Newsletter Parashat Tzav – Shabbat Hagadol

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Shabbat Hagadol
Divre Torah 
Rabbi Eli Mansour

Shabbat Hagadol

The Shabbat before Pesach is called "Shabbat
Hagadol," or "the Great Shabbat," a term that is generally
understood as a reference to the miracle that occurred in Egypt on the Shabbat
before Benei Yisrael's departure from Egypt. It was on that Shabbat, which fell
on the tenth of Nissan, that Benei Yisrael designated sheep for the Korban
Pesach (paschal offering) and tied them to their bedposts. The Egyptians
inquired as to the purpose behind this designation of sheep, which the
Egyptians worshipped as a pagan deity, and Benei Yisrael explained that they
prepared the sheep for a sacrificial offering to God. Despite this grave insult
to their deity, the Egyptians were powerless to oppose Benei Yisrael. They were
miraculously struck by a disease that required them to regularly visit the
restroom, thus impairing their ability to cause any harm to Benei Yisrael. 

In commemoration of this great miracle that occurred on the Shabbat before
Pesach on the year when Benei Yisrael left Egypt, we observe this Shabbat as a
special occasion and refer to it as "Shabbat Hagadol." 

Some have raised the question as to why we commemorate this miracle
specifically on the Shabbat before Pesach, rather than on the calendar date
when this miracle occurred – the tenth of Nissan. Why don't we observe a
commemoration on this date regardless of the day of week on which it falls? 

One answer suggests that it was specifically due to Benei Yisrael's observance
of Shabbat that the greatness of this miracle was felt. When they told the
Egyptians on that day of their plans to slaughter the sheep as a sacrifice, the
Egyptians believed them despite the fact that they did not slaughter the sheep
that day, because they understood that Benei Yisrael would not kill animals on
Shabbat. On the subsequent days, however, when the Egyptians saw that Benei
Yisrael were not yet slaughtering the sheep, they began to suspect that they
were bluffing all along. It was thus specifically on Shabbat when the Egyptians
sought to foil Benei Yisrael's plans but were miraculously prevented from doing
so, and for this reason we commemorate this miracle specifically on the Shabbat
before Pesach. 

Others explain that the tenth of Nissan marks yet another great miracle in
Jewish history – the splitting of the Jordan River when Benei Yisrael entered
the Land of Israel, as recorded in the Book of Yehoshua (chapter 3). In order
to make it clear that we commemorate the miracle in Egypt, and not the
splitting of the Jordan, we observe our commemoration on the Shabbat before
Pesach, rather than on the calendar date of the tenth of Nissan. 

The Chid"a (Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806) writes that on
this Shabbat people should extend to one another the greeting, "Shabbat
Hagadol Shalom" and then respond, "Shabbat Hagadol Shalom

There is a widespread custom for the Grand Rabbi of the congregation to deliver
on this Shabbat a special Derasha (lecture) devoted to the laws of Pesach and
discussions of the Haggada in preparation for the holiday. This is another
reason for calling this Shabbat "Shabbat Hagadol," which perhaps
means, "the Shabbat of the great person," referring to the Grand
Rabbi. Additionally, the Derasha delivered on Shabbat Hagadol is typically
lengthier than the Rabbi's usual lecture. (The late Chief Rabbi of the
Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, Chacham Yaakov Kassin A”H, would deliver his
Derasha on Shabbat Hagadol in Congregation Shaare Zion for several hours before
Mincha.) The term "Shabbat Hagadol" may thus refer to the
"great," or long, lecture that the Rabbi delivers on this Shabbat. 

Some Ashkenazim have the practice of reciting the Maggid section of the Haggada
on Shabbat Hagadol, in order to familiarize themselves with the Haggada in
preparation for the Seder. The Gaon of Vilna (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna,
1720-1797) opposed this practice, in light of the emphasis made in the Haggada
itself that the obligation to tell the story of the Exodus applies only on the
night of Pesach ("Lo Amarti Ela Be'sha'a She'yeish Matza U'marror Munachim
Lefanecha"). In any event, even for those of us who do not actually recite
the Haggada on Shabbat Hagadol, this Shabbat is an appropriate time to begin
reviewing the Haggada and prepare material for the Seder


