After the passing of the Chasam Sofer in 1839, Rabbi Yehuda Assad was regarded as head of Hungarian Jewry, a position that he held until he passed away in 1853. Known to be a proficient Kabbalist and an extremely humble individual, Rav Assad also authored several volumes of Responsa (שו"ת מהרי"א) as well as a commentary on Pirkei Avos (חידושי מהרי"א).

On the website Ascent of Safed, R’ Yerachmiel Tilles records a fascinating story regarding Rav Assad: Once, a delegation of leading Jewish rabbis went to visit the Austro-Hungarian Kaiser, Franz Josef, on an important communal matter. In the waiting room, before their audience, they were discussing among themselves who among them should address the Kaiser first. The waiting room had mirrors on all its walls.

The holy rabbi of Szerdahely, Rabbi Yehuda Assad, the most senior rabbi there, happened to glance over to the other side of the room. There, he saw in the mirror opposite him his own reflection. For Rabbi Assad, it was the first time in his life that he had ever seen his own appearance, for out of his piety and humility he had never looked at his reflection in a mirror!

So, what was his reaction? Seeing a Jew whose face shone with holy dignity and beauty, he pointed at the image in the mirror and whispered to some of his colleagues in the delegation, "Look at that elderly Jew there. You can see the Shechinah, the Divine Presence, on his face! We should let him be the first to speak."

This week is Shabbos Hagadol – the GREAT Shabbos. Shabbos Hagadol is always the Shabbos prior to the holiday of Pesach. There is a powerful message here. The ability to experience personal redemption often starts with the awareness of one’s inner גדלות, greatness. When we view ourselves through the prism of greatness, we become more capable of exhibiting personal freedom from the things that tend to hold us back.

Every year, prior to Pesach – when we commemorate the Yetzias Mitzrayim of old and we experiencing the Yetzias Mitzrayim of today – we must first go through a Shabbos Hagadol. We must be reminded of our גדלות that truly makes us worthy of being free!

Shabbos Hagadol is a time to look yourself in the mirror and see your גדלות, see your holiness, and “speak up.” Pesach means פה סח – the mouth that speaks. The mistake of the Metzorah is that he failed to realize his own inner greatness, so he expressed negativity and disdain about someone else.

One of the key ways to avoid improper speech about others, is to work on truly looking at yourself in the mirror and reflecting on your inner sense of worth and greatness.

Test this out: Isn’t it interesting that the same moments in our lives where we reflect upon our inner greatness and self-value, just so happens to be the same moments in our lives where we are using our words to uplift rather than to knock down, to inspire rather than to hurt, to bless rather than to curse.

Have a holy Shabbos!