Torah: Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33)
Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Hagadol and the Haftarah is Malachi.The Sabbath preceding the festival of Passover is designated as the Great Sabbath (Shabbat Hagadol) in commemoration of the great miracle that occurred on the Sabbath preceding the exodus from Egypt. It is based on the tradition that when G-d ordered the Israelites to prepare the lambs on the tenth of Nisan for the paschal offering, the Egyptians were paralyzed with fear and could not prevent them from doing so, even though the lamb was an Egyptian deity.
The Haftarah is taken from the Book of Micah, who is preaching to a despondent generation. The Temple has now been rebuilt, but Malachi is not satisfied with the faith of the Israelites. Not until the people reach a more mature state of religiosity can they expect to have a complete redemption. Only then will Elijah the Prophet come and announce the beginning of the Messianic Era.
Because Elijah was traditionally regarded as the advance messenger who would appear at Passover time and announce the dawn of a new era, this Haftarah, with its Elijah reference, was chosen to be read on the Sabbath immediately preceding Passover.
When purchasing items for Passover one may see a “u” in a circle with a “p” next to it. The letter p represents parve, which means in English that the item is neither dairy or meat. The items that are for Passover will have “Kosher L’Pesach”. This includes matzah. Some people eat matzah all year round, while others only eat matzah on Passover. The first seder traditionally should be the first time a person tastes matzah.
Another tradition is “Fasting of the First Born” it is called a siyyum celebration as an act of gratitude for the sparing of the Israelites firstborn, and as a way of reenacting a great event in Jewish history, the custom has arisen to have all the bechorim (Hebrew for “firstborn”) fast on the Erev Pesach (the evening before the first seder). As a substitute some synagogues have firstborns participate in a sacred study on the morning before Pesach.
The Yizkor memorial service is recited on the eighth day of Passover during the morning services.
The second seder we start reciting the Counting of the Omer for fifty days and on the fiftieth day is Shavuot.
Rabbi Helene Ainbinder