1. This Shabbos before the holiday of Pesach is known as Shabbos HaGadol. Among the many reasons and interpretations for this appellation we find that in the Shulchan Aruch — the halachic section of Torah — the following explanation is given: ‘The Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos HaGadol because a great miracle occurred on that day.’ What was the miracle? ‘The Egyptians were smitten by their own firstborn’ [who, when told of the imminent plague of the firstborn, demanded the immediate release of the Jewish slaves. Their protest evolved into an Egyptian massacre.] (See Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Laws of Pesach, ch. 430.)

Another miracle is noted in the Tur: ‘When the Egyptians saw the Jews leading their lambs to be prepared for the Paschal sacrifice their teeth were blunted (soured), for their deity was to be slaughtered and they had no power to protest.’ (Tur, Orach Chaim, ch. 430)

Although the miracles themselves were not related specifically to the day of Shabbos, nevertheless, because they occurred on Shabbos the day was given the name ‘Shabbos HaGadol.’

On the other hand, the term Shabbos HaGadol does seem to connote that there is some special importance and greatness in the Shabbos itself. We may resolve these two points with the explanation that, while in the beginning the miracle had nothing to do with Shabbos, after the occurrence it influenced the day in such a way that it became a truly great Shabbos.

This form of logic will find a parallel in the laws of Sukkah where we find that wide boards are prohibited for use as s’chach (covering) on the basis of the following Rabbinic injunction — gezeirah: Since wide boards are used to build roofs, people might say, just as we sit in the Sukkah under these boards, so, too, may we sit under a solid roof. Once these boards have been disqualified they are put into the category of ‘unusable s’chach’ — and even if they are placed on the Sukkah on their edges they are still unusable. So we see that once a name and category is assigned to something, it enters that group and it takes on the pertinent characteristics.

Similarly, in our case once the Shabbos is called ‘the great Shabbos’ — it assumes the innate nature of greatness and the Shabbos itself is great.

What difference will there be whether the greatness is connected only to the specific miracle, or if the Shabbos itself is inherently great?

The answer is simple. There are aspects of this Shabbos which are common to every Shabbos of the year, e.g. Kiddush, the festive meals, reviewing the weekly portion, etc.

Relative to these matters, if the ‘greatness’ of Shabbos is solely associated to the ‘great miracle’ then it will not effect or improve these normal Shabbos acts. However, if the greatness of this Shabbos penetrates to its essence, then all the regular practices of Shabbos take on an aspect of, and are carried out in a manner of, greatness.

When we consider another reason for the term ‘Shabbos HaGadol’ we will see more clearly how it relates to the essence of Shabbos.

The Shabbos before Pesach is called ‘Shabbos HaGadol’ to indicate that there is another day close to it which is also called Shabbos but is not so great as this Shabbos. This is the first day of Pesach which is also called ‘Shabbos’ as it says: Count...on the morrow of the Shabbos (meaning the first day of Pesach). (See Haggadah Shleimah; Menachos 65b)

In analyzing the term Shabbos HaGadol it is important for us to understand how this adjective ‘gadol’ (and the concept of ‘greatness’) is used and its connotation and inference.

Generally speaking, in Torah sources we find this terminology used to describe something that has attained the highest possible level, in an absolute, not comparative, sense, a ne plus ultra condition. The descriptive ‘great’ or the term ‘greatness’ is applied only when the object is beyond comparison — hence only this object, or person, or idea is truly great — peerless!

This term, great — gadol, is used by our sages to describe a king, of which the Talmud tells us: ‘There is none above him, save the Eternal his L‑rd.’ (Horayos 10a)

Chassidus explains that this state of greatness is attained by the king because he stands in a continuous state of bittul — self nullification before G‑d — and his resulting attachment to G‑dliness is expressed in his greatness. (See Sefer HaMitzvos of Tzemach Tzedek, Mitzvas Minui Melech)

In this context the Shabbos which we call Shabbos HaGadol must have immeasurable greatness which cannot be matched. One aspect of every Shabbos is that all the various worlds rise and are united with G‑dliness. The ultimate ascent of this nature will be in the future world when:

