Shabbat HaGadol Reflections

Adapted from the writings of Rev L Hardman MBE MA HCF zt’l

The story is told of a little boy who watched his father wheeling his grandfather, who was convalescing after an accident. The father’s face was rather sad. ‘Daddy,’ the little boy asked, ‘why is it that when you wheel the baby you are happy and smiling, and when you wheel grandpa – your father – you look rather sad?’ The father thought for a while, and then replied: ‘When a father leads his son, there is happiness and joy in the heart of them both, but when a son leads his father it is sad for both of them.’ This thought might well be behind the tradition by which in the afternoon of Shabbat HaGadol we recite the early part of the Haggadah beginning with ‘Avadim Hayinu’, as a kind of ‘dress rehearsal’. It is the adult who is called upon to prepare himself for the Seder – the father’s answer to the ‘Ma Nishtana’ begins with ‘Avadim Hayinu’ … Tradition demands of the father to prepare himself – to give the proper answers to the children, as it is written: ‘V’higgadta l’vincha (Shemot 13:8)’. Shabbat HaGadol – ‘the Great Sabbath’ – truly is great if it prepares the father to meet the child even as the child has been prepared to meet the father. The prophet speaks of the ‘hearts of parents being restored to the children, and the hearts of children to parents’. It might well be that the term ‘Pesach’ implies this – ‘pe’ means ‘mouth’, and ‘sach’ means ‘to converse, have a dialogue’.