The Significance of Shabbat Hagadol

Maran, in Shulhan Aruch, discusses the special
Shabbatot that precede Pesah and the various Halachot that apply on those days.
On Shabbat Shekalim, we take out an extra Sefer Torah and read the section of
Shekalim, just as on Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat before Purim, we read the
section of Zachor, and we read special portions from the Torah on Shabbat Para
and Shabbat Ha’hodesh. Interestingly, however, Maran also makes mention of the
Shabbat immediately preceding Pesah, which is called Shabbat Hagadol (“The
Great Shabbat”) because of the miracle that occurred on this Shabbat. Maran
makes mention of this Shabbat, even though there are no specific Halachot
associated with this Shabbat. There is no special reading from the Sefer Torah
on this Shabbat, and there are no special prayers, and yet Maran made a point
of mentioning in his Halachic code that this Shabbat is special and is called
Shabbat Hagadol. 

It is true that there are several customs observed by some communities on this
Shabbat. For example, many synagogues read a special Haftara on this Shabbat,
but this is not required according to the strict Halacha. Some Ashkenazim read
portions of the Haggadah on Shabbat Hagadol, but this, too, is just a custom,
and in fact the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, 1720-1797) was opposed to
the practice. 

The Hida (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1807) suggested that perhaps the
Halachic implications of the status of Shabbat Hagadol relates to greetings
extended to one another on this Shabbat. Instead of greeting one another with
the usual greeting of “Shabbat Shalom,” the Hida suggested that perhaps one
should instead extend the greeting, “Shabbat Hagadol Shalom,” and the other
should then respond, “Shabbat Hagadol Shalom U’meborach.” Still, it remains
unclear why Maran would make a point of mentioning Shabbat Hagadol if there are
no actual Halachot that apply on this Shabbat. 

Former Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, in his work Binyan Ab, suggested that
the practical significance of Shabbat Hagadol lies in the perspective it gives
us on the preparations for Pesah. On the Shabbat before the Exodus, which was
the 10th of Nissan, Beneh Yisrael were instructed to prepare a sheep for the
Korban Pesah (paschal sacrifice) which was slaughtered four days later, on the
14th of Nissan. In full view of the Egyptians, who worshipped sheep as an Aboda
Zara, Beneh Yisrael took a lamb and tied it to their bedpost, and they even
explained to the Egyptians what they were doing, that this animal would be
sacrificed to G-d. The Egyptians wanted to kill the people for desecrating
their deity, but G-d performed a miracle and made them powerless to cause Beneh
Yisrael any harm. 

Rav Bakshi-Doron noted that this miracle differed fundamentally from the ten
plagues. The ten plagues were brought directly by G-d, whereas the miracle of
Shabbat Hagadol came about through the people’s courage. It was through their
preparations for the Misva that a miracle happened. And the fact that G-d
performed a miracle during the preparation for the Misva, four days before the
actual performance of the Misva, is very significant. It demonstrates that even
the preparatory stages have great value; that even the work we do in
preparation for a Misva is laden with significance. And thus Maran made mention
of Shabbat Hagadol in Shulhan Aruch, to teach us the importance of preparing
for Pesah, by learning and teaching the Halachot and putting ourselves in the
proper frame of mind for the holiday. The miracle of Shabbat Hagadol teaches us
that it is not only the Misva itself that has value, but also the work we
invest beforehand preparing ourselves for the performance of the Misva.




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3/4 Apr



Q & A on Parashat Tzav

All references are to the verses and Rashi's commentary, unless otherwise stated.

