June 18, 2024
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Shabbos HaGadol: God’s Protection, Our Responsibility

Weekly Torah Insights: OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer on Shabbos Hagadol—G-d’s Protection, Our Responsibility.

Protection and security are recurring themes around Pesach. The name of the festival itself—Pesach—recalls how Hashem protected the Jews, passing over our homes as He struck the Egyptians. That security extends to the present, making it customary that on seder night—the leil shimurim (night of protection)—we lessen our man-made protections by not double-locking our doors or saying the full bedtime shema (see OC 481:2, Magen Avraham). The mezuzah that adorns our doorposts and safeguards our homes year-round commemorates the security attained by the original placement on our doorposts of the blood of the Pesach (see Ramban Shemos 13:16).

This is a concept we may struggle to relate to as Jews everywhere experience a feeling of enhanced vulnerability. Can we really see this as a night and a season of protection? This is a hard question that we can attempt to address, not to answer.

The aspect of divine protection is only one facet of the leil shimurim. As Ibn Ezra and Ramban (Shemos 12:42) noted, the shmira of which we speak, besides describing Divine protection we received, refers as well to shmiras mitzvos, our own safeguarding and observance of the many mitzvos connected to Pesach. The critical food of the evening is matzah shmura, matzah that we must protect from leavening throughout its preparation. What we experienced that night was something that we do not merit to see in a visible manner in our day-to-day lives, as our shmiras mitzvos(observance) invited G-d’s shmirah (protection) in response.

This is also the known theme of Shabbos HaGadol, commemorating the Shabbos preceding the Exodus when we observed G-d’s command to set aside the Pesach offering despite its exposing us to the wrath of the Egyptians. The greatness of this Shabbos lies in this miracle of reciprocity, of G-d extending His protection to those who stood up to safeguard His command.

We must not be simplistic and expect to see in our world that elegant correlation between our actions and our fate. The miracles of the Exodus were singular in history and have yielded to a life where bad things seem all-too-frequently to happen to very good people. Yet in the shadows of the search for an elusive appreciable reciprocity lies the opportunity to fulfill our clear responsibility, to do good for G-d, to safeguard that which is precious to Him, until that day soon when—as we did when we left Egypt—we will be able to see so clearly how He has been caring for us.


Rabbi Moshe Hauer is executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.

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