This Shabbes is Shabbes Hogodol. It’s the Shabbes directly before Peysekh, traditionally marked by a special sermon by the community rabbi. Last year, I heard an especially awe inspiring sermon about this special Shabbes, in which I was told that Shabbes Hogodol represents our love for G-d, and Shabbes Shuvah- the Shabbes between Rosh Hoshonah and Yom Kippur- represents our fear for Him. It was an amazing sermon which summarised our relationship with G-d through these two days, and I was reminded of it today, when I read something written by Rabbi Shaul Wolf, on the Chabad.org comments board for the summary of Parshas Tzav.
Parshas Tzav, which is, of course, this week’s Parsha, is all about the sacrifices in the Temple, and one commenter asked how this is relevant today. Rabbi Wolf replied, “The Talmud asks precisely that question, and answers that these days we have prayer as a substitute for offerings. In the temple there were three offerings a day; the morning offering, the afternoon offering, and the leftovers that were burnt in the evening. The Rabbis therefore instituted three prayers, morning, afternoon and evening prayers, corresponding to those daily sacrifices.
On a deeper level, just as an offering was consumed by the fire of the altar, causing the animal to become burnt, so too it is with prayer. This is the time when a person works on arousing his burning love for Hashem, and as a result “offers” all his animal traits and characteristics, allowing them to become consumed by his fiery love.”
Rabbi Wolf’s words on fiery love brought to mind the sermon about Shabbes Hogodol. That’s what this week’s Parsha is about; and that’s what this Shabbes is about, too. A coincidence? I think not. Instead, I think that love is everywhere in Judaism. It’s central to it. How can we best show love to G-d? Through loving our fellow. And so, this week, when love is at the forefront of our minds, both when we hear the weekly Torah portion, and the Shabbes Hogodol sermon, we should be thinking of ways we can show Ahavos Yisroel; love towards our fellow Jew. For it’s there that we can best show our love for G-d.
On the occasion of Peysekh 5777, I would like to extend my love not only to my family and friends but to all of Klal Yisroel. As we celebrate freedom at the Seyder this year, may we also merit to celebrate freedom from Golus and the arrival of Moshiach, may he come speedily and in our days!
With thanks to Rabbi Moshe Freedman and Rabbi Shaul Wolf for inspiring this dvar Torah.
Dedicated to the refuah shleimah of Chaim Elozor ben Baila and Chashachana bas Bryna.