Parshios Tzav & Pesach
The Great Shabat
The parsha of Tzav more often than not coincides with the Shabat preceding
Pesach – Shabat Hagadol, the “great Shabat.” At first glance there does not
seem to be any inherent connection between the parsha of Tzav and Shabat
Hagadol and Pesach. However, since Judaism little recognizes randomness or
happenstance regarding Jewish life, and certainly regarding Torah itself, a
further analysis of the parsha may reveal to us an underlying connection
between Tzav and Pesach.
I feel that this underlying theme lies in the description that the parsha
contains regarding the consecration of Aharon and his sons as the priests
and servants of God and Israel. Judaism teaches us that freedom equals
responsibility. Freedom without limits or purpose is destructive anarchy.
The entire narrative of the Torah regarding the construction of the Mishkan
and the institution of public worship/sacrifices came to emphasize to the
freed slaves from Egypt their newfound responsibilities.
The rabbis cogently and correctly defined freedom in terms of obligations
and study of Torah, as opposed to the alleged freedom of hedonism. The
consecration of Aharon and his sons coinciding with the consecration and
dedication of the Mishkan itself brought home to the Jewish people the
requirement of community service and national unity.
Look at the freedom movements that have arisen in the Middle East over the
past few years and the chaos and deaths of tens of thousands of people that
followed in their wake. The inability to create unity, to develop a moral
and tangible national goal mocks all pretenses of positive freedom. Without
Aharon and the Mishkan the promise of the freedom of Pesach would have
remained permanently unfulfilled.
Part of the lesson of the Great Shabat is that without Shabat, Jewish
freedom is only an illusion. Shabat is truly the epitome of freedom. The
absence of workday activities, the sense of family and friends, and of the
contentment that Shabat engenders all combine to create a vision of true
freedom that is attainable and real.
The Great Shabat that precedes Pesach gives it its true meaning and places
the anniversary of our freedom from Egyptian bondage into holy perspective.
Freedom to toil 24/7 is only a different form of slavery. When Saturday
looks like Tuesday but only more so since school is out and the burdens of
car pooling and “having a good time” are even greater, then that cannot even
remotely be related to true freedom.
In reality every Shabat is the Great Shabat and the Shabat preceding Pesach
is even more so. Shabat Hagadol represents the miracle that blessed our
forefathers in Egypt when they took the Paschal lamb and the Egyptians did
not object. But the true and ultimate miracle of Shabat Hagadol is Shabat
itself. It has preserved the Jewish people throughout the ages in the face
of opposing innumerable odds and challenges. It is in the realization of our
freedom that we are able to properly appreciate and give tribute to Shabat -
Shabat Hagadol, the Great Shabat that we now commemorate so joyfully and
Pesach kasher v’sameach
Rabbi Berel Wein