Friday, April 19, 2024

שבת הגדול

This Shabbos, the last Shabbos before Pesach, is called שבת הגדול - the great Shabbos. Or is it? Have no fear. I am certainly not doubting that it is שבת הגדול. But is that really what the term means? Shabbos is found all over Tana"ch as being feminine. Therefore, the term for the great Shabbos should have been Shabbos HaGedolah. One is lead to believe that the term Shabbos HaGadol must truly mean the Shabbos of the Gadol. Incidentally, this would change the pronunciation from Shabbos to Shabbas. So if it is the Shabbos of the Gadol - what does that mean?

I have heard a number of answers on this subject but I found many to be unsatisfactory. There seem to be two viable options. First, perhaps the term skips a word. It is the Shabbos of "something" great. This is most commonly used to refer to it as the Shabbos of the great miracle that was entailed in B'nei Yisroel's gathering of the Korban Pesach unharmed. (For an alternate approach to what that something might be see this post.)

I heard in the name of R' Yaakov Kaminetzky that the term is not meant to be a gramatical conjugation but rather, it follows the same pattern as Shabbas Chazon, Shabbas Nachamu and Shabbas Shuvah. It is merely referring to a significant word in the haftarah for this occasion. In our case, it is a reference to the end of the Haftarah, when HaShem proclaims, (Malachi 3:23) "Hinei anochi sholei'ach lachem es Eliyah HaNavi lifnei bo yom HaShem hagadol vehanora." This pasuk refers to the coming of Eliyahu HaNavi before the great and awesome day of HaShem - the ultimate redemption. Shabbas HaGadol is a direct reference to the word hagadol in this pasuk.

This approach gives great significance to the name and plays beautifully into the theme of the day. Whereas Chazon, Nachamu and Shuvah are all the first words of their respective haftaros, HaGadol is not, certainly indicating a special meaning. Just as this pasuk in the Haftarah gets us ready for the ultimate redemption, on this Shabbos we are readying ourselves for the celebration of the great redemption from Egypt. This pasuk gets us in the geulah mood which allows us to better appreciate the seder and its geulah theme.

Please see the comments for further discussions on the gender of שבת and some of the opinions not fully discussed here.


DikDukDoc said...

Why were none of the explanations you heard satisfactory? Every explanation I have heard would satisfy why we say Gadol and not Gedolah. See for example the Tur in O"H 430 and Bnei Yisasschar (Nisan 3:2) among others.
Also, it seems to me that regardless of the explanation, the pronounciation should be "Shabbas" and not "Shabbos", even according to Rav Yaakov. This should apply to the other Shabbasos as well, such as Nachamu, Chazon, etc. Is that correct?

Shtikler said...

Yes, I suppose so. I just think that if you ask someone to translate it off the cuff, they are more likely to say "The great Shabbos," which would be Shabbos HaGadol.
One of the unsatisfactory ones was that it is the Shabbos of the Gadol, i.e. the Rav who gives the drasha that week.

DikDukDoc said...

Even according to that explanation, if the "Gadol" means the Rav, then Shabbas HaGodol would still be grammatically acceptable, wouldn't it? No different than saying "Yad HaGadol" if you mean the hand of the Rav.
It's only unacceptable if it means "The Great Shabbos" (which I agree is what the average Joe would say).

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375 said...

Actually, if it were "the great Shabbos" it would have to be "HaShabbos HaGedola".

bar bar abraham said...

in the matter of transliteration.
i never fail to be surprised why the tav refuray is tras literated as s (no different than samekh), while imho is should be rendered as th: shabboth.
while on the subject of transliteration. qamatz gadol = cholam? imho should read shabawth.
(qamatz gadol pronounced as in 'aw'e not as in 'o'range).
chag sameach!

ELIE said...

בר אברהם
אתה רוצה להביא כאן גם את כל
דברי הספר "שפת אמת שפתי כוהן? אצל
האשכנזים לא תצליח

Ari S. said...

It is the Shibolei HaLeket and not some late rabbinic authority who mentions that the term HaGadol is due to the Drasha. He is very clear that it is not because it is the Gadol's Shabbos, rather, since the Drasha goes on and on the people feel as though the day is really long and that it does not end. I know it sounds comical, but this is what he says. Also, Shabbos is used both as a masculine and feminine word. In that regard it is similar to the word Derech (see Kiddushin 2b). Therefore, the question as to why it is Shabbos HaGadol and not HaGedolah does not really start.

Ari S. said...

I forgot to mention that a good example of this is the comparison between VaYikra 16:31 and VaYikra 23:32. See Chizkuni on first verse.

elie said...

דיברנו כבר שבעצם שבת צריך להיות לשון זכר אע"פ שמסתיים בתי"ו
כמו כן "אות" ו"מופת" הם לשון זכר אע"פ שנגמרים בתי"ו

וזה כי הת' כאן הוא מהשורש ולא במקום ה"א
[זכות הוא לשון נקבה כי התי"ו היא תמורה ה' של "זכה"

אבל ברוב המקומות (לא כל המקומות) במקרא הוא נקבה
וזה גופא חידוש

Ari S. said...

elie -
עי' אבן עזרא שמות טז:כג

ablock said...


Actually it should be HaShabbAs HaGedola, since it would be smichut (eg., shabbAs ha'aretz).