Affecting the World
This shabbat is called "The Great Shabbat". Why?
The story is told that when the Jewish people in Egypt were preparing for the Exodus, they were told to take the Passover lamb several days before they actually were going to leave. They did this in the full view of the Egyptians, despite the fact that in Egypt at that time the sheep was considered sacred and was not allowed to be slaughtered.
Seeing the way every Jewish family was acquiring a lamb, the Egyptians were led to ask what was happening. The Jews replied in detail. They explained that G-d was going to bring upon the Egyptians the final plague: the smiting of the first-born. At that time the Jews would be gathered in their homes, eating the roast lamb at the first Seder night. Then they would go free from their slavery.
Hearing this, the Egyptian first-born were shocked. Over the preceding year, from the time of the first plague, the turning of the Nile to blood, they had learned to respect what the Jews said. If the Jews said something was going to happen, it generally happened. The first- born gathered outside Pharaoh's palace, demanding from him, and demanding from their parents, that the Jews be given their freedom immediately.
When Pharaoh refused, a fierce battle broke out between the first-born and the other Egyptians. It was civil war. We refer to this incident on the Seder night with the words "He smote Egypt with their first- born" (Psalms 136:10). This verse is also part of the Shabbat morning prayers.
This event took place on the Shabbat before the Exodus, and that gives our Shabbat its name. The Shabbat before Pesach is known as the "Great Shabbat", because of the remarkable fact that then the Egyptians themselves were battling in order to obtain the release of the Jewish slaves.
However this seems a little strange. Why be so enthusiastic about this incident? It did not materially affect the order of events, nor the timing of the Exodus. So why should it be remembered in such a grand way?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains this point as follows: Every Jew has to strive not only for his or her own perfection, but for the perfection of the entire world. This means that we have the goal that all humanity should respect G-d's Will, as expressed in the Seven Noahide Laws.
The fact that the Egyptian first-born were trying to persuade their parents and Pharaoh to obey G-d's Will and let the Jewish people free was an important step forward in this wider task. This was and is still today an ample cause for celebration, remembering the Sabbath when it took place as the "Great Sabbath".
How did it happen? By the Egyptians responding to our obedience to G-d's command to us: taking the Paschal lamb. This teaches us something important. The behavior of the world depends on each of us, man or woman. If we Jews keep properly G-d's laws, the teachings of the Torah, we will influence the whole world for good, and enable it to reach ultimate fulfillment.
Based on Likutei Sichot vol.7 pp. 212-3