ADAPTED FROM AISH.COM BUT EDITED BY ME! The Shabbat prior to Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol. The source of the term is unclear as it is not found in the Tanach or Talmudic literature, though in the Middle Ages a number of authorities occupied themselves with explaining the origin of the term. One approach sees Shabbat HaGadol as originating with the special Haftorah, specifically the verse which refers to a day in the future which will be gadol, meaning "great." ''Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.'' (Malachi 3:23) The prophet speaks of the day of redemption in the future. Passover, which represents the day of redemption of antiquity, serves as the archetype of the future redemption. Therefore the Talmud teaches: Rabbi Yehoshua says: "In Nissan the world was created ... the bondage of our ancestors ceased in Egypt; and in Nissan they will be redeemed in time to come." (Talmud Rosh HaShana 11a) The tradition, which accords Elijah a primary role in the Messianic age, calls upon us to read the portion of the prophet which alludes to that "great" day. * * * THE EXODUS TIMETABLE Other commentaries look back to the past for an explanation for the term. The Talmud teaches that the day the Jews left Egypt -- the 15th of the month of Nissan -- was a Thursday, and the 10th of the month was the previous Shabbat: As to Nissan in which the Israelites departed from Egypt, on the fourteenth they killed their Passover sacrifices, on the fifteenth they went forth, and in the evening [of the 15th] the firstborn were smitten... and that day was a Thursday. (Shabbath 87b) The significance of the 10th is mentioned in the Torah: Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, "In the tenth day of this month they shall take every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for a house." (Exodus 12:3) Tosfot point out that by taking the lamb, the Jews piqued the interest, and the ire, of the firstborn of Egypt. They pleaded with Pharaoh to release the Jews. When he refused, the firstborn rebelled and attacked their own parents. Therefore the day is considered great, due to the miracle of God which was manifest and the subsequent unraveling of Egyptian society. Furthermore, by slaughtering the object of Egyptians worship, the Jews liberated themselves from the chains of spiritual slavery. When the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moses to slay the paschal lamb, Moses answered: "Lord of the Universe! How can I possibly do this thing? Do You not know that the lamb is the Egyptian god? As it says: If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us?" (Shmos 8:22) God replied: "As you live, Israel will not depart from here before they slaughter the Egyptian gods before their very eyes, that I may teach them that their gods are really nothing at all.'" This is what He [God] actually did, for on that night He slew the Egyptian firstborn and on that night the Israelites slaughtered their paschal lamb and ate it. When the Egyptians beheld their firstborn slain and their gods slaughtered, they could do nothing, as it says: While the Egyptians were burying them that the Lord had smitten among them, even all their firstborn; upon their gods also the Lord executed judgment. (Midrash Rabbah - Exodus 16:3) God then said to Moses: "As long as Israel worship Egyptian gods, they will not be redeemed; go and tell them to abandon their evil ways and to reject idolatry." This is what is meant by: Draw out and take you lambs. That is to say: Draw away your hands from idolatry and take for yourselves lambs, thereby slaying the gods of Egypt and preparing the Passover; only through this will the Lord pass over you. This is the meaning of In sitting still and rest shall you be saved. (Midrash Rabbah - Exodus 16:2) The taking of the lambs was significant on another level as well. The Jews were now occupied with performance of a Divine decree; aside from the rejection of the Egyptian gods they were now actively fulfilling God's command. * * *

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