A psalm, a song for the Shabbos day: a psalm, a song for the time to come, for the day that will be all Shabbos and rest for everlasting life. (Tamid, end)

This will happen when we introduce the ‘Aleph’ of the Ruler of the world into the world of galus and convert the G’ol’aH’ (exile) to G’eU’L’aH’ (redemption). Although this psalm speaks of the future — since we do recite it every Shabbos we must say that on every Shabbos we experience some minute and finite sense of that future spirituality. This is expressed in the Rambam’s opinion that on Shabbos we enjoy a radiance of the true reward in store for us in the future world. This is further emphasized by its inclusion in the Tractate of Tamid which indicates that it is something which is generated among the regular ongoing experiences of real life. Thus, every Shabbos attains a lofty state comparable to the future world when all will be ‘rest and everlasting life.’

What detail of this week, the Shabbos before Pesach, makes it unique and outstanding, so that it may be called Shabbos HaGadol?

The answer is that on this day the first stages of redemption began and therefore it is ‘supreme’ in its relationship with the ultimate time of complete redemption.

Shabbos HaGadol then represents for us the apex of ‘greatness’ in the realm of salvation. Redemption even greater than the redemption of Pesach.

How do we explain this?

Pesach is known as the Season of our Freedom; we were slaves and the Exodus made us free. The state of redemption of Shabbos however is above and beyond this; a condition in which there was no bondage to begin with, ‘a day of complete rest...’ which evolves from a unity and cleaving to G‑dliness that evoked the state of: ‘There is none above him, save the Eternal his L‑rd.’ Since his essence is one with G‑d, just as it is inappropriate to say that G‑d is free, so too, is it absurd to ascribe the attribute of freedom to one who is attached to G‑d (like saying the king is very rich for he owns a dollar (sic)).

Here we must see through this paradox — for although on the Shabbos before redemption the Jews were still in bondage in Egypt, nevertheless, because they were one with G‑d, the Holy One, Blessed be He, by bringing the Aleph — Ruler of the world into the ‘golah’ they transcended the state of slavery to such a lofty height that it would be absurd to say they were free.

Thus, on this Shabbos HaGadol every Jew has the potential for this state of transcending, true salvation in the manner of the future world, beyond the level of the Season of our Freedom.

All aspects of Shabbos apply to all Jews — from the small girl who ushers in the Shabbos by kindling her Shabbos candle, even before her mother, so that every Jew has the aspect of the transcending freedom.

Although this state of unity with G‑d to the point of there being nothing higher is attributed to a king and Nasi (See Menachos), nevertheless, since every Jew’s soul is ‘truly a part of G‑d above,’ each Jew actually is in touch with G‑dliness and has the potential to see himself as truly being one with the Essence of G‑d.

When the Shabbos day arrives and there is a revelation of ‘the day of complete rest for everlasting life,’ which is introduced by the kindling of the Shabbos candles — a spiritual representation of the soul of man — then the state of unity where ‘there is none above him save for the Eternal his L‑rd,’ is revealed and the Jew enters a dimension of ‘transcending salvation.’

Shabbos HaGadol enhances all this. For when the Jewish people showed their readiness to do G‑d’s will in the face of mortal danger — to take the lambs which were the deity of Egypt and prepare them to be sacrificed, then their true Bittul — self-sacrifice — was revealed and they experienced a great salvation, even greater than what followed; the Exodus itself.

May this redemption of Shabbos HaGadol while we are still in the exile lead us to that day of complete rest forever in a revealed manner, with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach in the month of Nissan this year:

Nissan in which Israel were redeemed from Egypt and in which they are destined to be redeemed again. As it says: ‘As in the days of your coming forth out of Egypt I will show you marvelous things.’ (Michah 7:15) (Shmos Rabbah 15:17)

And may they be multiple miracles, as inferred by the name Nissan (See Berachos 57a) truly and speedily in our days.

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2. Today is the 12th of Nissan the last day of the princely sacrifices which were brought during the inauguration of the Tabernacle and the Altar. The conclusion always carries with it and brings to summation the overall theme, so too, here.