  1. What separated the kohen's skin from the priestly garments?
    6:3 – Nothing.
  2. How often were the ashes removed from upon the mizbe'ach? How often were they removed from next to the mizbe'ach?
    6:4 –
    A) Every day.
    B) Whenever there was a lot.
  3. If someone extinguishes the fire on the mizbe'ach, how many Torah violations has he transgressed?
    6:6 – Two.
  4. The portion of a flour-offering offered on the mizbe'ach may not be chametz. But is the kohen's portion allowed to be chametz?
    6:10 – No.
  5. When a kohen is inaugurated, what offering must he bring?
    6:13 – A korban mincha — A tenth part of an ephah of flour.
  6. What three baking processes were used to prepare the korban of Aharon and his sons?
    6:14 – Boiling, baking in an oven and frying in a pan.
  7. What is the difference between a minchat kohen and a minchat Yisrael?
    6:15 – The minchat kohen is burned completely. Only a handful of the minchat Yisrael is burned, and the remainder is eaten by the kohanim.
  8. When is a kohen disqualified from eating from a chatat?
    6:19 – If he is tamei (spiritually impure) at the time of the sprinkling of the blood.
  9. What is the difference between a copper and earthenware vessel regarding removing absorbed tastes?
    6:21 – One can remove an absorbed taste from a copper vessel by scouring and rinsing, whereas such a taste can never be removed from an earthenware vessel.
  10. Can an animal dedicated as an asham be replaced with another animal?
    7:1 – No.
  11. How does an asham differ from all other korbanot?
    7:3 – It can only be brought from a ram or sheep.
  12. Unlike all other korbanot, what part of the ram or sheep may be placed on the mizbe'ach?
    7:3 – The tail.
  13. What three types of kohanim may not eat from the asham?
    7:7 – A t'vul yom (a tamei kohen who immersed in a mikveh yet awaits sunset to become tahor); A mechusar kipurim (a tamei person who has gone to the mikveh but has yet to bring his required offering); An onan (a mourner prior to the burial of the deceased).
  14. n which four instances is a korban todah brought?
    7:12 – Upon safe arrival from an ocean voyage; Upon safe arrival from a desert journey; Upon being freed from prison; Upon recovering from illness.
  15. Until when may a todah be eaten according to the Torah? Until when according to Rabbinic decree?
    7:15 –
    (a) Until the morning.
    (b) Until midnight.
  16. How does a korban become pigul?
    7:18 – The person slaughters the animal with the intention that it be eaten after the prescribed time.
  17. Who may eat from a shelamim?
    7:19 – Any uncontaminated person (not only the owner).
  18. What miracle happened at the entrance of the Ohel Moed?
    8:3 – The entire nation was able to fit in this very small area.
  19. Other than Yom Kippur, what other service requires that the kohen separate from his family?
    8:34 – The burning of the parah adumah (red heifer).
  20. What are the 5 categories of korbanot listed in this Parsha?
    Olah (6:2); mincha (6:7); chatat (6:18); asham (7:1); shelamim (7:11).
Halachot from Maran Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Ztz'l

ההלל בליל פסח – דין האנשים
ודין הנשים

בתוספתא (פ"ג דסוכה) שנינו: שמנה עשר יום ולילה
אחד קוראים בהם את ההלל, ואלו הם: שמונת ימי חג הסוכות, שמונת ימי חנוכה, יום טוב
הראשון של פסח, ולילו, ויום טוב של עצרת. וכן מבואר עוד בדברי חז"ל, ובמסכת
סופרים (פרק כ הלכה ט) שנינו: "ומצוה מן המובחר לקרות את ההלל בנעימה, לקיים
מה שנאמר וּנְרוֹמְמָה שְׁמוֹ יַחְדָּו

ומבואר אם כן שיש מקור למנהג הספרדים ובני ארץ ישראל,
שנוהגים לומר הלל שלם "בברכה" בליל פסח לאחר תפלת ערבית. וכן כתב הטור
(בסימן תעג): "ומה טוב ומה נעים המנהג שנוהגים לקרות ההלל בצבור בבית הכנסת
בליל פסח בברכה, ויש לו סמך במסכת סופרים

והנה הדבר ברור שעיקר אמירת ההלל בליל פסח היא משום
הנס של יציאת מצרים, שבו יצאנו מעבדות לחירות, וכמו שאמרו בירושלמי (פסחים פרק ה
הלכה ה): אמר רבי לוי, נתן הקדוש ברוך הוא כח בקולו של פרעה בלילה ההוא, והיה קולו
מהלך בכל מצרים, והיה אומר: קומו צאו מתוך עמי! לשעבר הייתם עבדי פרעה, מכאן ואילך
אתם עבדי ה'! באותה שעה פתחו ואמרו: הַלְלוּ יָהּ הַלְלוּ עַבְדֵי ה', ולא עבדי
פרעה! ובכל דור ודור חייב אדם לראות את עצמו כאילו הוא יצא ממצרים

ועוד טעם נוסף יש באמירת ההלל בליל פסח, שבני ישראל
בהיותם במצרים, היו אומרים את ההלל בשעה ששחטו את קרבן הפסח. ומנהג זה הובא הרבה
בדברי רבותינו האחרונים והמקובלים, שהאריכו בשבח המנהג לומר הלל בליל פסח לפני
הקידוש, כי יסודתו בהררי קודש. וכן נהגו רבים מגדולי גאוני אשכנז, ועל צבאם הגאון
בעל נודע ביהודה שהיה אומרו לאחר התפלה, אף שהציבור בעירו לא היו אומרים הלל, כי
נהגו כספק הרמ"א. (תשובה מאהבה סימן צ)

