Tag Archives: malachi

Shabbat HaGadol


Shabbat hagadol sig

Malachi 3:4 – 24

Prophet- Malachi is the last of the prophets. He is thought to have lived around 500 – 480 BCE after the construction of the Second Temple.

The Shabbat right before Pesach is called Shabbat HaGadol- The Great Sabbath. One interpretation is that “Moshiach”- the Messiah- will come on Passover, so this is the  Great Shabbat, the one before that great redemption.

Another idea is that the days leading up to the Exodus from Egypt were days of unusual and overwhelming preparation for the Israelites. Those preparations  not only affected sacrifices and food but defined faith and self identification. That concept holds true today. Those who choose to prepare for Pesach and change their diet and behaviours for an entire week are declaring their faith in the God of Israel and defining themselves as Jews.

The haftarah begins by recognizing the transgressions of the Jews. God, through Malachi, lists the sins committed by the Jews- theft, lying, cheating, adultery and more.  The Jews ask about certain accusations and God answers them. Throughout there is a path of forgiveness with the simile that as a man spares his son the Jews will be spared.

Verse 23 is read twice. It is the second last verse of this reading. “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” That verse is read again at the very end of the portion. That phrase was the catalyst for the image I painted for this haftarah.

After the dinner we read the phrase “Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that do not know you…” We open our door to allow Eliyahu (Elijah) into our home to drink some wine. In some haggadot there is a picture of Eliyahu riding a donkey and blowing a shofar- announcing the Messiah. There are some lovely woodcuts and paintings in haggadot from the 15th – 17th centuries.

 This woodcut is from a haggadah published in Prague, 1526.

I chose the image below for my illustration of Shabbat HaGadol. It is from Mantua, 1560.

Tayqu.jpg Other notable haggadah illustrations of Eliahou are from Germany, c. 1425 ; the Washington Haggadah from Italy, 1478; and one from Venice 1609.

The end of the haftarah is lovely. Malachi says, “…he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the childen, and the heart of the children to their fathers:”  It’s a beautiful idea. It makes me think of the 4 children in the haggadah. Whatever else is happening in their relationships,  at the Pesach seder they come back home to sit and discuss and debate with their family- those they love.


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I’ve been away for a few weeks. My traveling partner, (Les, my husband) and I went on a wonderful trip to Uzbekistan. Attending lectures by Shalom Sabar about the Jewish cultural history there and seeing the incredible historical architecture was amazing.  I’ll be introducing some of that adventure in future blogs. 

Toldot Sig

  This week’s parsha is Toledot  (Generations). The parsha deals with the birth and sibling rivalry of Esau and Jacob- the twin sons of Rebecca and Isaac. Those babies were fighting even before they were born, to the point that Rebecca asked God what was going on with her pregnancy.

Esau loved being outside and hunting while Jacob stayed home, cooked, and according to the commentaries learned Torah. Esau traded his “birthright” for a bowl of Jacob’s soup – showing Esau’s impatience and disregard for tradition, and also showing Jacob’s desire to take advantage of his brother. The climax of the story is Rebecca and Jacob’s deception of Isaac. Rebecca convinces Jacob to masquerade as his brother in order to fool Isaac into giving Jacob the special blessing for the first born.

The story introduces all kinds of questions and puts flawed family dynamics into relief. Why did Isaac favour Esau while Rebecca favoured Jacob?  Why did Rebecca fool Isaac instead of talking to him? Was Isaac really taken in by Jacob’s deception? Maybe he suspected the truth but realized that Jacob was more suited to the blessing. Did the two brothers end up with the fates that most suited them in the long run? Esau would be a man of the field and Jacob would become the leader of the nation of Israel.

What seems to hold true is that poor family dynamics and communication skills certainly continued from generation to generation.

This picture shows the “family dynamics” of Isaac, Rebecca, Esau and Jacob. We see the blind Isaac blessing his son Jacob- having been fooled into thinking he is blessing Esau. Rebecca is delaying Esau from coming in until the blessing is complete. Rebecca is doing this because God had told her, when she was pregnant, that “the elder shall serve the younger”. She wants to ensure that the prophecy comes true.

The commentators had a very negative view of Esau because of his clashes with Jacob.

Esau settled in Edom, south of Judah and ultimately Edom was identified as the enemy of Israel and the ancestor of Rome- the bloody tyrant that destroyed the Temple and the land of Israel.

The haftarah is Malachi  1:1 -2:7. The prophet Malachi lived in Jerusalem during the 5th century B.C.E. after the return to Judah from exile in Babylonia in 538 BCE. In this haftarah Malachi is reprimanding the Jews for not observing the practices properly. He tells them that G-d loves His people- but they must stop making inferior sacrifices to God. Edom, the descendants of Esau, are mentioned as the tyrannical enemy.  I suspect that Esau was vilified through the guise of Edom and then Rome to make it easier to identify the source of Jewish oppression.


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