Special Shabbatot / Special Sabbaths in the Jewish Calendar include the following:
Note: Regarding all dates on this Special Shabbatot - Special Sabbaths web page, see the footnote near the bottom of this web page.
The Sabbath or Shabbat immediately preceding Tisha B'Av is named:
The Sabbath or Shabbat immediately following Tisha B'Av is named:
Special Sabbaths, or Special Shabbatot, highlight upcoming Jewish festivals or holidays. For most (not all) congregations, these special Sabbaths, or Special Shabbatot, are acknowledged in the services by the reciting of a maftir ("additional" in Hebrew) service. However, all congregations will acknowledge these Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot by recitations from the Torah or Haftarah (Prophetic readings in the Torah) that are relevant to the festival or holiday. This special reading from the Torah or Haftarah either replaces the standard weekly reading or is read in addition to the standard weekly reading.
On the morning of Shabbat services, in traditional Orthodox congregations, there are seven aliyot, meaning that the Torah reading is chanted in seven sections, with each section being opened and closed by the blessing of a congregant, who literally "goes up" (I.E. makes "aliyah" in Hebrew; "aliyot" is the plural form of "aliyah") to the Torah. The seven aliyot are followed by a final aliyah, or maftir. Often, this maftir simply repeats a short section from the end of the Torah portion. However, on Jewish holidays, and certain Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot, the maftir or final aliyah is an additional reading that reflects the theme of the upcoming holiday. The maftir is also read from a different Torah scroll than that of the seven aliyot.
The interconnections that maintain the spiritual cycle of the Jewish calendar year are characterized by a dependence on the flow of holidays, the marking of Rosh Chodesh (the new month) and the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath) observance. In certain instances, there are Sabbaths or Shabbatot that surround a Jewish holiday and are thus permeated with the theme of that Jewish holiday. These Sabbaths or Shabbatot are known as "Special Sabbaths" or "Special Shabbatot" because of the additional theme of the holiday in their services.
What is the purpose of these "Special Sabbaths" or "Special Shabbatot"? These "Special Sabbaths" or "Special Shabbatot" serve as a kind of "bridge" that elevates an individual from the ordinary weekday routine and weekly Sabbaths or weekly Shabbatot to the holiness of the event or Jewish holiday that is about to take place, in the case of an approaching Jewish holiday or event. As well, after the conclusion of an event or Jewish holiday, a "Special Sabbath" or "Special Shabbatot" serves as a kind of "bridge" from the holiness of the Jewish holiday or event back to the flow of the ordinary routine of everyday life as well to the weekly Sabbaths or weekly Shabbatot, easing the transition in the process.
For Rosh Hodesh, there are Sabbaths or Shabbatot that have distinctive names and Torah readings, although they are not classified as "Special Sabbaths" or "Special Shabbatot".
There are three types of Sabbaths or Shabbatot that surround the new moon, or "Rosh Hodesh" in Hebrew. They are:
The following chart lists the Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot in the Jewish calendar, starting from the first Special Sabbath or Special Shabbat in the Jewish calendar year (that is, the religious Jewish calendar year according to the months which begins in the Hebrew month of Nissan; the civil Jewish calendar year according to the year number change begins in the Hebrew month of Tishrei). The month before Passover has four Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot called the "Arba Parshiot" (or Arba Parshiyot) in Hebrew, or literally, the "Four Weekly Readings" in English, referring to the four special additional Torah portions that are read, one each on the Special Shabbatot or Special Sabbaths before Purim and one each on the Special Shabbatot or Special Sabbaths after Purim I.E. between Purim and Pesach/Passover. These "Four Weekly Readings" or four Torah portions are grouped together because they have special Maftir I.E. additional readings that relate to either the Jewish holiday of Purim or to the Jewish holiday of Passover. These four Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot are, in order of their occurrence: (1) Shabbat Shekalim, (2) Shabbat Zachor, (3) Shabbat Parah, and (4) Shabbat Ha-Chodesh. Shabbat Shekalim and Shabbat Zachor occur before Purim and Shabbat Parah and Shabbat Ha-Chodesh occur after Purim, or in other words, between Purim and Pesach/Passover. The special additional Torah reading, called "Maftir" in Hebrew for Shabbat Parah is called "Parashat Parah" (weekly Torah reading for Shabbat Parah); for Shabbat Ha-Chodesh, it is called "Parashat Ha-Chodesh" (weekly Torah reading for Shabbat Ha-Chodesh); for Shabbat Shekalim, it is called "Parashat Shekalim" (weekly Torah reading for Shabbat Shekalim); and for Shabbat Zachor, it is called "Parashat Zachor" (weekly Torah reading for Shabbat Zachor). For each Special Sabbath or Special Shabbat, there is a thematic connection between the weekly Torah portions that are read for each respective Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot, the special Maftir (in the case of the Four Parashiyot designated for four specific Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot, respectively), and the Haftarah or Haftorah readings designated for each Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot. In other words, the specific readings for each Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot are all interconnected to the theme of that Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot which serves to reinforce the theme and enhance the importance of the Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot experience for each Jewish participant.