The section of the Torah which deals with the offerings of the tribal princes is read on Shabbos Naso and during Chanukah. From Rosh Chodesh Nissan our custom is to read (individually) one chapter of the ‘Nasi’ each day and follow the Scriptural passages with a special prayer in which we beseech G‑d:

May it be Your will...may there shine upon me all the holy ‘sparks’ and all the holy lights which are contained in the holiness of this tribe, to understand and comprehend in Your Torah and in the fear of You, to do Your will all the days of my life — I and my children and my children’s children, from now and forever, Amen. (Siddur)

This prayer, which requests that the lofty spiritual ‘sparks’ descend and illuminate the individual’s Divine service, is truly unique.

Likewise, in praying for future generations and ‘forever’ we also make unique supplication. And yet, we expect this to come in a natural manner — for we do not generally pray for supernatural phenomena, only for natural blessings. (see Yerushalmi, Taanis 3:2) Thus, it is within the realm of the possible that all the inner spiritual ‘sparks’ should irradiate our lives in an infinite manner. On the 12th day of Nissan when we conclude the tribal readings, all of the forces of all 12 days are concentrated and we have the ‘sparks’ of all 12 tribes at once.

When the 12th of Nissan occurs on Shabbos we discern an additional quality in the day since it is Shabbos and also in the function of the previous 12 days of Nissan. When the 12th is Shabbos then there were two Shabbos days during the 12 days of the Nesi’im and since the concluding day is Shabbos it strengthens all the previous days.

What special Divine service applies today?

Let us see which tribe brought its sacrifice on the 12th day:

On the 12th day it was the leader (Nasi) of Naftali’s descendants.... (Bamidbar 7:78)

What was the unique theme of Naftali? It may be gleaned from Yaakov’s blessing: ‘Naftali is a deer running free,’ to which Rashi adds: ‘runs rapidly...zealously....’ (Bereishis 49:21)

What is the connection to this Shabbos?

Shabbos HaGadol which precedes Pesach saw the beginning of the redemption and its accompanying wonders. On Pesach we project the theme of haste, as the Torah tells us: ‘You must eat it in haste, it is the Passover offering to G‑d.’ (Shmos 12:11)

‘Haste’ connotes more speed than ‘rapid’ or ‘zealous.’ Being zealous insures that good acts will be carried out with dispatch and with care. ‘Haste’ which connotes more speed can sometimes lead to negative results. Yet on Pesach the key word is ‘haste,’ more than zealousness, but in a manner that it is insulated by G‑d’s care and purely good.

On this Shabbos we read the portion of Tzav which is explained in Rashi to mean:

The expression ‘command’ always implies urging on (to carry out a command). (Rashi v. 6:2)

Thus, Naftali emphasizes the attribute of zealousness and speed, the Shabbos before Pesach also projects the aspect of haste, and in the Torah reading again we find the theme of urging on — (speeding up).

Clearly, today’s special Divine service is in the area of zealousness, in the theme of redemption, with the full greatness of this Shabbos superimposed.

Since everything must be done to bring redemption quickly, we must act with zealousness. What about those who argue that all this has already been done? The response is elementary, Mashiach has still not come! Obviously there is still more to do; more action, more haste, without respite. The zealousness must not only express itself in the action but also in the intensity of feeling and attitude. Because even zealous action is limited by time and space — zealousness of spirit is limitless and unstoppable. It is from that state of mind, that emerges the approach, ‘A person should always run to do a mitzvah.’ (Berachos 6b)

This state of mind is above any limitations.

An illustration of this state would be the story of the Alter Rebbe who once blew shofar on Rosh Hashanah before the morning prayers so that victory would come to the kingdom that would improve the spiritual condition of the Jewish people.

The condition of war at that time gave rise to the hopes for salvation. (see Midrash Lekach Tov, Bereishis 14:1) The current state of world tension, similarly, directs our attention to the hope for salvation. May it come without further suffering, with kindness and mercy, with joy and gladness. Just as Shabbos projects the theme of pleasantness and relaxation.

