Why is this Shabbat Called “Shabbat Hagadol”?
The Shabbat before Passover has a special spiritual nickname. It is called “Shabbat Hagadol” / the “Great Shabbat.” Our sages conjecture various reasons as to why this Shabbat is called “Shabbat Hagadol.” The most common sensical reason is that we read a special haftarah/prophetic reading this Shabbat, in which the prophet Zachary urges the people to ready themselves for God’s great (Gadol) day.
What is this “great day” that the prophet is alluding to? The answer is intimated in the fact that the prophet proclaims that on that “great day,” God will send us Elijah the prophet. Elijah is the emissary who will proclaim the messianic era and the final redemption in our tradition.
In other words, this Shabbat is called “Shabbat Hagadol” / the “Great Shabbat,” because on this Shabbat we read about the future redemption of the Jewish people, and the entire world. This is a very powerful message.
As we enter the week of Passover and the Seder night, our sages want to make sure that we focus during Passover not only on our particularistic redemption from Egypt in antiquity, and not even on our family’s own various exoduses from antisemitic environments in the 20th century, but also ponder our responsibility to yearn for the final universal redemption of all of humankind, the day in which all countries will become democracies which honor human rights, a day in which every human being is treated in accordance with his or her own intrinsic divine image, with dignity, with respect, and with true equality.