|Special Shabbat or Sabbath||Origin/Reason For Special Sabbath Name or Special Shabbatot Name||Jewish/Hebrew Date of Special Shabbat or Sabbath||Haftarah Readings (I.E. Prophetic Readings)|
|Shabbat Shuva or Shabbat Shuvah||Origin of Special Sabbath / Special Shabbatot Name: Hoshea or Hosea 14:2 - "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your G-d, for you have fallen because of your sin". Shabbat Shuvah means either "Sabbath of Return" (literal translation), "Sabbath of Repentance" ("Shabbat Teshuvah" in Hebrew, another name for Shabbat Shuvah, derived from a play on the words "Shabbat Teshuvah"), "Sabbath of Response", or "Sabbath of Turning" in Hebrew. The reason for this special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot name is to direct the Jewish people's attention to the need for each of them to return to G-d. To achieve this goal, the custom of "Shabbat Shuvah Drashah" (an "explanation of Shabbat Shuvah" or an "investigation of Shabbat Shuvah", both referring to an explanation or an investigation into the meaning of this Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot called Shabbat Shuvah), which is an inspirational sermon delivered by the religious leader of the community, usually combining "Halakhah" (the legal sections of Jewish religious law) and "Aggadah" (the non-legal sections that are brought outside of Jewish religious law; in other words, any interpretation of Jewish law which does not fall under Halakhah), but the basic purpose of which is to provide "Hitorerut", I.E. "inspiration", and an "awakening" that will cause the listeners to examine their deeds and return to G-d. The "Shabbat Shuvah Drashah" (or "Shabbat Shuvah Drash", an alternate way of saying it) is an ancient tradition, dating at least as far back as the aforementioned verses from Hosea. The religious community leader or rabbi may also review the laws for Yom Kippur on Shabbat Shuvah, and so certain Jewish communities will add readings from Joel 2:15-27 and Micah 7:18-20 which detail the themes of repentance and forgiveness that are characteristic of Yom Kippur. The aforementioned verses from Joel take a practical approach by focusing on purification and fasting by the people of Israel while the verses from Micah focus on the promise made by G-d to forgive the Jewish people: "He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities, You will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Other ways of repenting in the Hebrew Bible can be found in the following verses: Deuteronomy 31:1-30, Isaiah 55:6-56:8, Hosea 14:2-10, Joel 2:11-27, and Micah 7:18-20. Essentially, this Shabbat occurs during the "10 Days of Repentance" which in the Hebrew/Jewish calendar is between the 1st of Tishrei and the 10th of Tishrei I.E. between Rosh Ha-Shanah (the 1st of Tishrei) and Yom Kippur (the 10th of Tishrei). The 10 Days of Repentance is a period of reflection for Jewish people that begins with the "Day of Judgement" for each Jewish person by G-d on Rosh Ha-Shanah and leads up to the Atonement of each Jewish person for past transgressions that occurs on Yom Kippur. Therefore, the theme of this Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot and the Haftarah readings that accompany this Sabbath or Shabbat deal with sincere repentance (Hosea 14:2-10) and the praising of G-d's mercy (Micah 7:18-20).||Varies, depending on the Jewish year as applied to the Gregorian calendar, but Shabbat Shuvah falls anywhere between Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, meaning between the 1st of Tishrei and the 10th of Tishrei.||Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27|
|Shabbat Shira or Shabbat Shirah||Origin of Special Sabbath / Special Shabbatot Name: "Shabbat Shirah" means "Sabbath of Song" in Hebrew. This name is taken from B'shalah (or B'shallah or Beshalach) (Exodus 13:17-17:16), which is the weekly Torah reading I.E. "parashah", "parshah", "parasha", or "parsha" in Hebrew. A specific weekly Torah portion is known as "parashat" or "parshat" in Hebrew. In Beshalach, there is a song that the Hebrews or Israelites sang after they crossed the "Sea of Reeds" or the "Red Sea" known as "Shirat Ha-Yam" or "Shirat Hayam", which means "The Song of the Sea" in Hebrew. Shabbat Shirah occurs before or on the Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat, the New Year For Trees. Customs on Shabbat Shirah include: concerts, sing-ins, or extra singing during Shabbat services. Many women have written English songs about Miriam and her song, since Miriam led the women in singing their own Shirat Hayam as they danced and played tambourines to celebrate their freedom. Another custom pertaining to this Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot is to scatter bread crumbs for the birds to commemorate the Aggada or Aggadah (non-legal literature readings in Jewish law or "Halakhah" in Hebrew) in praise of them.