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Shabbat Parashat Tazria| 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Shabbat as the Source of Hope for Redemption - Condensed from Drashot L’y’mei Hapesach, pg. 21
The Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 430) asks why only the Shabbat before Pesach is called “Shabbat Hagadol.” After all, the miracle that Bnei Yisrael prepared the Pascal sacrifice without reprisals from the Egyptians applied to all the days from the 10th of Nisan until Pesach. It appears that it is not the revealed part of a miracle that is its essence, but specifically its hidden part. It was not that one famous Shabbat which was the critical factor in the redemption, but all of the Shabbatot during the enslavement in Egypt which were so critical. Shabbat, in general, gave Yisrael the greatness to enable the redemption to take place.
“They had scrolls in their hands from their forefathers, which they would enjoy looking at from Shabbat to Shabbat, for on Shabbat they would rest” (Shemot Rabba 5). This midrash contains the secret to the connection between Shabbat and redemption. It is true that the Egyptians used great cunning to enslave Yisrael, not only physically, but also psychologically. But after centuries of toil to uproot any thought of freedom, the nation threw off the bonds of slavery as soon as they heard of the news of upcoming freedom. From where did that strength come? It came from the encouragement and belief engendered in Shabbat.
The gray days of the week are days where one may be subjugated to disgrace and ridicule. The back may bend over due to physical exertion and a breaking of the spirit. But with Shabbat comes rest, not just physically but spiritually. Together with candles lit in honor of Shabbat, the candle of the spirit rises up within the body of the slave. The light hints, and the light reminds. It reminds one of the days of his youth and the words of his parents about a distant, yet glowing, past. It recalls the life in the Homeland and gives hope for a better future. As the bonds on the sprit begin to loosen, the back straightens and the eyes light up with a feeling of hope and belief in the redemption and the future. Indeed, in Egypt, a father would whisper on Shabbat in the ears of his son the two magical words, “pakod yifkod,” Hashem will most assuredly remember and redeem us.
During the week, one could characterize the difference between the Jews and the Egyptians as, “these are idol worshippers and those are idol worshippers” (Shemot Rabba 21). However, “whoever observes Shabbat properly, even if he worships idols like the generation of Enosh, they are forgiven” (Shabbat 118b). Shabbat includes a special power which is a death blow to idol worship, as it contains belief in the Creator of the world. It also gives a person an understanding of what he is living for, that his purpose in life is world justice. He can look at the Egyptian oppressor as what he is, one who rules through the power of impurity and evil. The oppressed are those who possess the purity of the heart. He need not be jealous of the Egyptian’s strength but should react with disdain at the oppressor.
It was years of Shabbatot that gave Bnei Yisrael the fortitude to take on the idol worship of Egypt. It finally found expression on that great Shabbat, when they took the sheep, which represented Egyptian idolatry, and prepared to slaughter it in front of their eyes. Shabbat gave them the belief that they could break out from the oppressor and his idolatry.
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