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Haftarah-Shabbat HaGadol-Our Own Bread

The 5th of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Apt, the Ohev Yisrael: The Talmud tells us that small children came to the House of Study and asked, “why does the letter Gimel precede the letter Daled? The rabbis replied that this alludes to “providing for the poor,” Gomeil Dalim, Gimel Daled (Shabbat 104a).


Gimel, the provider is the wealthy letter, which bestows to Daled, the poor letter, who stretches forth a hand to receive. Gimel is thus an aspect of the masculine, while Daled is an aspect of the feminine.

We know that this is the reason why each letter of the Hebrew alphabet faces the back of the next one. The Bet thus faces away from the Aleph, and the same is true of all the other letters.

Each letter receives from the neighboring letter that precedes it. It is therefore ashamed to look in its neighbor’s face, and turns its face away from the preceding letter.

The Daled therefore faces away from the Gimel. The Daled is the poor man was nothing of his own other than what it receives from the Gimel, which is the wealthy man who sustains it. But when one “eats that which is not his, he is ashamed to look at the giver in the face (Yerushalmi, Orlah 1:3, 6a).”

God’s beneficent desire was that there be a motivation from below. The main reason that man was created and the soul sent forth from the highest universes to man’s body, was so that he should serve God through the Torah and Commandments. As a result of that worship, the good Influence from on high is aroused. What one “eats” is therefore his very own, given in return for his worship, which is the service of heaven.

Such a person does not have to be ashamed to look at the face of his Benefactor. He himself is transmitting all kinds of abundance from on high through his own good deeds. This would not be true if the soul had remained in the highest universe. It would then be “eating” and receiving sustenance as a result of God’s love and as a free gift. This is “Bread of Shame.” It is given freely, without any motivation from below through the Torah and good deeds. (Ohev Yisrael, Eikev)

Shabbat HaGadol celebrates the first opportunity the Children of Israel had to “eat their own bread.”

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