4/20/08

Pesach 5768

by Rabbi Shlomo Lagoviyer

The Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim (430) writes that the Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos Hagadol - The Great Shabbos, because of the miracle that happened on it. The Mishna Berurah explains that the year of the Exodus 10th of Nissan fell out on Shabbos and on that day the Jews following Hashem's command took the pascal lambs and tied them to their beds. The Egyptians asked them what they were doing, and the Jews answered that they are taking the sheep to bring them as the Passover sacrifice to G-d as He had commanded. Needless to say that the Eqyptians, who worshiped the sheep, were infuriated but miraculously were unable harm the Jews, and because that year the 10th of Nissan was on Shabbos the Chazal decreed that every year the Shabbos before Pesach should be called the Great Shabbos. Furthermore the R'mah in the same siman brings down the minchag to recite the hagada after mincha of that Shabbos and the Mishna Berura explains that the reason is that on that Shabbos was the beginning of the miracles and the Salvation.

Both of these facts need explanation. Why is the miracle of the lambs commemorated on Shabbos regardless of the date unlike the exodus itself that is commemorated on the 15th of Nissan as well as most other Holydays that are celebrated on the day of the month on which the events that they commemorate happened. Furthermore why is this miracle so significant that it is considered the beginning of the redemption, after all it was preceded by the nine of the ten plagues, the subjugation of the Jews stopped on Rosh Hashana and the actual exodus did not happen till the 15th?

Perhaps this can be explained based on the words of R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver, z"l in his Hagada Yad Mitzraim. On the passuk "v'ehvor alayich v'ehrech misboseses b'damayich v'omar lach b'damayich chayee, v'omar lach b'damayich chayee! - I passed over you and saw you bathing in your blood, and I said to you through your blood you shall live, and I said to you through your blood you shall live!" he brings the Mechiltah (parshas "Boh", 5) that explaines that Hashem gave the Jews two mitzvos in the merit of which they would be redeemed: the blood of pesach and the blood of milah. The meaning of this Mechilta, explains R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver, is that these two mitzvos are the root of the Jewish faith, the Torah, and the Mitzvos. When the Jews were in Egypt they, like their masters, worshipped idols thinking that Hashem abandoned the world and left it under the rule of stars, constellations, and a myriad of spiritual forces, which now need to be worshiped. They corrected this mistake through the karbon pesach, about which it says in the Torah "mishchu u'kchu lachem tzon" - draw and take for yourselves sheep, which means, in the words of Chazal, draw your hands from your idol worship and take for yourselves the sheep of mitzvah. Like the karbon Pesach, bris milah is also a step towards rejection of idol worship because it is a seal of the Master on the body of the slave.

This can also be understood on a somewhat deeper level. In his hakdoma to the Hagadah R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver explains that there two ways in which Hashem runs the world: "derech hatevah" - the natural way and derech l'maalah min hatevah" or "hashgacha elyonah" - the supernatural way of the direct Divine providence.
When Hashem uses the natural way His flow of spiritual influence - the spitirual energy that powers and sustains everything that exists or happens, comes through a hierarchy of spiritual entities such as malachim, kochavim, and mazalos, the system that has been set up during the Six Days of Creation. When this system is used everything happenes according to the laws of Nature, the way it was originally set to function. Occasionally, however, G-d chooses to override the hierarchy of malachim and other forces that He established and bring His spirtual light into the world direcly. When He does that He is not bound by any laws of Nature or any other previously set up system. This is what the chazal called "chashgacha elyonah". Both ways coexist except that the natural way is the primary way in which G-d acts with the Gentiles and the supernatural way is the main way in which He deals with the Jews. The reason for this is because according to the Laws of Nature both Avrohom and Yitzchok as well as their wives were incapable of having children, thus by the Laws of Nature the Jewish Nation was not supposed to exist. The very creation of the Jews as well as much of their history is supernatural.

Although this hashgacha elyona started with the avos, it was not established as the primary way of dealing with the Jews until the exodus from Egypt. The exodus was completely supernatural as can be seen clearly in the Torah, and, as R' Yitzchok Izek Chaver points out, the whole purpose of the Egyptian exile was to show the Jews as well as the rest of the world G-d's power and involvement in this world (to disprove the pagan belief that Hashem abandoned the world and left it under the rule of the stars, constellations, and other spirtitual forces.) Through the Exodus and the subsequent acceptance of the Torah the Jewish nation became Hashem's Choses Nation with which He acts in a supernatural way and whose whole wellbeing depends on their observance of the Torah and the Mitzvos rather than on the natural factors that normally affect the wellbeing of a nation or an individual. The first prerequisite for this is the rejection of idol worship, which was accomplished through the bringing of the karbon Pesach. Bris milah, whose symbolism is the removal of the "klipos" - "shells", the spiritual forces "covering" the source of the Divine influence and directing it through the hierarchy of angels and other channels that subjugate it to the setup of Nature is the other prerequisite. This is why the birth of Yitzchok, which was, as mentioned before, completely supernatural, only happened after Avrohom did the bris milah. This is what the Chazal meant when they said that Hashem raised Avrom above the stars saying "leave your astrology, Avrom cannot have children but Avrohom can have children". Avrohom understood that according to the stars, i.e. the natural way of the world he cannot have children. Through the bris milah Hashem raised him above nature, making him the forefather of the Supenatural Nation. Therefore the Jews who were about to leave Egypt entering the realm of the hashgacha elyona had to do the bris milah, and it is only through the blood of karbon Pesach and the bris milah that the redemption was possible.

This was the significance of the miracle that happened on Shabbos Hagodol - the Jews regected idolatry - their first step towards entering the covenant with Hashem and becoming the Chosen Nation that lives by His direct guidance. This is why chazal consider it the beginning of the Redemption. With this we can also understand why it is commemorated on Shabbos, because Shabbos, which is the sign of the covenant between G-d and the Jews, the day whose sustenance is not included into the amount decreed for the whole year on the Rosh Hashana, the day which is the glimpse of the wold to come also transcends nature. The flow of kedusha that comes down on Shabbos is largely free of the klippos and through the proper observance of Shabbos an individual connects to the supernatural guidance of Hashem. Thus it is no accident that the Jewish people began to reject idolatry and enter the covenant with Hashem which is based on hashgocha elyona specifically on Shabbos and that is why it is commemorated on Shabbos.

May we all merit to learn the lessons of Pesach and live up to our status and our unique role as the chosen nation priviliged to have a direct relationship with Hashem.

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