1. There are lessons to be derived from three aspects of this ShabbosShabbos Hagodol, parshas Tzav, and the 12th of Nissan.

All festivals are celebrated on the day of the month on which they originally occurred. For example, Pesach is the fifteenth of Nissan, for on that day the Jews left Egypt. Shabbos Hagodol celebrates the miracle that the first-born of Egypt fought with their own Egyptian brethren to release the Jews from Egypt. This happened on the tenth of Nissan. Yet this miracle is not celebrated on the tenth of Nissan — the day of the month, but on the day of the week on which it originally occurred — the Shabbos before Pesach.

When Shabbos Hagodol falls on the tenth of Nissan, then it is celebrated on the date of the original occurrence both of the month (the tenth) and of the week (Shabbos). But when Shabbos Hagodol does not fall on the tenth (as this year — when it is on the twelfth), we see clearly that it is celebrated specifically according to the date of the week, not the month.

When, moreover, Shabbos Hagodol is after the tenth (as this year), the difference from all other festivals is even more emphasized. When it is before the tenth, we could posit that it is celebrated on Shabbos because we want to celebrate the miracle at the first opportunity — on the date of the week. But when Shabbos Hagodol is after the tenth, we do not celebrate the miracle at the first opportunity — on the tenth, but defer its celebration until Shabbos. This emphasizes that its celebration is fixed according to the day of the week, not the month.

This marked difference from other festivals is even more perplexing when we consider the reason for the miracle. The miracle occurred on the tenth of Nissan, for then the Jews were commanded to take the lamb that would be used for the Pesach offering, and to keep it in their houses for four days. We see, then, that the lamb had to be taken on the tenth not because it happened to be Shabbos, but specifically because it was the tenth of the month, four days before it was offered. Thus, even if other festivals were fixed according to the days of the week, the celebration of this miracle should still have been set according to the day of the month — the tenth. Yet, it is specifically this miracle which is celebrated according to the day of the week — Shabbos!

The Shulchan Aruch explains that Shabbos Hagodol is not celebrated on the tenth because “Miriam passed away on the tenth of Nissan, and a fast was set on it (the tenth) when it falls on weekday.” In other words, the miracle should really have been celebrated on the tenth; because Miriam passed away then, it is instead celebrated according to the day of the week.

This explanation is perplexing: How is it possible that the commemoration of this miracle be fixed specifically on Shabbos because of a tragic occurrence — Miriam’s passing?

The explanation:

There is a difference between the days of the month and the days of the week. The idea of a week came into existence at the time of creation — “ G‑d created the heaven and the earth in six days and on the seventh day He rested.” A week thus indicates the natural course of events in the world.

The idea of a month, on the other hand, did not come into existence at the time of creation, but afterwards. A month is a lunar event. Our Sages tell us that originally the moon and sun were equal, and only afterwards did the moon become the smaller body and receive its light from the sun. Thus a month indicates conduct transcending nature.

Now we can understand why the miracle of Shabbos Hagodol was fixed according to the day of the week and not the day of the month — unlike other Yomim tovim. “Yom tov” is a revelation transcending nature, and therefore is fixed according to the days of the month. That the first-born waged war against their own brethren was a miracle that occurred within nature — i.e., this event did not transcend nature, but seemed to be an occurrence easily explainable in the circumstances (that the first-born were afraid they would be killed and therefore wished to force the other Egyptians to let the Jews go before G‑d struck them). Thus, to indicate that this miracle occurred within nature, its commemoration is fixed by the day of the week.

This explanation is also associated with the reason given in Shulchan Aruch, that the commemoration of the miracle was not set for the tenth because Miriam passed away on that date — for death reflects the natural course of events. Moreover, death indicates a very low level in nature, for death came into existence only after the sin of eating from the tree of knowledge.

“Shabbos Hagodol” means the “Great Shabbos.” Shabbos itself, as one of the days of the week, is part of nature. The “Great Shabbos” is the idea of greatness introduced into nature, a miracle within, and not transcending, nature, And a miracle within nature is loftier than a miracle transcending nature — for ordinarily, a miracle by definition is above the confines of nature; when, however, a miracle is within nature and still is a miracle — that is a new, profound thing!

