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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Shabbat Hagadol


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This Shabbat is "Gadol," BIG! Some reasons why are found above in our parsha summary. But let’s explore another idea; it starts with an obvious question. The Hagada makes a bold statement: "We were slaves to Paro in Egypt, & had G-d not redeemed us, we would still be slaves!"

Really? Is that true? Does anyone believe that today, in the "modern" era of freedom & independence, we Jews could still be languishing as hapless, helpless slaves?

There are two responses to this question. The first is, "Who knows?!" Had Hashem & the Jewish People not pioneered this revolutionary, unparalleled act of breaking free from a despotic dictator, perhaps the long-standing system of slavery would have endured forever! But it was our dramatic breakthrough that sent a universal, timeless message that slavery is wrong, & must be fought. That is why the rallying cry of the black slaves in the South was: "When Israel was in Egypt’s land, Let My people go! Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let My people go!" As in so many cases of social justice, we Jews have led the way. Indeed, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said that it was the struggle for Soviet Jews to achieve the freedom to emigrate that ultimately caused Communism to fall & tens of millions of people to be freed from oppression!

There is yet another slant on freedom. A person can be physically enslaved, yet he can still remain free. Though we were subject to Paro’s dictates, in our hearts we knew that we were destined for greater things, that we carried the legacy of the Avot & Imahot in us & would eventually pursue our rightful destiny & place in history. Chazal say Moshe understood this from the Burning Bush. From the outside, it looked just like any other bush, but internally it burned with fire, just as the Jews had a burning desire to be free to again worship Hashem.

When Natan Sharansky was in prison in Russia, he was visited by his brother, who was searched by the guards to be sure he was not carrying any "subversive" material. But at some point, the brother took off his shirt to reveal aT-shirt with the slogan, "Anatoly will be free!" The guards then evicted the brother, & told Natan that as punishment, he would now be denied family visits for a long time. Sharansky told the guards: "Rest assured that someday, I will be freed. But YOU - & all those who live under the Communist regime – will remain prisoners!"

This Shabbat is BIG because we Jews are always involved in BIG events & big causes that rattle the establishment & prod the world onwards towards a better way of life. And it begins by recognizing the bigness, the greatness, inside each & every one of us.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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