May our zealousness in our Divine service bring the redemption speedily beyond any limitation and restriction — immediately and truly now.

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3. Having elaborated on many general subjects it is important to focus on a specific thought relating to practical action.

It must be made known that we are at the ‘time of the end’ when ‘many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white and be refined.’ (Daniel 12:9-10) Consequently, every Jewish person should purify and cleanse and refine all aspects of his/her life by adding more and more good deeds, words and thoughts. This positive action will bring:

If he fulfills one commandment he turns the scale of merit in his favor and in that of the whole world and brings salvation and deliverance to all his fellow creatures and to himself. (Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah 3:4)

Despite all our good accomplishments until now, our righteous Mashiach has not yet come. Clearly, this points to the need for this activity and it should also provide the opportunity for the many aspects of every Jew to be purified and unified with the Unique One of the world, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

In the past months there has been much discussion on the importance of each person making a mini-Sanctuary in his/her home — a place of Torah, Prayer and Acts of Loving-Kindness. This must permeate everything in the home, the holy books, and materials used for mitzvos, as well as all permitted matters, with the spirit of G‑d’s presence ‘I will dwell among them’ permanently and eternally.

Even small children must make their rooms, cots, desks and all their possessions, even their ‘house-slippers,’ part of the Mini-Sanctuary. This must be done by the children themselves. In a child faith is very strong.

Normally, intellect conceals faith. A child who does not have mature intellect is capable of much stronger and purer belief. This intense faith is ingrained and inculcated in every Jewish child from birth, with the verses of ‘Shir Hama’alos’ festooned on its cradle and the lullabies sung by righteous Jewish mothers who extolled the values and virtues of Torah ‘which is worth more than any possessions.’ These acts done in infancy influence the child throughout the rest of his/her life. Consequently, children are receptive to the idea of dedicating their rooms, beds, etc. to be part of the Sanctuary for the Holy One, Blessed be He; all because of their strong faith. Now, in order to carry out this Divine service properly you must precede it with the Mishnaic directive ‘appoint yourself a teacher.’

Everyone has a negative inclination which confuses and interferes with the proper action in Divine service. How then can one know and be certain of the right path? One must seek the guidance of a Rav-teacher who has no subjective motive and can see clearly and point out the right path. How do you choose your Rav-teacher from whom ‘to seek Torah.’ Here the Torah has given three characteristics which identify the true Jewish nature (thereby the true Rav).

(These are) the characteristics of the Jews, the Holy Nation, they are bashful, merciful and benevolent. (See Yevamos 79a)

Moreover, true bashfulness may have a negative side to it also. One might be ashamed to admit ignorance for example, or one might think that it is obligatory to always give an answer (even when he is uncertain) so as not to shame the honor of Rabbis or scholars. It should therefore be clearly stated that it is not an embarrassment to admit ignorance and to say, ‘I do not know.’ Even Moshe admitted as much and was not ashamed. (see Zevachim 101a) You must also have mercy on the other person and not allow him to stumble by following incorrect advice. If so, should you resign from the Rabbinate? No, you must also be benevolent. If there is a Jew who is ignorant and needs guidance you must teach him. Have pity also on yourself — your G‑dly soul descended from the lofty heights in order to carry out a mission and Divine Providence put you in the position of teaching others — carry out your calling! Study and work hard to clarify the Halachah and teach those who need to know.

On the other hand, if one is so shy that he cannot naturally stand before others to guide them — then if Divine Providence gives him this role he must overcome his innate shyness and carry out his duty. Here one has the opportunity to fulfill his goal and mission in a manner which sublimates even the naturally good processes of the side of holiness, by functioning in the area of benevolence without recompense (one must not take payment for teaching Halachah).

Being at the junction of ‘the last days’ of exile we must add good deed, on good deed ‘to purify and whiten and rectify the many,’ by making every home a Sanctuary to G‑dliness according to the directives of a Rav-teacher who has the three characteristics of bashfulness, mercy and benevolence.

By virtue of these good actions — and simply by making the good resolutions may we merit to see the ‘last days’ very soon and truly, now!

