Torah reading for Shabbat HaGadol (The Great Sabbath)


Shabbat before the Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol (The Great Sabbath). The source of this name for comes from the Haftarah the reading from the Prophet Malachi 3:23, on this Shabbat.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. (Malachi 3:23)

Malachi is speaking of the day of salvation. Which is the “great and terrible day of the Lord.” The Passover, which is the ultimate day of salvation and redemption is the hallmark and the pattern of the final salvation and redemption. It is the model of what the final redemption of the World will look like as it is described in the book of Revelation. It will be a swift move of God, the destruction of the enemy and the deliverance of God’s people from slavery into freedom and from darkness into light. This day of the Lord will not be easy nor will it be pleasant until the very end when history will end and Para-History will begin for all of humanity. The traditional Jewish view point is expressed in the Talmud by Rabbi Yehoshua who said: “In Nissan the world was created … the bondage of our ancestors ceased in Egypt; and in Nissan the world will be redeemed in time to come.” (Babylonian Talmud Tractate Rosh HaShanah 11a)

According to tradition, Elijah has a primary role in the Messianic age, for this reason just on the Sabbath before the deliverance from Egypt we call is: Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath, remembering the text of Malachi and the promise of God for the ultimate salvation and redemption of the whole World.

It is tradition that the day that Israel left Egypt was on Thursay 15th day of Nissan.  God commanded to kill the Passover Lamb on the 14th day of Nissan.  It was on the 10th of Nissan that the Torah commands the Israelites to kill the Lamb.

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)

When the Israelite families each took a Lamb on the 10th day of the month it made the Egyptians very curious and they wanted to know what is going onThe Israelites pleaded with Pharaoh to release the Jews. When Pharaoh refused, Jewish tradition has it that the firstborn of Egypt rebelled and attacked their own parents. This is one of the consideration why this Sabbath is considered as the Great and terrible day of God. Therefore, the day is considered great, due to the miracle of God which was manifest and the subsequent unraveling of Egyptian society. By slaughtering the lamb which was an object of Egyptians worship, Israel gave the first event that demonstrated their liberation from Egyptian dominion and freedom from spiritual slavery.

When the LORD told Moses to slay the paschal lamb, according to Rabbinic tradition Moses answered: “If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us?” (Exodus 8:22) Tradition says that 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.'” On that night God did slaughter the first born of Egypt and their gods at the same time. The Midrash 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)

We find out that this act was not easy for the Israelites also, because they too worshiped the gods of Egypt as Joshua son of Nun said: “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!” (Joshua 24:14)

For this reason the Sabbath that precedes the 15th of Nissan that is the Passover is significant and is called Shabbat HaGadol – the Great Sabbath, and Malachi chapter 3:23is read in all the Synagogues.

In order to understand the idea we must remember first that Shabbat is a celebration of creation. Shabbat is the queen of all the holidays, and it the regulating force of both nature and humanity. The other biblical holidays are commemoration of historical events and agricultural seasons. The Passover actually begins on the 14th day of the month of Nissan that is according to the Biblical calendar the first month and the 14th day is the day of the first full moon of the Hebrew year. In essence, the Passover is a divine precept that starts the biblical calendar for the whole year. It is the beginning of the yearly system and it seems according to Malachi that the end of time will have some of the same elements like the beginning of the calendar. See the following text:

And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: “This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 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 12:1-3)

It looks like the sacrifice of the Lamb makes it a kind parallel for the Israelites like a sacrifice of of the symbol of time, or it could be said the sacrifice of the beginning of time that is also going to be the pattern of the end of time. The text of Malachi and Shabbat HaGadol before the Passover Holiday is a kind of RESET of time that counts the salvation and redemption from Egypt as a pre-curser of the salvation and redemption of the end of time. It gives time and our calendar a reminder that Time is controlled by God and it has a beginning and an end.

This article originally appeared as a part of The Jerusalem Prayer List by Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry, April 7, 2017, and reposted by permission.