Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

The Shabbat of our Greatness

The Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat hagadol, the Shabbat of the greatness , often wrongly translated (also by Israelis) as the great Shabbat (which would be: haShabbat hagadolah). (So  the greeting is not: Shabbat gadol shalom, but: Shabbat hagadol veshalom.)

There is a dispute in the Talmud if the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was on the sixth or the seventh day of Sivan, but all the Sages agree that it was on a Shabbat. Why not call that Shabbat the Shabbat of Greatness?

My answer: the giving of the Torah on that Shabbat was coincidental. It says more about our readiness to accept it (it was postponed from the previous day because we weren’t ready) than about the Shabbat.

But what then was so special about the Shabbat before our exodus from Egypt? The standard answer is that we bought the symbol, the main idol of Egypt, announcing we were going to slaughter it in four days, infuriating the Egyptians but by a Miracle they could not hurt us. However, Miracles happen all the time – we were just after nine of the Ten Plagues. There should be more to this.

What was so special was that we started doing Commandments. We were already keeping Shabbat for a long time, but now we started violating this one: we did business, tied the sheep to our beds. We showed that our Shabbat observance was not just to rest or from habit.

We showed, as later in temple service, by paradoxically violating Shabbat, that injunctions are not intrinsically forbidden. What’s more, when one must violate the Shabbat, the violation is not a violation. We showed how dear the Commandments are by violating Shabbat. The same One Who told us to keep Shabbat, now told us to violate it.

So what was the greatness? We showed our greatness on this Shabbat! We started becoming creditable, worthy of being redeemed. A turning point in Jewish history.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust survivors in The Netherlands (Westerbork), and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism), Oppression and Liberation (of young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners, and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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