Torah Fax

Friday, April 2, 2004 - 11 Nissan, 5764

Torah Reading: Tzav (Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36)
Candle Lighting Time: 6:04 PM
Shabbat Ends: 7:05 PM
Shabbat HaGadol 

Time For Maturity

There are many reasons given for the designation of this Shabbat, the one that precedes Passover, as Shabbat Hagadol-the Great Sabbath. The primary reason given is that on the Sabbath immediately preceding the Exodus from Egypt the Egyptians were informed of the impending "tenth plague" in which all the Egyptian first born would die. Upon hearing this, many of the first-born demanded of the Egyptian leadership to let the Jews go. When they refused, a civil war ensued. Hence from that time onward, we mark this Shabbat as Shabbat Hagadol-the Great Shabbat because of the great miracle that occurred then.

One is entitled to ask, why is this miracle considered so great? It did not involve any supernatural occurrences, nor did it seem to have helped the Jews in any meaningful way.  More specifically, we must understand why the term gadol-great is used in connection with this  Shabbat? It could have been called, "Shabbat  haness-the Sabbath of the miracle," or some other similar expression.

The Hebrew term gadol implies maturity and independence, as the Talmud states: "An adult child who is supported by his father is considered a minor, whereas, a minor who is independent is regarded as a gadol." Hence the word 'gadol' is not intended to convey the idea that it was a great and spectacular miracle, but rather that it was a miracle that demonstrated a level of maturity. The fact that the Egyptian elite fought against their own leaders on behalf of the Jewish people was a sign of their independence and maturity.

This Sabbath is thus intended, among other things, to cultivate spiritual maturity in each and every one of us. This maturity can be applied to every aspect of life in general and to every aspect of Judaism in particular.  For example: One can look at a Mitzvah simply as a good deed, or a beautiful Jewish tradition.  Another more "mature" and sophisticated view of a mitzvah is to see it as our way of "connecting" with G‑d. Moreover, a Mitzvah affects more than just the people involved in its performance; it has cosmic effects, for it is the medium that shapes and molds the entire universe to conform to the very purpose G‑d had for its creation.

Similarly, one can view the Torah simply as a beautiful piece of literature that teaches us right from wrong. This is true and valid. Yet a more advanced  and mature approach to the Torah is to view it as Divine wisdom that transcends all aspects of creation.

With respect to freedom, which we celebrate on Passover, there can also be two perspectives. The "immature" view of freedom is to see it as an end. The more mature view is to view it as an opportunity to rise to a higher spiritual level. In its simple formulation, freedom is the removal of external constraints; while a more mature and advanced understanding of freedom sees it as removal of the internal forces that inhibit us as well.

In short, the less sophisticated level sees things in their most narrow sense, the view of the gadol, the mature view that is represented by this Sabbath, sees everything in its broader and deeper context.

One could raise the question, why is Shabbat hagadol-that gives us the ability to see things through the mature eyes of a gadol-situated right before Pesach? Why don't we have a "Shabbat of Maturity" before Rosh Hashanah, or at some other time of the year?  Moreover, the Holiday of Passover seems to focus on the katan, the child: Children ask the "Four Questions;" we read about the "Four Sons," and indeed, many of the customs of the Seder revolve around children. Passover is also seen by the Prophet as the birth and infancy of the Jewish people. How then is it that precisely before this child-oriented holiday, we have a Sabbath that highlights the level and role of the gadol-the fully mature individual?

The answer is that while a person must go from the level of a newborn to the level of maturity, one step at a time, one must know, from the very outset, that there is a higher and more advanced level. Even one who is just beginning his/her development must be made aware of the goal and objective of one's life. The little girl or boy will play house, acting out the adult roles of mother and father. A healthy child fantasizes about adulthood. This Shabbat then can be viewed as our collective adult role playing.

Conversely, the fact that we follow the "Shabbat of Maturity" with an emphasis on the child, conveys yet another profound message: no matter how sophisticated we are, we must always seek to find and reveal the child within all of us, because it is that childhood innocence and purity that is truly liberating and G‑dly. Hence the Passover season is a synthesis of maturity and childhood. We attempt to see things from a mature vantage point, even while we capture the untainted innocence of the child within.

The foregoing analysis explains why the future Messianic Age is characterized both as a time when we will experience total child-like innocence and purity, while simultaneously attaining complete maturity.     
Moshiach Matters

Why should we, of all generations, merit the revelations of the forthcoming Messianic Era? Surely our ancestors were more deserving than the present generation! However, it does not depend on personal merit, but rather on the degree of purity and holiness the world has reached.

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