11 Kislev 5781 / Friday, November 27, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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Shabbat HaGadol: Overcoming Fear    

Shabbat HaGadol: Overcoming Fear

The main prerequisite for the redemption of our people from slavery in Egypt was to overcome their fear in performing Hashem's commandment...


Slaughter the Pesach offering (Exodus 12:21).
Shabbat Hagadol, the "Great Sabbath", commemorates the Shabbat before our people left the land of Egypt. That year, Shabbat fell on the tenth of Nissan, four days before the Pesach offering was to be slaughtered, on late Wednesday, the fourteenth of Nissan. Each Jewish family was commanded to take ram lamb and tie it to the bedpost four days before the first Passover, to make sure that the sacrificial animal was free of any disqualifying blemishes.
To fulfill the mitzva of slaughtering the Pesach offering of the sacrificial lamb, the Israelites had to overcome a mountain of fear. The Midrash tells that when Hashem commanded Moses to slaughter the Pesach offering, Moses said, "Master of the World, how can I do such a thing? Don't You know that the Egyptians regard sheep as their deity? Can I slaughter their god in front of their own eyes without them stoning me?" Hashem answered, "By your life, Moses - Israel isn't going anywhere until you all slaughter the Egyptians' gods right in front of their faces, for I am letting them know that their gods are nothing." The Midrash continues and says that the same night that all of Israel slaughtered the Pesach offering, Hashem killed every Egyptian first-born. That night, the night before Israel left Egypt and over two centuries of slavery, they ate the Pesach offering while Egypt helplessly mourned both their gods and their firstborn sons (Shmot Raba 16:3).
We see from the above Midrash, that Moses and the People of Israel had to overcome an immense measure of fear in order to perform Hashem's commandment.
Just imagine how frightening history's first Passover was for the Jewish People. It was scary enough to take a lamb and to tie him to the bedpost, with every Egyptian passerby asking what's going on. Slaughtering the Egyptians' idol before their very eyes was all the more unnerving. Yet, there was even a third element that people don't take into account: while the Jewish families were eating the Pesach offering on that very first Passover, they could hear the blood-curdling screams of their Egyptian neighbors whose firstborn sons were dying one by one.
My beloved and esteemed teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit'a always says, "If you fear One, you fear no one." This is exactly what Hashem wanted; in order for us to make the transformation from a nation of slaves to Hashem's chosen people, we'd have to shed our fears of flesh-and-blood and learn to fear Him only. Hashem showed us on Shabbat HaGadol and on that first Passover night that whoever performs His commandments has nothing to fear from anyone.
To merit our redemption from Egypt, we had to pass the test of overcoming our fear. Our ancestors passed the test by virtue of their emuna in Hashem.
At his Seder table, the holy Chattam Sofer told his grandchildren that in the final redemption of our people, may it be speedily and in our days, we will have to overcome the same test of fear.
A group of European journalists visited one of southern Israel's cities during a recent period when the city suffered from frequent missile attacks from Gaza. They marveled how boys in the local yeshiva continued to learn Torah despite the sporadic wailing of the sirens, warning of another incoming missile and imminent threat. One English-speaking yeshiva student explained to the journalists that Rabbi Chaim Kanevski shlit'a, one of our generation's foremost spiritual leaders, promised that anyone who learns Torah in earnest has nothing to fear from the missiles, and therefore, all of the yeshiva students remained at their spiritual battle stations. Their faith in the righteous rabbi gave them courage to do so.
Rabbi Chaim Kanevski shlit'a, like all the true tzaddikim, practices what he preaches. During the First Gulf War of 1991, when 39 of Sadaam Hussein's deadly Scud missiles exploded in Israel, Rabbi Chaim Kanevski continued to learn Torah by an open window in Bnai Brak.
When the Chattam Sofer's grandchildren asked him where Israel will derive the necessary courage to overcome the test of fear before the final redemption of our people, he said that just as Israel overcame their fear by believing in Moses back in the time of redemption from Egypt, in the final redemption, they will overcome their fear and be redeemed by virtue of their emuna in the spiritual leaders of their generation.
May we have the courage to do Hashem's will always, with no fear whatsoever, and may we merit in seeing the coming of Moshiach and the full and final redemption of our people Israel, in the nearest future, amen!

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