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4. On a related matter, just as we must increase our positive actions among the Jewish people, so, too, must there be a concerted effort to educate the nations of the world. This is the meaning of the verse in psalms:

All nations which You have made will come and cast themselves down before You, O my Master, and shall give honor to Your Name. (Tehillim 86:9)

It is in the ‘last days’ that this applies. The Rambam rules that when Mashiach comes the nations of the world will also rise to a loftier state. For Mashiach:

will prepare the world to serve the L‑rd with one accord, as it is written: ‘For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the L‑rd to serve Him with one consent.’ (Zephaniah 3:9) (Laws of Kings 11:4)

Since all attainments of the future depend on our accomplishments during the time of the galus it follows that even the future ‘common language’ of the nations of the world depends on our work now.

What must we do? In addition to our own Divine service of Torah study and observance of mitzvos we must also impress upon the gentile nations to fulfill the seven laws commanded to the sons of Noach. This provides the framework of preparation for the ‘common language’ of the nations and their common worship of G‑d. As the Rambam says:

Moreover, Moshe our teacher commanded us, by Divine Ordinance, to compel all human beings to accept the commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noach. (Laws of Kings 8:10)

It should be noted that this activity with regard to the non-Jewish population of the world is not insignificant. For just as one must not compare mitzvos and judge some to be more important than others, so more too, must we realize that this commandment given to us by Moshe is equally important and incumbent upon each and every Jew. This concept is even more evident in Torah study, in the realm of wisdom, and more so in the consideration of the relative holiness of the parts of Torah.

There may, however, be some distinction regarding the order of precedence. In order of preference the outreach to non-Jews is not our first priority. The actual order also follows a sequence that may be understood even by a five-year-old Chumash student.

The first stages of education of a child are devoted to study of Torah and training in mitzvah observance. A young Jewish child is discouraged from coming in contact with any non-Jewish children so as not to learn from their ways, their conduct, their manner of speech and certainly to make sure that the Jewish child should not come to eat at the gentile’s table — G‑d forbid. This mode of conduct is established for the child by his parents with the simple admonition that such contact is against the will of the Holy One, Blessed be He. This statement is enough to convince the Jewish child to obey and there should be no need for threats, or warnings of punishment.

Clearly, the early stages of a Jew’s Divine service is devoted solely to Torah and mitzvos. Later, when his business or professional responsibilities brings him into contact with gentiles, he assumes the added responsibility to encourage and influence the inhabitants of the world to accept the Seven Noachide Principles.

Similarly, there was a time when we did not reach out to the gentiles to encourage them to observe the Seven Noachide Laws. In the old days any attempt to discuss faith in G‑d with gentiles would invariably lead to danger and even mortal danger for Jews. So, except for a few exceptions, there was no opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah.

In our generation things are different. There is no danger involved in this activity, and to the contrary, such activity will increase the respect that the nations show us, for they will realize that Jews care not only about their own welfare but also about the good of all humanity and the whole world:

He did not create it (to be) a waste land, He formed it to be inhabited (and civilized). (Yeshayahu 45:18)

This can only be when all humanity lives justly and righteously. This of course is the theme of the Seven Noachide Commandments with their accompanying laws and ramifications. Consequently, it is obvious and self-evident that in modern times we must carry out the Divine command we received through Moshe: ‘To compel all human beings to accept the commandments enjoined upon the descendants of Noach.’

Most recently this mission has taken on added significance. On several occasions the President of the United States has issued proclamations which underlined the importance and urgency of observing the Seven Noachide Commandments by all humanity. In the last few days the President has reiterated this position.

The President has also turned to leaders of the other countries of the world to follow his example and to urge their citizens to observe the Seven Noachide Principles which will make the world a civilized place.

In fact, his words have not gone unheeded and the leaders of other countries will surely follow his example and in their own way will proclaim that the Seven Noachide Laws must be observed.

This phenomenon adds much momentum to the efforts of convincing the citizens of the world to observe the Seven Noachide Laws. When the President proclaims its importance it is easier to encourage average people to accept it and so the opportunity must not be lost. It also provides us with a clear sign from Above that there is no time to lose in teaching the gentiles of the world about G‑d. In fact our efforts are speeded along by the public proclamations of the President.

