This Shabbat, which comes immediately before Pesach, is termed “Shabbat HaGadol”, “the great Shabbat” or “the Shabbat of the big one”. Various theories have been purported for the origin of this name, including the tradition that the rabbi delivers and extra long sermon this week about all the Passover laws, and the occurrence of the word ‘HaGadol’ in our Haftarah. Others maintain that the name refers to the great event which occurred in Egypt on the Shabbat before the Exodus. This was the day that the Israelites found the courage and confidence to openly defy their Egyptian oppressors. They took the lambs to be used in their Paschal sacrifices and publicly set them aside for this purpose, advertising what they intended to do with them, despite the lamb being worshipped as a deity in Ancient Egypt.
As we remember our ancestors’ courage to stand up for their rights and demand their freedom, people around the world are standing up for their rights too. South of the border they are marching for tighter gun control to hopefully prevent the shootings occurring there way too often. Even traditional Jewish groups have made arrangements to spend Shabbat in the vicinity of the march, so that they can join in without violating Shabbat. Here in Hamilton, marches and counter-marches are planned for Locke Street this coming Sunday, as a response to the Locke Street violence Hamilton experienced a few weeks ago.
It’s all too easy to hide and wait for things to get better. But if we want things to improve, it’s up to us to improve them. Judaism is constantly calling us to take a stand and do what’s right, for us and for all those around us. Let’s be proud of our heritage, and make our ancestors proud of us!