||Shabbat Shirah differs from all the other Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot because it does not have a Maftir I.E. an additional reading, but rather, it simply uses a standard reading, called B'shalah (or B'shallah or Beshalach), which, as previously mentioned, is Exodus 13:17-17:16. Shabbat Shirah falls on the Sabbath or Shabbat in the Hebrew month of Shevat when we read the Torah reading "B'shalah". Tradition teaches us that there are only 10 true "Shirot", or 10 true Songs in the history of the world (note the capital "S" in "Songs" which sets these 10 Songs apart from all other songs, the latter which are written with the "s" in lower case; "Shirot" means "Songs" in Hebrew). In Hebrew Scripture, the word "shira" (again, "Song" in Hebrew) means that these 10 Songs are not merely tunes or melodies, but are expressions of the harmony of Creation. As well, each of the 10 Songs marks historic transitions I.E. landmark events in the history of the world. A "Shira" always comes at the conclusion of a cycle. For instance, the first Song in history, the Song that Adam sang to Eve, came after Creation was completed. This Song was called: "Mizmor shir l'yom hashabbos" in Hebrew ("A Psalm for the Sabbath Day" in English). Another two of these Songs are: (1) the Song of Deborah, the 6th Shira of the 10 Shirot, which appears in the Haftarah reading for this Sabbath (Judges 4:4-5:31), and (2) the Song of Songs, the 9th Shira of the 10 Shirot, composed by King Solomon ("Shlomo Ha-Melech" in Hebrew). "Shirat Ha-Yam" ("The Song of the Sea" in Hebrew), which is contained in the Torah portion for this Sabbath, is also another one of the 10 Shirot. It is the 2nd Shira of the 10 Shirot. Interestingly, the 10th and final Song, the "Song of Mashiach" ("Song of the Messiah" in Hebrew), has yet to be sung. This is because when Mashiach, or the Messiah, arrives on Earth, then we will all sing this Song in the times of Mashiach, as it is said in the Book of Yishayahu ("Isaiah" in Hebrew): "On that day there will be sung this Song in the land of Yehudah ("Judah" in Hebrew)..." (Isaiah 26:1). The "Song of Mashiach" is also differentiated from the 9 previous Songs: it is the only Song that uses the Hebrew word "Shir" - the masculine form in Hebrew for "Song" - whereas the 9 previous Songs all use the Hebrew word "Shira" - the feminine form in Hebrew. When Mashiach arrives on Earth, this will mean that the Age of Mashiach will differentiate itself from the previous eras on Earth - as this final Song in the masculine Hebrew tense does from the previous 9 Songs in the feminine Hebrew tense - as a time of joy and peace on Earth for all. For the cycle of pain, happiness, and exile, so common to the experiences of all people on Earth prior to the times of Mashiach, will come to an end with the singing of this new Song.||The haftarah for Shabbat Shirah is the story of the wise judge Deborah (Judges 4:4-5:31) and the heroic woman Yael.|
|Shabbat Shekalim||Origin of Special Sabbath / Special Shabbatot Name: "Shabbat Shekalim" means "Sabbath of Coins" in Hebrew. The origin of this name is from the maftir reading (Parashat Shekalim), Exodus 30:11-16. Exodus 30:11-16 describes a census in which every Hebrew or Israelite male is required to contribute a "Machatzit Hashekel", meaning a "half shekel" (a monetary unit at that time in Israel), which was a required annual tax in Temple times that was collected in order to support and participate in communal sacrifices, first in the portable "tent of meeting" and later at the Temple. From the 1st of Nissan, the Passover lambs that were used for the sacrifices were bought with this tax revenue. To bring the various Hebrew tribes closer to one another as one unit and one nation, an egalitarian policy was implemented, as it is stated: "the rich shall not pay more, and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel." This tax was primarily used to purchase animals for sacrificial purposes, with the remainder going to communal services such as providing salaries for the judges and maintenance of the Temple, its vessels, and the city walls. In II Kings 11:17 - 12:17, King Yehoash commands that all money brought to the Temple be used for its repairs and renovations, both the required contributions and the free-will offerings. In Temple times, the Israelites were reminded by their authorities in Jerusalem 30 days before the 1st of Nissan to bring their "Half-Shekel" tax to the treasurers appointed to each settlement and district. This "Half-Shekel" tax enabled everyone to get an equal share in the sacrifices. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. by the Romans, sacrificial worship was banned by the Jewish religious authorities. Since Shabbat Shekalim occurs about one month before the start of Passover/Pesach, this Shabbat or Sabbath serves as a remembrance of this "Half-Shekel" tax, and as a reminder that the due date for the "half shekel" tax was approaching, on the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Nissan. There is a custom among some Jewish people to contribute to a Jewish academy of learning in commemoration of the "Half Shekel" tax.||Shabbat Shekalim takes place on the Shabbat prior to Rosh Chodesh (the new moon) for the month of Adar or on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Adar (the day of the new moon for Adar) itself. During a leap year, when there are two months of Adar, Adar I and Adar II, Shabbat Shekalim takes place on the Shabbat prior to Rosh Chodesh (the new moon) for the month of Adar II or on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Adar II (the day of the new moon for Adar II) itself. Shabbat Shekalim prior to Rosh Hodesh for Adar (in leap years, prior to Rosh Hodesh for Adar II): Torah Portion or Parashat Shekalim: Exodus 30:11 - 30:16 (special maftir); Maftir: Exodus 30:11-16. Shabbat Shekalim on Rosh Hodesh for Adar (in leap years, on Rosh Hodesh Adar II): Torah Portion or Parashat Shekalim: Numbers 28:9 - 28:15 and Exodus 30:11 - 30:16; Maftir: Exodus 30:11 - 30:16. If Rosh Hodesh Adar (or Adar II in leap years) falls on Shabbat, then three Torah scrolls or "Sifrei Torah" in Hebrew three sifrei Torah are taken out: one for the weekly portion, one for the reading of Rosh Hodesh and the third for the reading of Parashat Shekalim.||For Shabbat Shekalim [prior to Rosh Hodesh for Adar; in leap years, for Adar II)]: II Kings 12:1 - 12:17; for Shabbat Rosh Hodesh Adar (in leap years, for Adar II): II Kings 12:1 - 12:17.|
|Shabbat Zakhor or Shabbat Zachor||Origin of Special Sabbath / Special Shabbatot Name: Shabbat Zachor or Shabbat Zakhor means the "Sabbath of Remembrance" in Hebrew. The Hebrew word "Zachor" or "Zakhor" means "to remember". Two Sifrei Torah ("Torah scrolls" in Hebrew) are taken out: the weekly Torah portion and Parashat Zachor. The Torah portion or Parashat Zachor for Shabbat Zachor is: Deuteronomy 25:17 - 25:19 (special maftir); the Maftir is also: Deuteronomy 25:17-19. This Sabbath takes its name from the remembrance of a war between the Hebrews and the Amalekites, which was provoked by the Amalekites, who attacked the Hebrews from behind. The Hebrews were weary from roaming the Sinai Desert after the Exodus from Egypt and thus posed no military threat to the Amalekites. This war took place in the Sinai desert near Rephidim. The Hebrews emerged victorious under the military leadership of Joshua (Exodus 7:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19). The Torah portion for this Sabbath instructs the Jews to "remember Amalek", which is fulfilled by reading the Torah portion for this Sabbath: Deuteronomy 25:17-19. G-d also instructs the Hebrews that after they have safely settled in Israel, they should "blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven". This passage does not mean that the Jews are advocating destroying a specific group of people by "blotting their name out". Rather, it is referring to Amalek as a symbol of the type of people Amalek represents I.E. those that prey upon the weak, those who do not believe in justice, those who hate without reason. Therefore, the ancient Sages understood that the Jewish people were commanded to destroy these types of people (such as the Nazis, for instance), not any specific ethnic group. Why does G-d want the Jews to observe this Sabbath before Purim? Because Haman, the evil minister of the King of Persia, was an Amalekite, in other words, Haman was a descendant of Agag who was the king of Amalek in the time of King Saul, and, like his fellow Amalekites in the Sinai Desert centuries before, wanted to destroy all the Jews, but in this case, Haman wanted to destroy all the Jews in the Persian kingdom. Our ancient Sages commanded us to "Remember Amalek" because they wanted us to remember what Amalek did to the Hebrews in the Sinai Desert as well as to remember what Amalek's descendant, Haman, did in the time of King Ahasuerus of Persia (I.E. Xerxes I). The haftarah reading, I Samuel 15:2-34, describes Saul's war with Amalek.