us to take lambs for the Pesach sacrifice.  The miracle was that the Egyptians could not do anything to stop us.  But usually we would associate the day of the month, not the day of the week, with the miracle.  Why do we associate the day of the week, in this case, Shabbos, with Pesach?

The Sfas Emes explains that there is an intrinsic connection between redemption and Shabbos.  Particularly, there is an intrinsic connection between a miraculous redemption and Shabbos.  God could have redeemed us in a natural way without violating the laws of nature.  He wanted to redeem us specifically in a miraculous way to show us that we can have a relationship with Him and that He wants to relate to us in a way that is not bound by natural law. 

During the week, God relates to the world indirectly through spiritual agents and a spiritual hierarchy.  Shabbos, on the other hand, is an aspect of revelation in which God relates to the world directly.  Parallely, God took us out of Egypt Himself, “אני ולא מלאך/I and not an agent. (Haggadas Pesach)  Significantly, the Torah refers to Pesach as Shabbos[2].

This explains, too, why the Torah tells us that Shabbos is a remembrance for the Exodus, “וזכרת כי עבד היית בארץ מצרים ויוציאך ה' א-להיך משם ביד חזקה ובזרוע נטויה על כן צוך ה' א-להיך לעשות את יום השבת/Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt and God, your Lord took you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm; therefore God, your Lord commanded you to make the Shabbos day.” (Devarim 5:15)  It is clear why the holidays such as Pesach are a remembrance for the Exodus but what is the connection between the Exodus and keeping the Shabbos?  According to what we’ve said though, it is clear.  God wanted to relate to us in a direct way uninhibited by nature.  This is the way that God relates to the world on Shabbos.  Therefore, keeping the Shabbos is a testimony to our special above nature relationship with God that began at the Exodus.

This also explains an enigmatic statement that we make in the Haggadah.  We say, “אלו לא הוציא הקב"ה את אבותינו ממצרים הרי אנו ... משועבדים היינו לפרעה במצרים/If God had not taken our forefathers out of Egypt we … would still be subjugated to Pharaoh in Egypt.”  Would we really still be enslaved to Pharaoh today, thousands of years later?  What are Chazal teaching us?  The Maharal gives a hint.  This statement is saying that if God did not take us out Himself, we would still be subjugated.  If God did not take us out directly, miraculously, our relationship with Him and our national life would be according to the laws of nature.  We would still be subordinate to those laws as we were when we were slaves in Egypt.  God’s direct intervention in the Exodus freed us from this subordination from then and forever.

So, when we remember the Exodus, we are not simply remembering our freedom from slavery.  We are remembering the special direct and beyond nature relationship with God that began with the Exodus.  This relationship is especially clear on Shabbos but since it is beyond time and nature it can apply to all times and all places, if we let it.

[1] Viz. Tosfos in Maseches Shabbos 87b, V’Oso Yom
[2] וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת/You shall count for yourselves from the day following the Shabbos (referring to Pesach) VaYikra 23:15

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