Shabbat HaGaddol Leviticus 6:1–8:36
This year, Parashat Tzav is also Shabbat HaGaddol — the last Shabbat before Passover.
On Monday night, we will all sit down to our first Pesach seder. We’ll ask questions, have discussions, eat special foods, and sing traditional songs. As we read the hagada, memories surround us.
Under my grandfather’s leadership, the seder began at precisely the correct time (after his return from evening services) and rarely ended before 2 a.m.
As my father took over the leadership, the family repertoire of sayings and jokes increased. Each year, for example, my dad would comment on the prolific growth of the children of Israel, saying, “we’re a sexy people!”
As I now lead the seder, our family traditions continue to grow. We all remember the time when Mercury (our African Grey Parrot) stole the afikomen as it was about to be hidden. We remember and laugh each year about the time when — well, you fill in the blank here, for we all have our stories that embellish the retelling of our personal liberation from slavery — the day when God brought us out of Egypt “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm….”
In today’s hurried world, some may become tempted to rush through the seder. The babies need to get to sleep, the kids have school tomorrow, or some other excuse causes us to finish the meal early and go home — back to the secular world, with hardly a nod the to sacred space we can create around the seder table.
During the Maggid — telling the story — we say, “In every generation we are obligated to view ourselves as if we are leaving Egypt,” saying that we should view ourselves as if we are leaving “now!” This clearly tells us that the seder is an experience to be felt. We attempt to feel it now. We can do this by absorbing ourselves in the mitzvot of the seder. We eat what they ate, talk about that which they focused upon, and sing praises to God as they did.
As we join with our families once again this year, let us all recall our own history — how we have, each year, been liberated from our own forms of slavery. Let us all — this year and throughout the years — feel the redemption that Pesach brings and that we revel in our need and joy to sing God’s praises.
May the One who established peace in the heavens, grant peace to us, to all Israel and to all humanity.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)