Touching the King’s Scepter

(Torah Portion Tzav) Touching the King’s Scepter

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Hagadol – the great Shabbos. Let us examine how this Shabbos got its name.

The Talmud explains that on the Shabbos before the Jews left Egypt, each Jewish family took a male lamb and tied it to their bedpost. When the Egyptians saw this, they asked, “What are you doing?” After all, the lamb was the Egyptian deity and was always left to roam freely. The Jews explained that G-d commanded them through their leader Moshe, to take a lamb into their homes and have it bound to their bedposts. They were to inspect it for four days to ensure it was blemish free and suitable to be slaughtered, offered, roasted and eaten as a Passover sacrifice before they would be redeemed from Egypt.

This was extremely disturbing to the Egyptians, yet miraculously, the Egyptians did not harm or stop the Jews! Thus, the Shabbos before Passover is called the Shabbos Hagadol – the Great Shabbos – commemorating this great miracle.

Although many other miracles occurred in Egypt, we commemorate this miracle in particular, because during all the other miracles and plagues in Egypt the Jews were mere bystanders. However, this miracle occurred after the Jews actively risked their lives when they offended the Egyptians and listened to the word of G-d.

The Medrash relates that when the Jews told the Egyptians that the lamb would be eaten on the night of the slaying of the first born, the first-born rose up against their fathers and leaders demanding that the Jews be immediately released. Their fathers stood firm complying with Pharoh’s stubbornness and refusal. The firstborn Egyptians then revolted and a civil war ensued claiming the lives of 600,000 Egyptians.

A question arises; the Jews in Egypt were instructed to bring the lamb into their homes four days before they sacrificed it, which that year fell on a Shabbos. Why do we commemorate Shabbos – the day of the week that it happened on – rather than on the day of the month when we usually commemorate events? In this case it should be the 10th day of Nisan.

One of the commentators explains that in the Ten Commandments it states that we observe the Shabbos both as a remembrance that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, and in remembrance that G-d took us out of the Land of Egypt.

The Shabbos became uniquely ours to observe because the Exodus from Egypt displayed that G-d is continuously involved and in control of all creation.

Since this miracle of taking the lamb happened on Shabbos which was the beginning of the final process of our redemption, our Sages established that each year, the Shabbos preceding Pesach is referred to as Shabbos Hagodol – the great Shabbos, for on that Shabbos, the Jews in Egypt clearly witnessed G-d’s watchful and protective eye and that He is in control over all happenings which is the foundation of the observance of Shabbos.

Our Sages tell us that the gift of Shabbos is so precious to G-d that it is held in His treasure vault. Commentators explain that the Shabbos is actually the ‘Scepter of G-d’.

No one is allowed to touch or hold the king’s scepter – for it would be a blatant display of disrespect. In fact, one could be liable and charged with treason.

However, the one instance where the king does not mind that the scepter is used by others and he actually welcomes it, is when the king’s own child touches or holds the scepter.

When G-d freed the Jews from Egypt, He called us His children. Together with this distinct relationship, came the right for us carry G-d’s Scepter – which is the responsibility to observe the holy day of Shabbos.

Just as we know that the king’s Scepter is the gateway to blessings and good fortune, so too the Shabbos is the source of all our success, accomplishments and blessings!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks