It was a late afternoon in the spring and Rav Moshe Feinstein sighed.
Then, he sighed again even louder.
His driver didn’t know what to make of it.
“What’s wrong, Rebbe?” he asked.
Rav Moshe explained, “Chazal (Rosh HaShanah 11a) say that in the month of Nissan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt, and in Nissan we will be redeemed in the future. Today is the last day of Nissan, the day will soon expire and Mashiach hasn’t come yet. Every year I have a special hope that the Geulah will arrive in Nissan and it appears that once again this year will not be the year. This is why I sigh.”
Of course, Mashiach can arrive on any day, as we say in Ani Maamin, “achakeh lo b’chol yom sheyavo – I will await his arrival each and every day,” but during the month of Nissan he can come more easily. The rest of the year we have to work harder to earn Mashiach’s appearance.
The reason why Mashiach can come more easily is because Nissan comes from the root of nes, which means miracle. It is the time when we experienced the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim, and we hope that it will experience the many miracles of Geulah again.
This is one of the reasons behind the haftorah for Shabbos HaGadol, the Shabbos before Pesach.
The haftorah is taken from the very last chapter of Nevi’im. Trei Asar contains the prophecies of Twelve Prophets, all of whom lived in the period of time spanning from the last years of the first Beis HaMikdash until the time just prior to the building of the second Beis HaMikdash. The last prophet in the Trei Asar is Malachi and his last message, which is the final message of all the nevi’im in Tanach, is that we should return to Hashem, that we yearn and hope for Eliyahu HaNavi’s arrival heralding the era of Mashiach.
Here are the very last pesukim (famous for being sung by the musical group Dveykus – in fact I’m fairly confident you will be singing the tune in your head as you read the words):
“Hinei Anochi sholei’ach lachem es Eliyahu HaNavi lifeni bo yom Hashem, hagadol vehanorah. V’heishiv lev avos al banim, v’lev banim al avosom, (the next few words are not part of the famous song) pen avo v’hikeisi es ha’aretz cherem, I will send you Eliyahu the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem. And he will turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction” (Malachi 3:23-24).
One of the reasons the Shabbos before Pesach is called Shabbos HaGadol, the Great Shabbos, is because the word hagadol is used in these pesukim as a reference to the great day of Mashiach’s arrival. We wish to highlight the great miracles we experienced at the redemption from Egypt, and acknowledge that we wait to experience the ultimate redemption. We had an original Shabbos HaGadol and we will have a Yom HaGadol. This was the last message of the Navi. It is a message to use to always have hope because Mashiach will be coming.
The pasuk (22) just before these pesukim mentions a famous phrase, “Zichru Toras Moshe Avdi— remember the Torah, all of the full teachings of Moshe, my servant.” A friend of mine once commented that this is an extremely vital message for Klal Yisrael. The message the Navi was giving over as we began a long exile and era without the gift of nevuah is that we should never forget the truth that is Torah.
During the long exile, the Navi tells us, you will be challenged to surrender your beliefs. Christianity will rise with their so-called “holy books” as will Islam and other so-called new religions. Always remember the one and only truth of the Torah given to us by Hashem through Moshe. Don’t fall victim to what other nations claim as truth. Their religions have their foundation in ours and we must never abandon what we know to be true. Zichru Toras Moshe Avdi!
Some have a custom to recite this phrase three times immediately after havdalah on Motzei Shabbos. It is said that reciting it then can help you remember the Torah you have studied. Perhaps a deeper understanding of is the following: Leaving Shabbos and entering the week without proper preparation is dangerous to our spirituality. Rav Tzadok HaKohein explains that immediately after havdalah we are returning to the mundane week, and we are scared that we might falter in our spiritual challenges. We face the ordinary and the routine, and we are afraid of the challenges the yetzer hara throws at us without the ever-present kedusha of Shabbos as a background. This is why we say the “Hinei Keil Yeshu’asi” pesukim before havdalah as they refer to the salvation we require. It is also the reason why we add a request to Atah Chonantanu: “Avinu Malkeinu, hachel aleinu ha’yamim ha’ba’im likroseinu l’shalom, chasuchim mikol cheit, umenukim mikol avon u’medubakim b’yirasecha — Our Father, our King, initiate for us the days approaching us for peace, free from all transgression, clean from all sin, and attached to the fear of You.”