||Shabbat Zachor is the Shabbat that immediately precedes the Jewish holiday of Purim. Since Purim in non-leap years is celebrated on the 14th of Adar or Adar I and is celebrated on the 14th of Adar II in leap years, then Shabbat Zachor takes place in the month of Adar or Adar I in non-leap years and in Adar II in leap years; in both cases, Shabbat Zachor takes place anywhere from the 7th of Adar to the 13th of Adar, depending on the year.||I Samuel 15:2 - 15:34|
|Shabbat Parah or Shabbat Para||Origin of Special Sabbath / Special Shabbatot Name: Shabbat Parah or Shabbat Para means the "Sabbath of the Red Heifer" in Hebrew (long form in Hebrew: "parah adumah"). The Hebrew word "Parah" means "young cow", neither a calf nor a full-grown cow. This Sabbath takes its name from the Red Heifer, a young cow whose ashes were combined with water and used to ritually purify any person who had been in contact with a deceased person. In Temple times, every person was obligated to bring a Korban Pesach to the Temple in Jerusalem which was eaten on Pesach eve, the Pesach/Passover Seder night. Before making the pilgrimmage to Jerusalem, a public announcement was made by the religious leaders of the Hebrews/Jews in Jerusalem prior to the month of Nissan, reminding them to ritually purify themselves before travelling to Jerusalem so that they could partake in and consume the Passover lamb sacrifice. In Temples times, only ritually pure Hebrews/Jews could partake in the consumption of the Passover sacrifice I.E. the Passover lamb, at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Torah portion or Parashat Parah for this Special Sabbath is: Numbers 19:1 - 19:22 (special maftir); the Maftir is also Numbers 19:1-22. This Torah portion/Maftir deals with the issues surrounding the Red Heifer and the process of purification from contamination. The Haftarah reading for this Shabbat, Ezekiel 36:16 - 36:38, also involves a discussion of being purified from contamination, but in this case, it is a discussion about being purified from the impurities of human sins rather than being purified from physical impurities. This haftarah reading also connects itself with the coming holiday of Passover/Pesach because in it G-d states that sins can be overcome through G-d's acts of purification of the ritually impure by giving the ritually impure person "a new heart" and "a new spirit", which means that this renewal of one's self and renewal of one's nation brings into one's awareness the coming theme of redemption that is characteristic of the Passover/Pesach holiday. An interesting aspect about becoming ritually pure is that it temporarily makes the person performing the purification impure. It is a great mystery, in a sense: the impure become pure and pure become impure, similar to when one begins to clean a dirty home with a clean cloth and/or other tools, and finishes with a clean home and a dirty cloth and/or other tools!||Shabbat Parah is the Sabbath that takes place both after Purim and immediately precedes the Sabbath that is on or immediately before the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Nissan I.E. Shabbat Ha-Chodesh or Shabbat Hachodesh. Therefore, Shabbat Parah will occur anywhere from the 16th of Adar or Adar I (in non-leap years) to the date for Shabbat Ha-Chodesh or Shabbat Hachodesh, which takes place before or on the 1st of Nissan I.E. from the 23rd of Adar or Adar I to the 1st of Nissan (in non-leap years), or anywhere from the 16th of Adar II (in leap years) to the date for Shabbat Ha-Chodesh or Shabbat Hachodesh, again, which takes place before or on the 1st of Nissan I.E. from the 23rd of Adar II to the 1st of Nissan (in leap years). In short, this means that Shabbath Parah will take place anywhere from the 16th of Adar or Adar I to the 22nd of Adar or Adar I inclusive (in non-leap years), or anywhere from the 16th of Adar II to the 22nd of Adar II inclusive (in leap years).||Ezekiel 36:16 - 36:38|
