Tzav Shabbat HaGadol 5780

L'Shana Hab'ah - The Coming Year

Pesach is a holiday of hope. Our enslaved Israelite ancestors despaired of a better life. Even after Moses appeared on the scene with his assurance that God had sent him to liberate them, the message fell upon deaf ears because “their spirits were crushed by cruel bondage.” (Exodus 6:9). Following the tenth plague our liberated ancestors began a journey to the Promised Land where they would live in freedom and peace. Yet all did not go well on the march . Time and again there were new dangers and frustrations: at the Red Sea, with the ever present concern about water and the unchanging diet of manna which they regarded as “miserable food” (Numbers 21:5).

Life’s ever present cycle of despair and hope is captured in the startling passage, “In every generation enemies rose up to destroy us, but the Holy One Blessed be He saved us from their hands.” It’s a stark reminder that life be it for nation or individual, is never a constant flow of happiness and joy. Inevitably failures and setbacks darken every life. Yet we humans are endowed with amazing adaptability to find the will and strength to move from darkness to light.

This year of the Coronavirus plague, the night of Passover will be different. Illness, quarantine, isolation and social distancing dictate that the Seder, the wonderful family reunion of three or four generations seated around the table, will be sorely missed. Many will forge virtual togetherness via Zoom or Skype; others will celebrate with spouses or live ins; and far too many are destined to celebrate a solo Seder.

In this dark and difficult period plagued with illness and death, with isolation and loneliness, with devastating economic impact, may Elijah’s Cup with its faith and assurance of tomorrow’s better day bless us with the strength and forbearance now demanded of us. L’shana haba’ah, next year and in years to come, may we celebrate our Seders as we have in the past.

From the holy city of Jerusalem my best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach a Shabbat of peace and blessing, and Chag Pesach Sameach, a meaningful Pesach celebration.

Rabbi Arnold M. Goodman
Senior Rabbinic Scholar

*This Shabbat is called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath. According to tradition it was on the Shabbat prior to the Exodus that the Israelites were instructed to take a lamb, a symbol of deity to Egyptians, into their homes, in preparation for the Pesach sacrifice, thereby demonstrating faith in God. The haftara, chosen from the writings of the prophet Malachi, makes reference to God sending Elijiah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of redemption. Hence the special name and designation of this Shabbat.