והנה בכל החגים, אין הנשים מברכות על קריאת ההלל,
שהרי ההלל הוא בכלל מצוות עשה שהזמן גרמן (שתלויות בזמן) שהנשים פטורות מהן, כמו
שכתבו התוספות במסכת סוכה (לח.), אבל בליל פסח, שהנשים חייבות בכל המצוות של ליל
הסדר, כתב מרן רבינו עובדיה יוסף זצוק"ל (יחוה דעת ח"ה סימן לד), שאף
הנשים צריכות לגמור את ההלל בברכותיו בליל פסח "לפני הקידוש", כלומר,
לפני תחילת ליל הסדר. וזהו הזמן היחידי בשנה שהנשים מברכות על ההלל, וצריכות לקרוא
את כולו בברכות ממש, שהרי אף הן היו באותו הנס, ואף הן מחוייבות בכל מצוות ליל
פסח, ואדרבא, הלא בזכות נשים צדקניות נגאלו ישראל ממצרים, ובזכותן עתידים להגאל

Hallel on the Night of
Pesach-The Laws Regarding Men and Women

Tosefta (Chapter 3 of Sukkah) states: “There are eighteen days and one night
throughout the year when the (complete) Hallel is recited, as follows: The
eight days of the Sukkot holiday, the eight days of Chanukah, the first day of
Pesach as well as the first night of Pesach, and on the holiday of Shavuot.”
Our Sages in Masechet Sofrim (Chapter 20, Halacha 9) states: “It is especially
worthy to recite the Hallel pleasantly in order to fulfill the verse, ‘And let
us exalt His name together.’”

The above
serves as the source for Sephardic Jews and the Jews of Israel who customarily
recite the complete Hallel with its blessings on the first night of Pesach
following the Arvit Amida prayer. Indeed, the Tur (Chapter 473) states: “How
good and pleasant is the custom of reciting the Hallel along with the
congregation in the synagogue on the first night of Pesach with its blessings;
there is indeed a source for this custom in Masechet Sofrim.”

reciting Hallel on the night of Pesach is because of the miracle of the exodus
from Egypt which is the time when Hashem delivered us from slavery to freedom,
as the Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesachim, Chapter 5, Halacha 5): “Rabbi Levi said: On
that night, Hashem made Pharaoh’s voice resound throughout the entire land of
Egypt and he said, ‘Get up and leave from the midst of my nation! Until now,
you were the slaves of Pharaoh. From this point on, you are now Hashem’s
slaves!” At that moment, the Jewish nation began to praise Hashem and said,
“Praise Hashem! Praise, oh servants of Hashem and not the servants of Pharaoh.”
Indeed, in every generation, one must envision as though he himself has left

reason for reciting the Hallel on the night of Pesach is because when the
Jewish nation was in Egypt, they recited the Hallel while slaughtering the
Pesach offering. This custom quoted by the great Acharonim and Mekubalim who
speak lengthily about the virtues of reciting the Hallel on the night of Pesach
before Kiddush. Several Ashkenazi luminaries observed this custom as well,
including the great Noda Bi’huda (Hagaon Rabbeinu Yechezkel Ha’Levi Landau,
head of the rabbinical court in Prague) who would recite the Hallel following
Arvit prayers although the custom of the people of that city was not to recite
Hallel on the night of Pesach in accordance with the ruling of the Rama. (See
Teshuva Me’Ahava, Chapter 90)

all other holidays, women do not recite a blessing before and after reciting
the Hallel, for Hallel is considered positive, time-bound Mitzvah which women
are exempt from performing based on the words of the Tosafot (Sukkah 38a).
Nevertheless, on the first night of Pesach when women are obligated in all of
the Mitzvot of the Seder night in the same manner as men, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia
Yosef zt”l writes (in his Responsa Yechave Da’at, Volume 5,
Chapter 34) that women are likewise obligated to recite the complete Hallel
along with its blessings before Kiddush, i.e. before the Seder begins. This is
actually the only time of year that Sephardic women may recite a blessing on
the Hallel and they must recite it completely along with its blessings,
beginning and end, since they were also included in this miracle and they are
likewise obligated in all of the Mitzvot of the Seder night. Indeed, in the
merit of righteous women, we were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt and in the
merit of righteous women shall we merit the Ultimate Redemption!  


Shabbat Shalom

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