|Shabbat Ha-Chodesh or Shabbat Hachodesh||Origin of Special Sabbath / Special Shabbatot Name: Shabbat Ha-Chodesh or Shabbat Hachodesh means "Sabbath of the New Moon" in Hebrew, and it takes its name from the fact that it is the Sabbath that takes place on or immediately before the new moon for the Hebrew month of Nissan. Essentially, the Torah readings for this Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot serve to remind the Jewish people that Pesach/Passover is approaching. There are two different Torah portions for Shabbat Ha-Chodesh: (1) the Torah portion for Shabbat Ha-Chodesh that falls before the 1st day of Nissan and, (2) the Torah portion for Shabbat Ha-Chodesh that falls on the 1st day of Nissan. In both cases, the Haftarah reading is the same: Ezekiel 45:16 - 46:18. If Shabbat Ha-Chodesh falls before the 1st of Nissan, the Torah portion or Parashat Ha-Chodesh is: Exodus 12:1 - 12:20 (special maftir); the Maftir is also Exodus 12:1-20. If Shabbat Ha-Chodesh falls on the 1st of Nissan, the Torah portion or Parashat Ha-Chodesh is: Numbers 28:9 - 28:15 and Exodus 12:1 - 12:20; the Maftir is Exodus 12:1-20. Exodus 12:1-20 details how to eat the Passover lamb sacrifice, the unleavened bread, as well as the bitter herbs. It also details the laws and traditions, principles, and preparations for the upcoming Passover/Pesach holiday which begins on the 15th of Nissan as well as how to spread the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts and lintel (beam of the door) of one's household, in this case, the Hebrew household. The 1st of Nissan is also important to the Jewish people in that G-d presented his first commandment to the Hebrews to observe and sanctify the New Moon. Therefore, with one phrase, the Hebrew calendar/Jewish calendar was created: "This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year" (Exodus 12:2). Nissan is thus considered to be the 1st month given to the Jewish people by G-d. Therefore, in the Hebrew calendar/Jewish calendar, months are counted starting from the month of Nissan, but year number changes are counted from the month of Tishrei, the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar/Jewish calendar, since according to the Book of Exodus, Creation, or the start of the world, began on the 1st day of Tishrei. With this act by G-d, the determination of the months and time was taken from the agenda of G-d and given to the Hebrews who thus gained control over time and the theological/liturgical cycle in Hebraism/Judaism. The special Haftarah reading for this Sabbath - Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 - also discusses the first months as well as the sacrificial offerings made by the Hebrews or Israelites at that time, including the sacrifices that were to be brought to the Temple on the 1st day of Nissan, on Pesach/Passover, as well as future sacrificial offerings for Pesach/Passover as well as for other festivals after the future Temple is built in messianic times and consecrated to G-d.||As previously mentioned, this Sabbath takes place immediately before or on the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Nissan, which means that this Shabbat can take place anywhere from the 23rd of Adar or Adar I to the 1st of Nissan inclusive (in non-leap years), or anywhere from the 23rd of Adar II (in leap years) to the 1st of Nissan inclusive.||Ezekiel 45:16-46:18|
|Shabbat Ha-Gadol or Shabbat Hagadol||Origin of Special Sabbath / Special Shabbatot Name: Shabbat Ha-Gadol or Shabbat Hagadol means "The Great sabbath" in Hebrew. This Sabbath is the Sabbath immediately preceding the start of Pesach/Passover. The origin of the name for this Sabbath comes from a passage from the Book of Malachi (Malachi 3:4-24) which is the Haftarah reading for this Sabbath: "Lo, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the awesome, fearful day of the L-rd". This passage alludes to the idea that there is a messianic future forthcoming on Earth. As the Hebrews were preparing to flee Egypt, G-d commanded them to select a lamb for sacrifice. This lamb would serve as the Passover sacrifice. By performing this mitzvah ("commandment" in Hebrew, as in a commandment from G-d), the Hebrews were actively participating in their redemption from Egypt. The name for this Sabbath and the Haftarah reading for this Sabbath actually connects the Hebrews' past redemption in Egypt with their future redemption with the arrival of Mashiach on Earth, which, according to tradition, will also take place on Pesach/Passover. As this Sabbath or Shabbat immediately precedes the Pesach/Passover holiday, the theme of this Sabbath or Shabbat is all about Pesach/Passover and especially about the laws of Pesach/Passover. Hymns about the laws