Shabbat HaGadol

There are many explanations as to why the Sabbath before Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol.

The Sabbath immediately preceding Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol, the great Sabbath. According to tradition, the 10th of Nisan in the year of the exodus was a Saturday. It was considered a great event, in fact a miracle, that the Israelites could on that day select a lamb for sacrifice without being molested by their Egyptian masters, who, at other times, would have stoned them for such daring (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chayyim 430: 1).

Another possible reason for the name is that the haftarah (Malachi 3:4-24), the prophetic portion, speaks of the “great day” of God on which the Messiah will appear. A novel explanation for the name of Shabbat HaGadol is that the people used to return from the synagogue later than usual on this Sabbath because of the unusually long sermon that was customary on this day.

The custom of reciting the Haggadah in the afternoon of Shabbat HaGadol was designed to familiarize the people with its contents in preparation for the Seder service that week (Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chayyim 430).

Discover More

Shavuot History: Talmudic Development

How the Rabbis brought Sinai and the Torah to the center of what had been a harvest celebration.

Passover (Pesach) In the Community

Although the central ritual of this festival is the home seder, there are a number of rituals that are observed within the wider community.

3 Special Shabbats to Get You in the Mood for Passover

Shabbat Parah, Shabbat HaHodesh and Shabbat HaGadol.

Shabbat Blessings for Friday Night

Lighting the candles, saying Kiddush and other Shabbat dinner rituals.

Modern Jewish Holidays 101

There are a handful of holidays that entered Jewish life in the latter half of the 20th century.

How to Light Shabbat Candles

What you need to know about this ritual welcoming the Sabbath.

Must-Know Sukkot Words and Phrases

Key terms for the holidays of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

When Prayer Fails Us

Tisha B'Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, is testament to the failure of prayer to avert national catastrophe.