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This Shabbos, the Shabbos preceding Pesach, is known as Shabbos HaGadol. There are several reasons given to explain the nature of this name.

Tosfos, in Shabbos 87b (d”h ve’oso) says that the reason for this name is due to the great miracle that occurred on that day, when the Jews were in Mitzrayim, as we will explore. The Gemara says that Yetziyas Mitzrayim took place on a Thursday. Bnei Yisrael shechted the Korban Pesach on the day before; Wednesday. They were obligated to take the lamb four days prior to shechting it, which would was on Shabbos. Tosfos quotes the Midrash Rabbah in Parshas Bo, that explains how on that Shabbos, when the Jews took lambs for their korbanos Pesachim, the firstborn Mitzriyim asked them what they were doing and why. The Jews responded that they were going to slaughter the lambs for a sacrifice to Hashem so the firstborn Mitzriyim would die. The firstborn Mitzriyim then pleaded to their fathers and to Pharaoh that the Jews should be set free. When the request was denied, the bechorim waged a civil war and killed many Mitzriyim. This is the meaning of the pasuk that we recite in Hallel gadol: Lemakeh Mitzriyim b’bechoreihem (ki l’olam chasdo) – To Him who hit the Mitzriyim through their firstborn. Generally, we understand this to mean that Hashem hit the firstborn of the Mitzriyim. But Tosfos is suggesting an alternate explanation; that Hashem hit the other Mitzriyim by turning the firstborn against them.


Now we need to ask ourselves, why is this relevant for future generations? Why is this worthy of even mentioning? Four days after this Hashem performed the greatest miracle of all, Maakas Bechoros, followed by Yetziyas Mitzrayim. Surely this civil war was not greater than the other ten makkos, and surely not Maakas Bechoros. This civil war likely appeared as a natural revolt of one group against another. Why then do we name the Shabbos for this event, which did not even look like it was Hashem’s Hand?

I would like to suggest that the reason why for generations to come we will always remember this great miracle is because it did not look like it was Hashem doing it. It’s greatness was that it looked natural. Bnei Yisrael were able to realize that although this appeared to be a natural uprising in fact it was the handy work of Hashem. They realized that just as it was Hashem who defied every natural law of physics throughout the ten plagues, so too it is Hashem who controls the insurgencies and insurrections, and causes our enemies to kill each other.

This is indeed an important lesson for us to remember. As the Gemara in Taanis 25a relates how Rabi Chanina ben Dosa found his daughter upset. When he asked her what was wrong she told him that she had bought vinegar instead of oil for the Shabbos candles. He famously told her, “the One who says that the oil should burn can say that vinegar should burn.” Well, she lit the vinegar and it indeed burned the whole Shabbos. We see that “natural” processes are just as much a miracle as miraculous ones, because Hashem is causing everything. That is bitachon. Bitachon is coming to the level of understanding that everything is orchestrated by Hashem.

Before Bnei Yisrael could merit the geula they had to develop bitachon in Hashem. Perhaps it was through this great “miracle” where Hashem caused a civil war that Bnei Yisrael reached the level of bitachon necessary to merit the geula. And that is why for all future generations we refer to this Shabbos as Shabbos HaGadol.

The Maharshal suggests that Shabbos HaGadol got its name from its Haftarah, which concludes with a pasuk that says that Hashem will send Eliyahu HaNavi to us before the great (gadol) and awesome day. The Shabbos that we read of such forecasting is named for the great day that we so await. May we reach the level of bitachon necessary for Hashem to end our long galus, and send Eliyahu HaNavi to greet us before the day of Hashem, the great and awesome.


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Rabbi Fuchs learned in Yeshivas Toras Moshe, where he became a close talmid of Rav Michel Shurkin, shlit”a. While he was there he received semicha from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, shlit”a. He then learned in Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, and became a close talmid of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”l. Rabbi Fuchs received semicha from the Mirrer Yeshiva as well. After Rav Shmuel’s petira Rabbi Fuchs learned in Bais Hatalmud Kollel for six years. He is currently a Shoel Umaishiv in Yeshivas Beis Meir in Lakewood, and a Torah editor and weekly columnist at The Jewish Press.