- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On April 19, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we make our way toward Shabbat.
As part of our Seder and celebration of Passover, we set aside a cup for Elijah and, at the designated time, open the door for him. Though he doesn’t seem to materialize, what he represents is very much part of the theme of this holiday.
The story of Elijah in the Book of Kings is different from the way the imagination of the Midrash captured him. Since Elijah was carried off in a fiery chariot, the imagineers of Jewish tradition created stories and tales of a person who mysteriously appears, assists, cares for and guides unsuspecting individuals. The idea connects us to the book of Malachi, the last prophet, who declared Elijah would herald a messianic time of hope and peace. We end the Seder uplifted by such a possibility.
Oh where is Elijah now?! We need the harbinger of hope. One Midrash (Pirkei Derabbi Eliezer 15) has him sitting at the intersection of justice and love. In this setting, the question arises which way should a person choose? Justice or love? Could it be possible to decide on one and not the other? The Midrash understood the challenge: I call heaven and earth to be my witness that I will not give up either of them. To be at the intersection of the two and to claim both justice and love is to, according to this Midrash, bring forth life, righteousness, and honor, for as Proverbs 21:21 says: One who strives to do good (justice) and kind deeds (love) attains life, righteousness and honor.
The story of Passover sits at the intersection of justice and love. Both move the story forward. The midwives enact justice and do not murder. Yocheved’s love for her baby son allowed her to send him in a basket down the river not knowing if he would even survive. Pharaoh’s daughter, in direct defiance to her father’s edict, stood up and saved this Israelite child whom she embraced into the folds of her life. But it is the injustice of slavery and the lack of kindness and love to the strangers in the Egyptian land that created the wretched environment in the first place. It was the fear of the Pharaoh and the abomination of his ego that allowed him to enact laws that would segregate and subjugate fellow human beings. The combination of justice and love is what would turn degradation into dignity. Justice and love, both divine and human, transformed the landscape to bring forth redemption, the manifestation of life, righteousness and honor.
Without justice and love in the Passover narrative or in the world we occupy today, there can be no redemption or hope.
So, let’s meet at the corner of justice and love. It is where we harvest hope. And who knows? Redemption may shortly follow.
Rabbis Soffer, Jacobson, and Gubitz, Cantor Einhorn, as well as Rabbis Friedman and Mehlman join me in wishing you and your family a wonderful and meaningful holiday.
Hag Sameah and Shabbat Shalom!
We will hold an abridged Qabbalat Shabbat service tonight at 4:45 p.m. before Passover begins. Join us either in person or via live stream here.
Tomorrow morning, bring your family for the world famous clergy Matzah Brei Cookoff at 9:30 a.m. and pick the winner. Sweet? Savory? Secret Ingredients. Delicious for sure.
The morning also includes a wonderful celebration of our adult B’nei Mitzvah during the Passover festival service and community lunch after. Festivities begin at 10:30 a.m.
Little kids Passover program with Wayne Potash gets started at 10:15 a.m.