This idea of “Shabbos Hagodol — the Great Shabbos,” greatness within nature, loftier than nature of itself, is achieved through the service of Jews. Shabbos, unlike the festivals, is “sanctified of itself,” and is not dependent on Jews’ efforts. Shabbos Hagodol, however, is effected through Jews’ efforts, for the redemption from Egypt in general came about through Jews’ supplication to G‑d. In similar vein, the miracle of the Egyptians fighting each other happened when the Jews took the lamb for the Pesach on the tenth of the month.

2. The lessons from Shabbos Hagodol in man’s service to G‑d: A Jew may think that to perform his service to G‑d, he must first remove himself from worldly concerns, be above nature. Shabbos Hagodol teaches that while a Jew transcends nature, the ultimate goal is nevertheless to engage in Torah and mitzvos as they are in this physical, mundane world. Our Sages say “Torah is not in heaven,” but was given on earth. Therefore mitzvos must be performed with physical objects — to bring G‑dliness into the world.

The above is stressed in the prayer said by a Jew every day as soon as he awakens — “Modeh Ani Lefonecho,” “I offer thanks to you, living and eternal King ...” The Alter Rebbe writes that “Immediately upon awakening ... a person should consider in whose presence he lies. He should be mindful that the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, hovers over him ... An important principle of the Torah ... is that ‘I have set the L‑rd before me at all times.’ For man’s demeanor and conduct when he is alone in his house are unlike those he would exhibit in the presence of a great king ... when a person considers that the Supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, stands over him and observes his actions ... he will be imbued with a feeling of reverence and humility, and always have a sense of shame before G‑d.”

A Jew immediately upon awakening, even before washing his hands, must know that G‑d is with him — and he must have the appropriate reverence and humility. This is the idea explained previously — that a Jew should not wait until he reaches lofty heights to engage in Torah and mitzvos — but immediately upon awakening he must reflect that the Supreme King of kings stands and observes him. Moreover, a Jew’s connection with G‑d at this time is with G‑d’s very Essence, transcending His Names (which are prohibited to be spoken before he washes his hands). This corresponds to that explained previously, that G‑d’s greatness is connected specifically with nature — for a Jew’s status before washing and praying is similar to service in the world compared to service transcending world.

Furthermore, sleep itself reflects the idea of nature, and, therefore, when a person says “Modeh Ani” immediately upon awakening from sleep, it emphasizes the concept of service specifically within nature. Sleep is an absolute necessity; a person cannot go without sleep. The Talmud states that one who takes an oath that ‘I will not sleep for three days’ — he is given stripes and he should then immediately go to sleep.” For since by nature sleep is an absolute necessity, it is impossible for a person to go three days without sleep. Thus, such an oath is an oath taken in vain. Sleep therefore emphasizes most strongly the idea of nature.

When, therefore, a person says “Modeh Ani” upon awakening from his sleep, and reflects that G‑d stands over him — it is the idea of service within nature (and not service transcending nature — to wait until he has reached a level higher than nature).

The lesson from Shabbos Hagodol, then, is that the service of Jews in Torah and mitzvos must be with nature — to effect greatness (“Hagodol”) in nature (Shabbos).

Through our deeds and service in all the above we merit the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our times.

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3. In addition to the above lessons from Shabbos Hagodol, there are lessons to be derived from today’s parshah — Tzav (Command).

Rashi explains that “Tzav denotes only ‘encouragement’ — for the present and for (future) generations.” Thus the lesson from parshas Tzav is that Torah and mitzvos must be performed with “encouragement” — with enthusiasm and zealousness. This applies both to the “present” — not to defer service to a later time, and to “generations” — service is performed such that it will endure for all generations, not just for the person’s life time. Moreover, Rashi says that “Tzav denotes only encouragement,” which means the sole lesson from “Tzav” is that our service must be performed with zealousness and enthusiasm.

Another lesson is to be derived from today’s date, the 12th of Nissan. On the twelfth of Nissan, the prince of the tribe of Naftoli brought his offering at the dedication of the Mishkan. Although all the twelve princes brought identical offerings, simultaneously, each prince had his unique spiritual contribution.

