Will your rabbi be sermonising to you in Yiddish this Shabbat?
It’s that time of year again, folks. Pesach is nearly upon us, and we need to remind ourselves of our duties.
On Shabbat Hagadol we read a special haftorah, from the book of Malachi, which contains the verse: “Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.” [Malachi 3:23].
The history of this is interesting. Elijah is traditionally the harbinger of the Messiah, who it is said would be more likely to come and bring redemption on one of the foot-festivals, like Pesach, Shavuot or Sukkot.
This passage used to be read before all three of those festivals, since they were the most apposite seasons.
However, Pesach has more associations with Elijah and redemption than the any other time of year.
This is why the Shabbat before Pesach became the one occasion we read that haftorah, although Zedekiah ben Abraham Anav (1210 – c. 1280) writes in his Shibbolei Haleket that this applies to every festival.
Other reasons are given for this special Shabbat. This was the first Mitzvah given to us Jews as a people.
The Egyptians also learnt of the final plague on this day and their firstborn actually fought Pharaoh trying (unsuccessfully) to gain our release.
We turned from idolatrous practices to God who is great (gadol). This is also the day when a very long sermon (once in Yiddish in more traditional shuls) makes the day feel equally long.
Traditionally, we read the Haggadah over mincha, to get ourselves ready for the upcoming festival.
Wishing you a happy and kosher Pesach.
Zvi Solomons is the rabbi of JCoB.org, in Reading. Contact him on 07828 742 282 if you need a Seder place this Pesach.