It’s Shabbat Hagadol again, the “Great Shabbat” that precedes the seder. No one knows exactly how this anticipatory Shabbat got its name — no Jewish source uses it until the Middle Ages, by which time, no one remembered what it meant.
Vayikra (the first Torah portion in Leviticus) is about intimacy with God, and the responsibilities that come with that intimacy. But to understand what those responsibilities entail, we need to jump back much earlier, to the original state of Divine intimacy. We need to start with Adam and Eve in the Garden.
What is the most crucial vehicle for the transmission of our Jewish faith and traditions? Is it the synagogue, the study hall, the community center, the charitable organizations, or none of the above? Let us study the details of two of the major accouterments of the desert Sanctuary and perhaps we will discover the answer.
Way back at the burning bush [Exodus 3:6], “Moses hid his face, being afraid to look at God.” And for good reason. As God explains later [Ex. 33:20], “No one can see Me and live.” Yet here [Ex. 24:10], not just Moses, but even the priests and elders, “saw the God of Israel,” who “raised no hand against them.”
The Covenant between God and Abraham was the National Covenant, a Divine agreement that Abraham’s seed will be eternal, that his descendants will inherit the Land of Israel, and that this nation — despite periods of dreadful persecution and affliction – will eventually bring the glorious light of God to a universe darkened by ignorance, transgression and warfare [Genesis 15].
We’re used to thinking of time in a linear fashion with a past, present and future. The Torah operates in a different dimension with the past and future blending with the present, and with events in the future sometimes impacting the past.