Shabbat Tsav & Shabbat Hagadol

Candles - Friday, March 23rd @ 6:51pm
Havdalah - March 24th @ 7:47pm

The Shabbat before Pesah is called Shabbat HaGadol,
the Great, or Important, Shabbat.

It is not mentioned in the Torah or the Talmud. As a custom, it appears in the medieval Tur Shulhan Aruh where this reason is given. The Israelites in Egypt were commanded to prepare a lamb for the Pesah sacrifice days before the plague of the First Born and the Exodus which occurred on Shabbat. This was an open affront to Egyptians who worshipped sheep. Yet miraculously there were no reprisals. Another reason given is that Haftorah on Shabbat HaGadol mentions “That great and awesome day when God will usher in a new era of freedom, peace and understanding.” One reason in the past and one in the future. History and redemption.

But there are other possibilities. The sectarian Samaritans, Sadducees and Karaites both thought that Pesah should always fall on Shabbat. The counter custom developed to make sure that no one mistook this Shabbat before Pesah for the First Day of Pesah itself, by calling it Shabbat HaGadol instead. Similarly, Christians celebrated the Holy Weekend before Easter as a Great Sabbath (others called it the Black Sabbath). That was why we called the Shabbat before Pesah the Great Shabbat to distinguish ours from theirs.

It was also the custom for Rabbis to give only two sermons during the year in the synagogue (as opposed to the Study Houses). Before Yom Kippur on Shabbat Shuvah and before Pesah on Shabbat HaGadol. The one before Pesah was long because the rabbi spoke at length about the complicated laws of Hametz and Matzah. Because the sermon sent on for so long that was why it was called Shabbat HaGadol. Nowadays when rabbis often speak for too long all year round most congregants would probably prefer to call it Shabbat Hakatzar. The short, not the long!

If you need to sell your Hametz at home or your office, please email me authorizing me to do it for you and specify the location of the Hametz.


Pesah Timetable 2018

Thursday evening, March 29th: Bedikat Hametz
Search for Hametz after 8pm

Friday, March 30th: 
Stop eating Hametz by 10:54am
Burn Hametz by 11:57am

Friday Night Candles @ 7:01pm
1st Seder Night

Saturday, March 31st: Pesach 1st Day
Shabbat Morning Service @ 9:30 am

Candles Second Day @ 8:08 pm
2nd Seder Night
Start Counting the Omer @ 8:40pm

Sunday, April 1st:  2nd Day Pesah
Sunday Morning Service @ 9.30am
Havdalah @ 8:10pm

Thursday, April 5th: 7th Day Pesah Candles @ 7:07pm

Friday, April 6th: Morning Service @ 9:30 am
Friday, April 6th: Candles @ 7:08 

Saturday, April 7th: Pesah 8th Day
Shabbat Morning Service @ 9:30am
Havdalah - Pesah Ends @ 8:17pm

Happy Pesah, wherever you are!


Shabbat Vayikra

Candles - Friday, March 16th @ 6:51pm
Havdalah - March 17th @ 7:40pm

Rosh Hodesh Nisan
Shabbat HaHodesh

The Book of Vayikra that we begin this week, introduces the subject of sacrifices. Something that was considered the natural way to worship God then, and still is in parts of the world today. But the idea no longer makes make much sense to us. Even the Biblical Prophets complained that the Israelites thought that giving sacrifices was more important than being a good person. That they could commit all sorts of crimes and think that coming to the Temple and sacrificing, would atone for their crimes.

In the English language, a sacrifice means giving up something (hopefully for a good reason). To sacrifice one’s pawn in a game of chess. To sacrifice one’s life for a cause. To sacrifice a career or a relationship. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, Korban, means to get closer to someone. You give in order to achieve something. Now we know full well that it is easy to give a present in the hope of getting love or preference in return. But the real achievement is to strengthen a relationship by giving of oneself, time, love, energy, effort.

In more primitive societies the simple act of giving an animal was regarded as the best way to show love or commitment. We do it to God by giving time, by communicating through prayer and meditation. And that is the lesson we can learn today from sacrifices.

The Torah divided sacrifices into three categories. The first was to demonstrate our commitment to God and to maintain the Sanctuary on behalf of the community. We do this now by supporting religious and communal institutions and Israel.

The Second was to atone for failures and mistakes. But as the Torah says, this only works if we really mean it. If it is just a way out, it is meaningless.

The third was to show gratitude to family, friends, those who help us and support for the poor.

But what really matters is the intent, the feeling. If a sacrifice, a donation, a present is just an act, without love or commitment, without the desire to be a better person, a better partner, a better friend, it is as misguided and pointless as thinking that money buys love.

* * *

If you need to sell your Hametz at home or your office, please email me authorizing me to do it for you and specify the location of the Hametz.


Shabbat Vayakhel & Pekudei

Shabbat Parah
Shabbat Mevarhin Rosh Hodesh Nisan (next Shabbat)

Candles - March 9th @ 5:36pm
Havdalah - March 10th @ 6:32pm

The two combined parts of the Torah we read this week are all concerned with designing, building and dedicating the Tabernacle. It makes technical and dull reading unless you are an architect or an interior designer. But as always, beneath the surface, there are some important themes.

Whereas most of the Torah is concerned with personal behavior, moral and ethical values, this week we are concerned with community and the community buildings. Everyone, male and female, was involved in the construction in one way or another and the financing was based both on a communal tax and personal contributions of goods or skills. Honesty and trust, says the Torah, was the primary condition of both of the donors, the collectors and the contractors. The Mishkan was not just a building that housed the religious center but also the judicial. It was the symbol of Jewish life.

But as we know, putting up buildings will only achieve something of value, if what goes on inside is of value. Times change. The public buildings disappeared. What was left? Us!

That is why the rabbis called our homes a Mikdash Me’At, a mini Tabernacle. And what we learn from this is the qualities needed to construct the Tabernacle are those we need to build and decorate our homes. Spiritual as well as physical.

This is the secret of our survival now. Home life and home values, that require the same qualities, dedication, commitment, contribution, honesty and hard work as the Tabernacle did. And that is why every time the Torah describes the Tabernacle it also reiterates the command of Shabbat. For it is Shabbat that took priority over public life and encourages us to focus on being together, at home, with our families, to invest in our Jewish life.