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During the Second Temple, the Greek empire reigned (over Israel),1 and they (the Greeks) passed decrees against the Jews and (tried) to erase their religion, and did not allow them to carry out Torah (study) or the commandments. They put their hands on their property and their daughters. They entered the Temple, destroyed and made the pure unclean. The Jews were in great distress because of them and were much oppressed, until the G-d of their fathers had mercy on them, delivering them from their hands and saving them. Then overcame, the sons of the Hasmonean High Priest, (the Greeks) and killed them and saved the Jews from their hands. They appointed a king from the Priests, and the kingdom of Israel was restored for more than 200 years until the destruction of (the) second (Temple). When the Jews overcame their enemies and destroyed them, it was the 25th of Kislev2 when they entered the Sanctuary (inner room) and did not find pure (olive) oil in the Temple, except one jar sealed with seal of the High Priest, and it did not contain enough to light except for one day only. But they lit from it the lamps of the Menorah3 for eight days, until they could crush olives and produce a (new quantity) of pure oil. For these reasons, decreed the Sages of that generation that these eight days that begin on the 25th Kislev, will be days of joy and praise. One lights on them lamps at evening at the entrance to the houses, every evening of the eight nights to show off and demonstrate the miracle. These days are called ''Hanukah'' that is to say ''they rested'' (chanu) on the ''25'' ('th of the month) because on the 25th they rested from their enemies. and also because of those days they (re)-dedicated the house (Temple) which their foes had defiled. Also some say that it is a commandment to increase slightly the festive meals on Hanukah. Another reason is because the work of (building) the Sanctuary (in the desert) was completed in these days. One should tell one's children the story of the miracles that were done for our fore-fathers in those days, (see Josephus) However, these meals are not considered as part of the commandment unless one says at the meal songs of praise. One should increase charity in these Hanukah days, for this can help mend any defects in our souls. This charity, should be given particularly to poor Torah scholars. (KSA 139:1)
1) 352 BCE until 70 CE
2) 139 BCE
3) The Menorah was made of gold and had seven branches.
We read this week, in the Haftorah, the very last chapter of the prophets.
The last verse famously describes how Eliyahu HaNavi will come 'and restore the hearts of the fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers…'
Why is this relevant to Shabbos HaGadol, the Shabbos preceding Pesach?
The Skverer Dayan, Rav Steinmetz, offers a creative interpretation of a verse in Tzav that shed lights on this question.
Tzav — Command, es Aharon, Aharon, v'es banav — and his sons, laymor —saying: zos toras — this is the law of haOleh — the elevation-offering.
Although this verse is merely a teaching being instructed to Aharon regarding the details of how to offer the Oleh, it has a homiletic meaning as well.
Command Aharon, to implement the instrument of v'es — the word 'es' used as a connecter between two subjects, prefaced with a vov, which is the letter of connection — banav — to first bond with his children, laymor — to effectively convey lessons, zos toras — this is the sole method of teaching, haOleh — the world oleh often is used to mean 'successful' — that will bring results in inculcating children with Torah.
The Toras Kohanim states that the verb Tzav — command, is implemented to connote extra zealousness in carrying out a directive especially when there is a situation of חיסרון כיס— monetary loss, being that the Oleh is totally consumed by fire on the Altar, with the Kohanim receiving no meat.
The Dayan cleverly interprets this idea as relating to those times when a parent 'takes off from work' to spend time with the children in preparation for Yom Tov, hoping to instill within them many vital practical Torah lessons and positive attitudes, yet oftentimes find themself challenged by the pressures and tensions associated with the myriad of details to tackle, that turn into conflict and stress.
It is in these moments that the message of 'v'es', to focus on the need to bond, is so vital to succeeding.
The goal of Pesach is to 'tell the story' of the redemption to our children.
If we are to succeed in inculcating within our children the depths of our faith, we must remain ever conscious of our mission to 'restore the hearts of the fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers', conveying love despite the difficulty in the task, because without that our greatest efforts will fall on deaf ears.
There are many suggestions as to why we call this Shabbos, Shabbos 'HaGadol'.
Avraham Avinu is called 'the אדם הגדול — greatest man among the 'Anakim' — giants. (יהושע יד טו)
Avraham is the paradigm father, who was selected for that honored role precisely because 'he commands his children and his household after him that they keep the way of Hashem'. (בראשית יח יט)
On this Shabbos as we prepare for the upcoming Sedorim and reassert the critical need to 'return the hearts of the children', we conjure up the inspiring image of that 'giant' among men, the father of our nation, hoping to emulate his skill in carrying the message forward.
Indeed, the Shabbos of 'The' Gadol!
How did he accomplish that task? What can we learn from his methodology?
Ironically, the very first celebration of Pesach alluded in the Torah, was that of Lot in Sedom who shared his Matzah with the visiting angels. Who was his 'father'? To which children did he convey the message of Matzah to? Was he successful?
These and other questions will be explored, G-d willing, at the Shabbos HaGadol drasha. (6:20PM)
Hope to see you as we journey to discover the 'secret' to fulfilling this vital command!
צבי יהודה טייכמאן