Dear Readers,

As a parent, it’s your greatest moment of triumph.

You’ve momentarily left the playroom. Your son begins to taunt his older sister. You’re about to rush in as referee to prevent the impending battle, when you pleasantly discover that your daughter hasn’t taken the bait. Instead of fighting back, retorting angrily or using her fists, she chooses a different response. She calmly explains to her brother—mimicking the soothing voice you try so hard to use—that she loves him too much to fight, and then distracts him with another activity.

Weeks, months and years of effective parenting have paid off! Your child has internalized your values.

This Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat Hagadol, the “Great Shabbat.”

After eight decades of being victim to the Egyptians’ merciless cruelty, on the 10th of Nissan, on Shabbat, the Israelites prepare a paschal lamb. They explain to the Egyptians that G‑d instructed them to offer a sacrifice on the 14th of Nissan—the night of their redemption, and the night that G‑d would slay all the Egyptian firstborn.

Hearing this, the Egyptian firstborn plead with Pharaoh to liberate the Jews. When Pharaoh refuses, they rise up in an armed revolt. Many Egyptians died in battle.

This revolt was titled a “great miracle,” and it is commemorated every year on the Shabbat before Passover. These Egyptian firstborn finally understood the folly of their evil and sided with Moses, actively attacking their own government.

Chassidic thought explains that the greatest victory is not in fighting evil, but rather transforming it into good.

When the enemy becomes a friend and defender . . . When a negative inclination works energetically for good . . . When darkness is changed into light . . . When destruction becomes the impetus for building . . . And, when a powerful group of firstborn sons finally stands up against the ills of their society by defending those whom they had so wrongly mistreated.

Interestingly, the 10th of Nissan also marks the date of Miriam’s yahrtzeit, years later, after the Exodus. From a young age, Miriam fearlessly stood up against King Pharaoh when he instructed her to kill all the Jewish male newborns. Despite the hardships, despite the pain, one woman fanned the flame of faith of all the Jewish women of her generation, and succeeded in transforming their perspective with her courage and kindness.

This Shabbat is also called the “great” Shabbat because the haftorah speaks of the coming of Moshiach, referring to this day as the yom Hashem hagadol v’hanora, the “great” and awesome day of the L‑rd (Malachi 3:23).

This great and utopian era will not be a time of destruction, but of transformation; it will not be about commanding, but about communicating. It will not be about fighting, but about educating and changing the mindset of our foes, just as the perspective of the firstborns was positively altered.

May this week’s great Shabbat finally usher in this great and awesome time period!

Chana Weisberg,
Editor, TJW