Sorry to say, it appears necessary to protest against those who have the attitude and are voicing the opinion that they simply could not be bothered and that they have no time for such matters. Remember, the Rambam rules that this was commanded by G‑d through Moshe — can anyone gainsay this command?!

And as to those who are so careful not to start up with the gentiles, certainly, they should not go against the proclamation of the President!

Our efforts must be geared to the ‘final days’ in purifying and clarifying ourselves and in influencing the Noachides to accept their G‑d-given destiny which will cause the nations of the world to come before G‑d and give honor to His Name, with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly in our days.

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5. In the portion of Tzav the Torah describes the period of inauguration of the Tabernacle and the various forms of Temple service which Moshe performed.

On the words: ‘Moshe took it from their hands...and he burned it on the Altar...’ (Vayikra 8:28), Rashi comments:

Moshe was officiating (as a Kohen) during the seven days of installation [in a white garment]. (loc. cit.)

This bears some clarification:

1) The whole portion speaks of Moshe’s service, before and after this verse; it would seem logical and elementary to inform us of the manner of Moshe’s service either at the beginning of the story or at the end. Why does Rashi choose this verse in the middle of the story to inform us of this aspect of Moshe’s work?

2) Where, in the plain meaning of the Scripture, does Rashi find the proof that, in fact, Moshe wore a white tunic during the days of installation?

3) In the Toras Kohanim it states that ‘Moshe officiated as a Kohen Gadol....’ Why does Rashi opt for simple Kehunah service?

All of the classic annotators on Rashi discuss these questions but none of their answers would fit into the plain meaning of the verse easily comprehended by a five-year-old Chumash student.

The Toras Kohanim tells us that Moshe served as a Kohen Gadol during the period of inauguration. We might reason that he had to be a Kohen Gadol in order to anoint Aharon as a Kohen Gadol. The plain interpretation, however, does not force us to make this deduction. It was G‑d’s command to anoint Aharon as Kohen Gadol, and the one who anointed, in theory, did not even have to be a Kohen, for he did the anointing with G‑d’s power.

When Kohanim bless the people, the transmission of the benediction does not depend on the status of the particular Kohen — worthy or not — G‑d’s blessing are projected on the people through the medium of the Kohen.

Similarly, Moshe was commanded by G‑d to officiate in the capacity of a Kohen without actually attaining the status of a Kohen during the initiation days.

When, however, we come to the statement ‘and he burned it on the Altar’ we must say that Moshe did indeed serve in the capacity of a full Kohen during those seven days. Why?

This verse refers to the right hind leg of which we have learned previously:

The right hind leg of your peace offerings shall also be given as an elevated gift to the Kohen...he shall have the right leg as a portion. (Vayikra 7:32-33) This is because I have taken the chest as a wave offering and the hind leg as an elevated gift from the Israelites, from their peace sacrifices, and I have given (these parts) to Aharon the Kohen and his descendants. (Ibid.:34)

Why were the chest and hind leg not given to Aharon and his sons during the inauguration week? Why did Moshe take them? The answer is that Moshe in fact did assume the role of a real Kohen during that week and so he took the gifts normally reserved for Kohanim. Which is what Rashi says: ‘Moshe was officiating (as a Kohen) during the seven days of installation.’ The chest he took for himself and with the hind leg he did as he wished — since it was his.

Why did Moshe burn the hind leg on the Altar? Surely, Moshe was a special person therefore he had the added opportunity to offer an additional sacrifice to burn the hind leg on the Altar — something which regular Kohanim normally did not do. This will also explain why Rashi mentions this phenomenon.

Now that we know that Moshe served as a Kohen we must say that he certainly wore the vestments of a Kohen — and since the Torah does not mention any details about the different garments we may assume that they were all of white linen, a simple white tunic. After all, whenever the Torah tells us of some vestment or cloth that had a particular color, it informs us of that fact — here, silence — hence, no color — but a simple white tunic.