of Pesach/Passover are recited, a distinguished Torah scholar in the Jewish community is invited to address the congregation about the laws of Pesach/Passover, and a section of the Pesach/Passover Haggadah (the "instruction manual" for the Pesach/Passover Seder) that begins with "Avadim Hayinu" ("We were slaves" in Hebrew) is read. The Haftarah reading for this Sabbath or Shabbat, Malachi 3:4-24, discusses the messianic prophecy of the end of days and the return and arrival of Elijah the Prophet to signal the coming of the Messianic Age because, as mentioned, it is believed from tradition that Elijah the Prophet will arrive on Pesach/Passover. This is the reason why we include a 5th cup at the Pesach/Passover Seder table, called the Cup of Elijah, as our cup for him means that we await his impending arrival at our Pesach/Passover Seder table in each Jewish home the world over.||Shabbat Ha-Gadol is the Sabbath immediately preceding Pesach/Passover, and so it takes place anywhere from the 8th of Nissan to the 14th of Nissan. Originally, meaning during the time leading up to the first Passover of Egypt, this Special Sabbath or Special Shabbatot fell on the 10th day of Nissan, when G-d commanded the Hebrews to take a lamb to use as the Passover sacrifice. When the Egyptians asked the Israelites why they were taking a lamb, the Israelites replied that they were using it for a Passover sacrifice. Since the lamb was a sacred deity in Egyptian culture, it was a miracle that the Egyptians did not persecute the Hebrews for this action, but remained silent. This "miracle" is but one event of many events during this time that explain why this Sabbath is known as the "Great Sabbath".||Malachi 3:4-24|
Sabbaths Preceding Tisha B'Av
There are three Sabbaths or Shabbatot preceding the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'Av ("9th of Av" in Hebrew, a fast day commemorating the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and Jerusalem itself). However, only the third of these Sabbaths or Shabbatot are named. The Sabbath or Shabbat that immediately follows Tisha B'Av is also named. The three Sabbaths or Shabbatot preceding Tisha B'Av occur during the "Three Weeks" period - between the 17th of Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the 9th of Av, when the Temple in Jerusalem was burned down. The "Three Weeks" period is a somber period recalling the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and of Jerusalem itself. During each of these three Sabbaths or Shabbatot, special Haftarah (prophetic) readings known as "the three Affliction Readings" reflect this somber mood. The third of the three Sabbaths or Shabbatot preceding Tisha B'Av - the Sabbath or Shabbat immediately before Tisha B'Av - is known as Shabbat Hazon or Shabbat Chazon ("Sabbath of Prophecy"/"Sabbath of Vision" in Hebrew), so named for the prophetic haftarah portion of Isaiah. In this haftarah portion, Isaiah has a vision of the destruction of the Second Temple. He warns the "sinful nation" (Israel) that has "forsaken the L-rd" about the potentially disastrous consequences of its actions. However, at the same time, Isaiah's prophecy also reminds the people, meaning the Israelites in this case: "be your sins like crimson, they can turn snow-white...but if you refuse and disobey, you will be devoured by the sword." This prophecy sets the mood for the coming month of Elul, which focuses on repentance. In addition, Isaiah 1:16-17 states: "Cease to do evil. Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice. Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow". This implies that mourning the destruction of the Temple and of Jerusalem is not sufficient: one must also commit oneself to ethical action in combination with one's mourning. The Torah reading for this Shabbat which includes this haftarah reading is called "Parashat Devarim" ("Weekly Portion of Words" in Hebrew) and the Torah reading cycle is in fact structured so that this Parashah or weekly portion of the Torah will occur on the Sabbath that precedes Tisha B'Av, which is the day that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples and of Jerusalem. During the period of the Geonim (589 C.E. to 1038 C.E., the Geonim were the leaders of the Jewish academies of learning in Babylonia and Israel), this Shabbat was called "Shabbat Eicha" or "Shabbat Eichah" ("Sabbath of Lamentations" in Hebrew) after "Megillat Eicha" or "Megillat Eichah" ("The Scroll of Lamentations" in Hebrew) which was also read on this Shabbat.
