There, in the very center of the Seder table, stands a special, ornate kiddush-cup brimming with wine, awaiting the one still expected but as yet un-arrived guest -- the prophet Elijah.
Will Elijah come this year, to drink of our wine, to bring tidings of the long anticipated,final redemption of all humankind on this anniversary of Israel's redemption from Egypt? I hope so, but I think not.
The world at large is not yet ready for redemption, although it is sorely in need of it. There is still too much hatred, too much disease, too much evil. There is still too much poverty, oppression, misery. We have not yet conquered our tendency to conquer others, nor have we yet mastered the art of conquering ourselves.
But aren't these the very reasons we are in need of redemption? Yes, but this kind of redemption must first come from within; it cannot be brought about from without. We are the ones who must redeem ourselves from all these ills, find solutions for all these conflicts and raise mere “hope” to the level of action before we can expect to see the first glimmerings of a final redemption.
The real meaning of redemption is for us to work toward building a better world, and, as we progress, we will pave the way toward greater progress, until Elijah will be able to reach our doors without stumbling into the pitfalls and potholes we have left in his path.
"When will redemption come?," R. Yehoshua b. Levi asked Elijah.
Elijah replied, "Go and ask the Messiah who sits and waits at the Old City gates."
"Today!, " replied the Messiah.
And so, elated, R. Yehoshua patiently waited the day away, and still the Messiah had not arrived, nor had redemption come to the world.
When he next encountered Elijah, R. Yehoshua accosted him and as much as accused the Messiah of lying.
"'Today!,' he told me, yet today has become yesterday, and still no redeemer has brought redemption."
The perennial prophet simply sipped his cup and said, "I fear you may have misunderstood him. He was quoting scripture to you from the book of Psalms. Here is what it says: "'Today', [I will come] if only all of you would hearken to My [God's] voice."
Let us set out the ornate cup in the center of our Seder tables and fill it with sweet wine. Let us open the door to redemption; not only the physical door to our homes, but the metaphorical spiritual doors which, while still locked, prevent us from working to bring about the " athalta d’geulah," the beginnings of that great, final redemption. Let us be the ones who engage in paving the road that Elijah and we must walk to complete his - and our - journey.
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