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Why isn't the miracle of Shabbat Hagadol celebrated on the 10th of Nissan?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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The miracle is celebrated on the Shabbat before Pesach because the 10th of Nissan is the day that Miriam, sister of Moses, passed away and it was established as a fast day. (This fast is not commonly observed.)

That’s the simple reason.

If you go a little deeper the idea is that commemorating the Egyptian civil war and the passing of Miriam on the same day is redundant: The concept of the Egyptian civil war was that darkness itself was employed in the battle against darkness. Egypt fought Egypt. The passing of a completely righteous person like Miriam embodies the same idea. Immediately after the narrative of Miriam’s passing, the Torah details the method by which one can become purified (after coming in contact with a corpse). This juxtaposition, says the Talmud1, alludes to the fact that the death of the righteous has a purifying effect.

"...the 10th of Nissan is the day that Miriam, sister of Moses, passed away...The passing of a righteous person creates an intense cleansing in the world. Even the darkest pockets of resistance are enlightened. So that’s the deeper reason for why we don’t celebrate the Egyptian civil war on the same day as Miriam’s passing—because they both express the same concept, so we spread the commemoration to two days."
The passing of a righteous person creates an intense cleansing in the world. Even the darkest pockets of resistance are enlightened. So that’s the deeper reason for why we don’t celebrate the Egyptian civil war on the same day as Miriam’s passing—because they both express the same concept, so we spread the commemoration to two days.2

See also Why was a fast day established for the day of Miriam’s passing and not for the days that Moses and Aaron passed away?

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud tractate Moed Kattan 28a.
  • 2. Sources: Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim, 430:1; Likutei Sichot 12:36-7.

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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Nissan
The first month of the Jewish calendar. This month, which falls out in early spring, is known for the holiday of Passover which starts on the 15th of Nissan.
Miriam
Older sister of Moses and Aaron, and a prophetess in her own right.
Pesach
Passover. A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.