The following are the special Haftarah readings for each of the three Sabbaths or Shabbatot:
1st of the three Sabbaths or Shabbatot preceding Tisha B'Av:
2nd of the three Sabbaths or Shabbatot preceding Tisha B'Av:
3rd of the three Sabbaths or Shabbatot preceding Tisha B'Av:
All the Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot preceding the festivals as well as the somber commemoration of Tisha B'Av set the mood for each festival and Tisha B'Av. Tisha B'Av is followed by another Sabbath or Shabbat called Shabbat Nachamu or Shabbat Nahamu, which means "Shabbat of Comfort" or "Shabbat of Consolation" in Hebrew.
The special Haftarah reading for Shabbat Nachamu is:
Isaiah 40:1-26 begins with Isaiah stating that G-d is telling the people of Israel to be comforted, that the people of Israel have atoned for their sins, and the G-d has unleashed twice as much wrath on Israel as the sins that they committed. This is the first of seven Haftarah readings from Isaiah called "the seven consolations", that are read on Shabbat Nachamu and the Sabbaths or Shabbatot after Tisha B'Av, leading up to Rosh Ha-Shanah. The seven consolations essentially are offering consolation to the Israelites after the destruction of the Second Temple and at the same time, offer hope to the Jewish people that it will be rebuilt again and their ultimate redemption will be realized. As mentioned, the "seven consolations" that consist of the seven Haftarah readings serve to bridge the period from Tisha B'Av to Rosh Ha-Shanah, a period in which each Jewish person is moving toward examining their own self-judgement, self-renewal, and personal redemption. Like the Torah reading for Shabbat Chazon, the Torah cycle of readings is structured so that the Parashah or Torah reading for this Shabbat occurs in the Shabbat just after Tisha B'Av as well as occuring in every Shabbat that leads up to Rosh Ha-Shanah.
To sum up, Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot serve to create a particular mood for an upcoming festival for the Jewish people. The development of this mood in oneself can be likened to creating an inner spiritual elevation from the routine of everyday life to the level of spiritual awareness of the holiness of the upcoming festival or holiday. Special Sabbaths or Special Shabbatot also serve to bridge the events and their themes in Hebrew/Jewish history which are marked by the various festivals and holidays in the Jewish calendar. These "bridges" help to ease spiritual transitions from the holiness of a given historical event in Hebrew/Jewish history to the routine of everyday life and back to the holiness of the next historical event in Hebrew/Jewish history. This never-ending cycle of spiritual peaks and spiritual transitions between spiritual peaks that permeates the Jewish calendar creates and maintains spiritual structure throughout the entire Jewish calendrical year and serves to create an ever-stronger awareness of one' Jewish spiritual identity from year to year.
Footnote regarding the dates on this Special Shabbatot - Special Sabbaths web page: all dates discussed on this website are based on the modern Gregorian calendar, however, these dates are but one secular scholarly deduction; there are many other secular scholarly deductions as well as traditional Jewish chronological dates in addition to modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar dates regarding the timeline of events in Jewish history. To see a table of some important events in Jewish history discussed on this website and their various dates deduced from traditional Jewish sources, the modern Hebrew/Jewish calendar, and secular historical timelines, check out our Jewish History Timeline web page.