This is the weekend before Passover. Tonight and tomorrow we are called to observe Shabbat HaGadol, “The Great Sabbath.” Its origin is found in the special Haftarah and its reference to “Behold, I will send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great (gadol) and awesome day of God” (3:23).
The prophet speaks of the day of redemption in the future. Passover, in the Haggadah, represents the redemption of the past and serves as the archetype for the future redemption. In fact, 1700 years ago Rabbi Yehoshua says: “In Nisan the world was created … the bondage of our ancestors ceased in Egypt; and in Nisan they will be redeemed in time to come.” (Rosh HaShanah 11a)
So tonight, a week into the month of Nisan, the Jewish people wonder again about our redemption and perhaps the redemption of the world. Turning to the prophet of this weekend’s Haftarah we learn of the redemption brought about by the prophet Elijah who will “turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of their children to their parents” (3:24).
My friends, I think that there is no time like the present for redemption to come. The prophets of the bible saw their living conditions worsening day after day and year after year – during the years of captivity – and even in their homeland under foreign rule. So, in their depths of despair, they envisioned the return of an ancestor of our beloved King David. Out of their hopelessness there arose the dream, the vision, and the hope for mashiach, a “messiah” who will turn things in a positive direction. What will he do when he arrives? He will repair the world. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and build bridges for us all.
This Shabbat, this “great” Shabbat, is a hope for a dream fulfilled.
Last Sunday the Jewish community gathered three rabbis together to discuss with our audience, “What we Believe.” Rabbi Shemtov, our orthodox representative said, “I know that the mashiach has arrived when Rabbi Louchheim (a Reform rabbi) and Rabbi Eisen (a Conservative rabbi) knock on my door and tell me he is here. I will invite them in and we will drink a “l’chaim” together.
Perhaps that day will come. But first, for that to happen something needs to happen from us. Two years ago on this same Shabbat, I shared a poem which I think is worth retelling.
The Sleepless Ones
What if all the people
who could not sleep
at two or three or four in the morning
left their houses
and went to the parks.
What if hundreds, thousands, millions
went in their solitude
like a stream
and each told their story.
What if there were old women
fearful if they slept, they would die;
and young women unable to conceive;
and husbands having affairs;
and children fearful of failing;
and fathers worried about paying bills;
and men having business troubles;
and women unlucky in love;
and those that were in physical pain;
and those who were guilty.
What if they all left their houses
like a stream
and the moon
illuminated their way and
they came, each one
to tell their stories.
Would these be the more troubled of humanity
or would these be the more passionate of this world
or those who need to create to live
or would these be the lonely ones.
And I ask you,
if they all came to the parks
and told their stories,
would the sun on rising
be more radiant?
And again I ask you,
would they embrace?
Redemption arrives when we are able to rebuild the bridge between parents and children. The link between generations often wears thin and sometimes breaks. Misunderstandings between parents and their children are commonplace and often are the hallmark of a breakaway from eternal youth and dependence and growth; but the breakaway should never be final. It should prelude a mature relationship in which parent and child come to a new understanding and reaffirm their independence and certainly their interdependence.
Redemption arrives when we stop yelling at each other. When we see anger as foolishness and kindness as the embrace of God on earth.
Redemption arrives and bridges are built, and when we can have conversations with opposing views and retire from our words as friends.
Redemption arrives and bridges are built when we see wisdom in the efforts of those with whom we disagree. We perceive many paths, not just mine, to the same end point; and when we arrive, we can turn to our new friend and say, “good for you.”
Here on this Shabbat HaGadol we ask ourselves again as we did last year and the year before, “How are hearts reconciled as our prophet hopes?”
Perhaps it is as Lawrence Tirnauer’s poem suggests, as easy as sharing stories. Our stories are personal to us and reflect our inner truths, our vulnerabilities, our failings, dreams, and our humanity. Our stories keep us awake late at night. And, late at night we are alone and afraid to share. Perhaps in the light of day, we will arise and share our truths, without fear of retribution; and share our vulnerabilities without fear of shame, and share our failings and our faults, for perhaps we will be comforted and strengthened and uplifted by another who does the same.
Then again, possibly my orthodox friend is correct. Redemption may come when Rabbis Louchheim and Eisen knock on his door and once invited, we share our stories and open up to each other and share our dreams and vulnerabilities. Perhaps, once we have shared, there will be another knock on the door, and there during the month of Nisan, the Jewish people and the world will welcome in the prophet Elijah who will introduce us to the Messiah.
But only if we share our stories….