Updated: Sep 12, 2020
We are about to embark on Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat. There are many reasons to call this Shabbat "Great". One is related to the Pesach sacrifice. On the first of Nissan, the month we are currently in, the Jews were commanded to purchase a goat for each house, take it home and tie it to the bed for three days. We have a tradition that the day on which this occurred was the Shabbat before they left. As such, it was on that day that the preparations for leaving Egypt began.
In our time, Shabbat is not a day for preparing. We are prohibited from using the day for that purpose. Instead, it is a day of rest, a lacuna in time. When Shabbat enters, it is not merely our worldly activities that cease. Hopefully, our cares and worries do as well. However, Shabbat HaGadol will always feel different. Though it is not a time to prepare for the coming festival, it is time to think about what that festival will be like. We don't cook on this day, but we do think about what is coming, and we prepare ourselves emotionally for the coming joyous experience so that we can get the most out of it.
This year, it many ways, Pesach requires even more preparation than in other years. While there is less cooking, and the cleaning might (only might) be less onerous, the emotional load this year is far heavier. We will all be spending Pesach Seder in our own houses. We may not go outside. We will not be seeing our extended families and friends. Some of us might be entirely alone.
Preparing for Pesach can take many forms. It might mean cooking. It might mean planning fun activities, games or discussions. It might mean koshering the house. It can also mean making sure someone else is looked after, that as much as possible they have what they need over the yom tov. Whatever the preparation might be, let's use this Shabbat to rest and be ready, and then let's action our plans in the next few days, so that even if Pesach is different to our expectations, it's still very meaningful.