Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Shabbat Hagadol
To dedicate this lesson

Beginning of history

The concept of time was created on Nissan. Until then, people lived as the Egyptian lamb - without a shepherd and without purpose.


Rabbi Haggai Lundin

What is time? Time is our ability to highlight a process. We mark a certain point as a starting point from which we can move on. In the ancient world there was no concept of time. Pagan man was found in a vague circle of life: birth, work, death, birth, work, death, and so on. While early man noticed the transition between seasons, the count of years and starting a new session was not until the cronik Greeks.
In the pagan world, there is nowhere to move, there is no process. Man is a prisoner in an eternal Sisyphean cycle without the possibility of breaking out, or in other words: slavery. Pagan man does not create units of time and is therefore controlled by the emptiness of time. He wears out, run by inertia and does not control his life. In Egypt, the main culture of the ancient world, there is nothing beyond slavery: "At the beginning, a slave could not escape Egypt since it was tightly closed" (Mekhilta Yitro). Not only Am Israel, the Egyptians 'masters' were in that state of slavery and closings for anything beyond mere sustainability. There is nothing beyond the random nature eroded in circles time.
All this is going to change at the Exodus from Egypt. Nissan is the month when in fact time was created in the world: "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you" (Exodus 12, b). At Nissan, the history begins. There is a beginning, renewal, and historical memory starts to accumulate. Time has two dimensions: fixed and mutable. To measure time, we need a starting point, a constant and stable base. Then, we need a movement which we can mark as changing and progress. Also in our personal feelings we sense it: if we have no movement or change, we feel that time is "not moving".

In the Jewish year there are indeed two such axis: Saturday – a fixed base, and Yom Tov - movement and changing. Our sages say that Saturday is "Fixed and existing" (Hulin 101, b). Saturday is the constant point in time, which exists since the six days of creation. The holidays on the other hand are dynamic and depend on "Israel who sanctify the time. " (Brahot 49, a).
Before we get to the first holiday of Am Yisrael, Passover, the holiday that begins history, we have Shabbat Hagadol. Shabbat Hagadol is when Israel bounded the Egyptian God, which is the Lamb - an animal that expresses the natural innocence, a flock of sheep which moves without purpose; sheep without a shepherd, and no sense of time. We bind the casual innocence and mark the starting point. History starts to move. A few days later, the second dimension appears: Passover will come and the nation whose job is to mark direction and movement in history will be born.
Where does time lead us? Where does history bring us to? History is not just a "list of crimes, obsessions and catastrophes of mankind", as A. Gibbon said. History is, in the words of Rabbi Kook, "historiya" – "Hester–Yah" (hidden G-d). History leads us in a certain direction, God is revealed in history. The greatness of the first Shabbat of the exodus continues throughout the Israeli history and leads to "the great and terrible day of the LORD". (Malachi 3, 23). The figure of Elijah, the man that time and death had not mastered on him, who stormed up to heaven. He announces us that great day, a day without time limits, "that is neither day nor night."
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