William Hamilton

Growth as Greatness

“Then our offerings will be fragrant to God, like those of Judah and Jerusalem, as they used to be” (Mal 3:4). This is how tomorrow’s prophetic reading begins. It ends with Elijah. So the sages made it the reading that’s always done on the Shabbat prior to Passover. 

This Shabbat gets a special name. It’s called Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Sabbath, derived from the Great and Awesome day that Elijah ushers-in (Mal.3:23)..That is, when the ultimate redemption (Messianic time) is reached, having been inspired by the initial one (the Exodus). 

But there’s a unique feature of the Hebrew word for great (gadol) worthy of our attention this year. The word also means to grow

And growth, positive growth, is something we all hope for. Especially now. We were raised with tales of 6-Day wars, not 6-month ones. We live at a time when bitter-bondage has snapped into focus. It includes a kind of mental slavery, that gets dispensed by those who are captive to their certainty. Meanwhile, moral discipline lies prostrate, under thundering libels against our People. 

How, then, can growth take shape? Turns out, transformative growth is the theme of our prophetic passage. What ushers-in Elijah is a period of complete repair and restoration. 

What can growth look like geopolitically? A new energy around Muslim-Jewish relations in the world. New momentum for normalization with Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. 

What can growth look like personally? In a marvelous new Haggadah, brought together just in time by Leann Shamash, one passage near the end, during a song that’s filled with descriptive words praising God (Adir Hu), asks each of us to consider how we think about ourselves. What descriptor do you apply to yourself? Creative. Funny. Thoughtful. Loyal. Now, consider, What descriptor do I want to become more associated with? Especially in the 50 days that count our way up to Mt. Sinai, and our next Festival of Shavuot? 

Let’s each resolve to make this Shabbat HaGadol one of growth as greatness.

A safe and sweet Shabbat of growth and greatness to you, blossoming into a fragrant Passover that offers you and yours daily wisps of spiritual moisture and plenty.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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