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A Dvar Torah for Shabbat HaGadol

A Dvar Torah for Shabbat HaGadol: The Shabbat Before Pesach
By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman © March 31, 2023

The Shabbat before Pesach is referred to by the sages as "Shabbat HaGadol," which is to say, the "Great Shabbat." Think about it, what could be greater than the Shabbat before the Exodus from Israel? Every Shabbat HaGadol, those with emunah feel the increased power of miracles awakened again as we recall the Exodus. And not only the Exodus from Mizraim or Egypt, but all of the Exodus' HaShem has delivered us from and through! There have been so many! May we all prepare ourselves for the miracles of Shabbat HaGadol this year! A year when God's protection and guidance is so crucial and so needed!

We were in Egypt when Israel celebrated the first Shabbat Ha-Gadol. It was on the tenth day of Nissan, five days before the redemption. On that day, Israel was given their first commandment, which applied only to that Shabbat and not to future generations: On the tenth day of this month [Nissan]... each man is to take a lamb for his household, a lamb for each home (Exodus 12:3). This was in preparation for the miracle of Pesach.

What did HaShem require of us for this miracle? The sacrifice and eating of the lamb represent personal teshuvah. We had to repent and obey Hashem's instructions. The reason the Exodus is the fundamental story of the Jewish people is that throughout our generations, we face persecution and genocide, and in every generation, HaShem parts the waters of our 'reed seas' and leads us ever towards the Promise Land of the Olam Haba, the Messianic World to Come.

David knew this truth well! He lived with hope and betrayal, sin or redemption. At Likutey Moharan II, 73 Rebbe Nachman of Breslov reveals a great secret:

At some level, everyone wants to revere God's Name, but not everyone knows how to repent. Sometimes a person feels no arousal whatever. Even when someone is aroused to repent, he may not reach his unique gate of Teshuvah; even if he does, it could be that the gate is closed. This is why not everyone attains repentance.

But through reciting the Psalms, even one who feels no arousal can be inspired to repent. The Psalms transport us to our unique gate and open it up, thereby bringing us to Teshuvah.

For this reason, King David called himself "the man who raised the yoke," hence, he is known as the sweet singer of Israel" as it says in II Samuel 23:1. Our sages explain that David called himself "the man who raised the yoke" because he elevated the yoke of repentance through his own Teshuvah. David was a great Tzaddik or holy person, so he should not have sinned, but the sage says God caused him to sin to teach everyone the Way of Teshuvah. King David was the prime exemplar of Teshuvah or repentance. His Way is made plain in the Psalms, which he wrote with such a spirit of holiness that everyone could find themselves in them and thereby return to God.

Consider David's Tehilim or Psalm 51. May we see ourselves and improve through his words:
For the leader. A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had come to Bathsheba.
This is discussed in II Samuel 12. David cries out:
Have mercy upon me, O God, as befits Your faithfulness; in keeping with Your abundant compassion, blot out my transgressions.
As befits Your faithfulness! It is God's Will to forgive! To grant absolution to His children. But we must choose to accept it. By accepting His forgiveness, His glory, and faithfulness are exalted. He wants to bless and forgive us, but we must accept it. We must, along with David, say:
Wash me thoroughly of my iniquity, and purify me of my sin; I recognize my transgressions and am ever conscious of my sin.

Against You alone have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are just in Your sentence, and right in Your judgment.
The Way of teshuvah or repentance is acknowledging reality. Admitting that God's ways are the best and that we have left the derech, the Way, and wish to be restored and returned to His Will. David left the derech at times, he sinned, just like you and I, but he always returned to the Way of God and received forgiveness. Perhaps you're thinking; this doesn't sound Jewish to me! This sounds Christian! All this talk about sin and repentance. Where do you think they got it? Yeshua and his followers were all Jews. OK, so you don't like them. Was David a good Jew? The best! And this is coming from his heart to ours.
Indeed I was born with iniquity; with sin my mother conceived me.

Indeed You desire the truth about what is hidden; teach me wisdom about secret things.
Do you want to attain devekut? Attachment and proximity with God? If so, all He requires from us is the truth. To acknowledge the truth of who we are. This is teshuvah. But how do we do this? The Scriptures are clear that we do not even know the truth! That the heart is deceitful, as Jeremiah 17:9 acknowledges. That " there is not a righteous person on earth who continually does good and never sins, as it says in Ecclesiastes 7:20. Can someone take our sins away? No. As the Scripture says in Ezekiel 18:20-24, The one who sins will pay for his sins one way or another. A son can not pay for his father's sins nor the father his son's. David knew this and so said:
Purge me with hyssop till I am pure; wash me till I am whiter than snow.

Let me hear tidings of joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins; blot out all my iniquities.

Fashion a pure heart for me, O God; create in me a steadfast spirit.

Do not cast me out of Your Presence or take Your Ruach Hakodesh or Holy Presence away.

Let me again rejoice in Your help; let a vigorous spirit sustain me.

I will teach transgressors Your ways, that sinners may return to You.

Save me from bloodguilt, O God, God, my deliverer, that I may sing forth Your beneficence.
Only HaShem can do this! He casts us down, but He raises us back up. As HaShem says in the Song of Moshe: "See now that I Myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death, and I bring to life, I have wounded, and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand," Deuteronomy 32:39. To Him alone do we look, and in Him alone do we trust! We say, "Adonai! Sefatiye tiftah, ufiy yaggiyd tehillatecha."
O Lord, open my lips and let my mouth declare Your praise.
This is the prayer we say before the Amida. It is taken from this Psalm: "Adonai! Sefatiye tiftah, ufiy yaggiyd tehillatecha:O Lord, open my lips, and let my mouth declare Your praise." This is teshuvah, and this is the Way of God, the Derech Shem. Trust in no one but HaShem. David continues:
You do not want me to bring sacrifices; You do not desire burnt offerings;

True sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; O God, You will not despise a contrite and humbled heart.

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