Shabat Hagadol

Shabbat HaGadol, 

loosely translated in English as the “Great Sabbath,” 

falls on the Shabbat preceding Passover, 

which is where we find ourselves this evening. 

According to Jewish law, it is on Shabbat HaGadol that we observe the beginning of the process of the Israelites redemption from Egypt. 

We are instructed to study the laws of Passover and there is even a tradition of reading portions of the haggadah as a rehearsal for the upcoming seder. 

The reasoning for this, is to familiarize ourselves with the content of the haggadah, 

so that we show up to the seder prepared with our questions and our answers. 

Like most ritual and religious experience, the more preparation we do the more meaning we may find. 

It is with this in mind that I want to share with you this evening some thoughts on the content in our haggadah that we will read at our Passover seder next Monday evening.

I began thinking about the story we encounter in the haggadah after I met with a man who told me he was an atheist. 

“Even though I don’t believe in G-D, I care about Jewish tradition,” 

he told me.

And then he shared that Passover is his Favourite holiday. 

In fact, it seemed to me his passion for the Passover seder was almost equal to his passion for atheism. 

So I asked him, 

" How do you relate to all the talk of G-D in the Passover Haggadah? "

" And he said to me, 

“Oh we just don’t make a big deal about those parts.”

Themes of slavery and freedom are more tangible and more easily applied to all the social injustices we face today. 

Yet, if we skip over the G-D parts we risk not fulfilling our main obligation of the Passover seder, which is to tell the story of the Exodus. 

A story, where it is hard to ignore G-D! 

A story, where it is impossible to ignore G-D!

The biblical commandment of how to observe Passover calls on us to,

" tell your child on that day, saying, ‘Because of that which G-d did for me when I went out from Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8) 

According to this text G-D is the main protagonist,

G-D is the mover,

G-D is the shaker, 

If we were to look through our haggadah we may find that their is actually too much G-D to ignore.

The text says, 

“ Hashem Brought Us Out of Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with great awe and with signs and wonders.” 

G-D is behind the 10 plagues according to the haggadah, 

“These are the 10 plagues that the holy one of blessing brought upon the Egyptians of Egypt.” 

G-D is the star of one of the famous Passover songs, Dayeinu

• " If he had brought us out of Egypt and not brought judgment upon them…Dayeinu (it would have been enough…” 

• If G-D had given us Shabbat (dayeinu). It would have been enough

 • if G-D had given us the Torah…dayeinu.

It is up to us to bring about redemption to those who are not yet free. 


Our Rabbinic ancestors suggested

 that G-D is only as powerful as our willingness to acknowledge G-D.

In a commentary on this topic they wrote,

“ G-D saves us, 

but acknowledgment of G-D provides redemption.” 

The Kotzker Rebbe teaches, 

“Where is G-D?

 Wherever we let G-D in.” 

May we enter Pessah this year with our hearts and minds open to the retelling of our people’s journey from a narrow place to an expanded place filled with possibility.