Ya’akov described Naftoli as “Naftoli is a hind let loose” (Bereishis 49:21), which Rashi explains to mean “just like a hind which is swift in running.” It is the idea of “His word runs most swiftly” (Tehillim 147:15) — the idea of enthusiasm and zealousness (“encouragement”). Thus both parshas Tzav and the twelfth of Nissan emphasize the concept of zealousness.

The difference between them is that “Tzav” stresses zealousness in Torah and mitzvos principally, holy things (similar to the sacrifice about which “Tzav” is said). Naftoli stresses zealousness in non-holy matters principally, the service of “All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven.” For, as Rashi explains, the verse “a hind let loose” refers to “The valley of Genaesar, (which is in Naftoli’s portion of land) which quickly matures its fruit, just like a hind which is swift in running.” Thus we see the verse concerning Naftoli’s zealousness refers to the land — worldly matters.

The lesson of zealousness from both parshas Tzav and Naftoli are needed. One might think that this lesson is needed only for a Jew who deals with worldly matters — that he needs encouragement. But, in regard to a Jew who is occupied solely in Torah and mitzvos, one might say that since he is anyway involved solely in holy matters, he does not need encouragement or zealousness. “Tzav” teaches that zealousness applies even to such a Jew, whose service is “to stand before the L‑rd to serve Him” — when he is instructed to involve himself now in a particular matter, he must drop all else, and zealously fulfill that directive.

On the other hand, one might think the opposite: zealousness is only important in regard to holy matters. Why is it important to be zealous in worldly matters? Naftoli, whose offering was brought on the twelfth of Nissan, teaches that because worldly matters must be changed into holy matters — “All your deeds should be for the sake of heaven” and “In all your ways know Him” — they too must be performed zealously.

May it be G‑d’s will that all the above be translated into deed, and the lessons from the three aspects of this Shabbos — Shabbos Hagodol, parshas Tzav, and the twelfth of Nissan — all be fulfilled in the three aspects of a person, thought, speech and deed. Through this we speedily merit the third and final redemption, when the third Bais Hamikdosh will be built.


4. As is customary, we will explain a verse of our parshah with its Rashi commentary. This week we will explain verse 8 of chapter 8 — the eighth of the eighth.

In connection to the eighth of the eighth — and also in connection to Pesach — we find a perplexing point. Chometz in spiritual terms represents haughtiness and pride; matzah represents humility. The prohibition to eat chometz on Pesach indicates that one must totally get rid of his spiritual chometz — his pride and haughtiness.

Simultaneously, however, we find that the Talmud says a Talmud Chochom (a Torah sage) should have one eighth of an eighth of pride with him. The Talmud gives this exact measurement because this was the minimum liquid measure in their times. Thus the Talmud tells us that a Talmud Chochom should have only the smallest amount of pride.

Why, however, does the Talmud say a Talmud Chochom should have any amount of pride (albeit the smallest amount)? Surely the Talmud should say that a Talmud Chochom should have no pride at all?!

Likewise, a Jew eats matzah on Pesach to be humble. But this seems to be a contradiction. If matzah represents total humility, why is there a minimum size to the matzah he must eat?

However, a Jew cannot allow himself to be trampled upon. Indeed, in regard to Torah and mitzvos, a Jew must be totally staunch and firm. This firmness comes from G‑d, and thus a Jew’s existence is G‑dliness. As stated in Tehillim (82:6): “I said: ‘You are G‑d,’“ which Rashi interprets to mean ‘You are angels.’ Just as an angel is a messenger of G‑d, Jews, are also G‑d’s messengers.

Moreover, since it uses the word “ G‑d” rather than “angel,” it means that Jews are more than angels, and their existence is G‑dliness! Thus, as G‑d’s messengers, the existence of Jews is with the utmost strength and firmness — “You are G‑d.”

That is why a Talmud Chochom must have an “eighth of an eighth” of pride, and why matzah has definite dimensions. Although a Jew must be humble, it must be emphasized that his existence — a G‑dly existence — is with full force.

