This week is Shabbat HaGadol, the Great Shabbat, which is always the Shabbat that falls right before Pesach. In earlier times, this was one of the two Shabbatot each year, when the rabbi would give a sermon. On Shabbat Ha Gadol it was about the laws and details to kasher a home for Pesach. I’m not sure these were compelling sermons.
The details of removing all hametz from the home can seem tedious and boring, much like our Torah portion for this week, Tzav, which goes into great detail about the sacrificial service performed by the priests. Yet, sometimes we can find nuggets of deep meaning in seemingly trivial details, like this one, commanding the Priests to clean the Tabernacle in the evening after the service was concluded: “He shall then take off his vestments and put on other vestments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.” (Leviticus 6:4)
Commenting on this verse, Rashi (12th Century Germany) wrote that the priest put on “Inferior garments,” probably work clothes. So, after a long day of ceremony, pomp, and communion with God, the priests ended their day by taking off their ceremonial vestments, donning dirty work clothes, and taking out the trash. It must have been a real lesson in humility-one moment connecting with God, the next removing garbage.
Much like taking the leavened foods out of our house. It’s not glamorous work, but it can be deeply spiritual, because it too is an exercise in humility. Before the holiday begins, we clean our homes, we take out the trash, we rid ourselves of unnecessary things.
Through this we are reminded that we are not such a big deal. We are not as important as we think we are. It’s an important lesson. Just like the one our Priests practiced so many thousands of years ago.
Here is to humility. Happy Pesach
~Rabbi Dean Kertesz