Nevertheless, the matzah is flat; and a Jew is obligated to eat only the smallest size (“k’zais”) of it; and only on the first night of Pesach. Likewise, the pride possessed by a Talmid Chochom should also be of the minutest amount — an eighth of an eighth. For matzah is G‑dliness, as the Rebbe Maharash said, that when we eat matzah, “we eat G‑dliness!” Similarly a Jew’s staunchness in Torah and mitzvos (pride) is not an intrinsic quality of a Jew, but comes from being G‑d’s messenger. Thus, it does not need to be in large quantity, but even the smallest amount will suffice — a “k’zais” matzah on the first night only, and only an “eighth of an eighth” of pride. In regard to finite things, the greater the quantity, the greater the thing. But in regard to G‑dliness, importance is not expressed by quantity.

Interestingly, the Vilna Gaon notes that the eighth parshah in Torah is parshas Vayishlach, and the eighth verse in this parshah is “I have become diminished.” Thus we see the idea of “an eighth of an eighth” is the idea of smallness, humility.

To return to our topic, the explanation of the eighth verse of the eighth chapter of the book of Vayikra.

Parshas Tzav talks of the various ceremonies in the initiation of Aharon and his sons into the priesthood. Ch. 8, verse 8 states: “He (Moshe) placed upon him (Aharon) the breastplate, and he put the Urim and the Turim in the breastplate.” Rashi, quoting the words “the Urim,” explains it is “The script of the Ineffable Name.”

Rashi, in a previous verse (8:5), states that “This entire matter of the section of the dedication I have explained in [parshas] Atah Tetzaveh.” Rashi is telling us that he therefore need not repeat in our parshah (Tzav) those things already explained in parshas Tetzaveh.

Why, then, does Rashi explain what the Urim are. In parshas Tetzaveh (28:30) he already explained that the Urim “is the script, the Ineffable Name, which he placed inside the folds of the breastplate, by means of which he sheds light (Or — cognate to Urim) upon his words and makes perfect his words.” We see then that a student learning Scripture already knows what are the Urim. Since Rashi does not repeat himself needlessly, why does Rashi repeat himself in our parshah?

Further puzzling is the difference between parshas Tetzaveh and our parshah. In Tetzaveh, Rashi explains the Urim is “the script, the Ineffable Name.” In our parshah, he says the Urim is “the script of the Ineffable Name.” Why the difference?

The explanation:

Rashi does not repeat an explanation he has previously given when it concerns the meaning of a word or concept. Rashi’s interpretation is addressed to a student who learns Scripture in order — beginning from Bereishis and progressing parshah by parshah. Thus, if the concept is not especially puzzling, Rashi assumes that the student will remember the explanation given previously (or will refer back to it), and therefore he need not repeat it.

However, when the topic is especially puzzling — not just the meaning of a word, but the idea itself is inexplicable — Rashi will not rely on the student’s memory, but will repeat his explanation.

In our case, the verse in parshas Tetzaveh “You shall put the Urim and the Tumim in the breastplate” is extremely puzzling. The word “Urim” derives from the root “Or,” meaning “light.” What, asks the student, does light have to do with the breastplate?! Rashi therefore explains that the Urim is “The script, the Ineffable Name, which he placed inside the folds of the breastplate, by means of which he sheds light upon his words ...”

When we again learn in parshas Tzav that “He put the Urim and Tumim in the breastplate,” Rashi, because it is an extremely puzzling idea (what light has to do with the breastplate), does not rely on his explanation in parshas Tetzaveh, but repeats it, and explains the Urim is “the script of the Ineffable Name.” Thus, if the student will not remember Rashi’s explanation in Tetzaveh, he will not be left puzzled.

The reason why Rashi says in our parshah “The script of the Ineffable Name” and in parshas Tetzaveh he says “The script, the Ineffable Name,” is as follows: “The script, the Ineffable Name” means simply the words of the script are the Ineffable Name. “The script of the Ineffable Name” means it is a script belonging to (“of”) the Ineffable Name — i.e. G‑d Himself (“the Ineffable Name”) wrote it.

Rashi prefers to tell us this in our parshah, and not in parshas Tetzaveh, for it is important to know only when making the breastplate (in our parshah), not when being commanded about its making (in Parshas Tetzaveh). When being commanded to make it, it is important to know only that breastplate should be folded, so that the script can be placed inside it — but it is not so important to know who will write the script. Our parshah, which talks of making the breastplate, is the appropriate place to tell us that the script was written by G‑d, not man — “The script of the Ineffable Name.”