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Passover Yizkor Sermon 2023

04/18/2023 09:36:46 AM


Rabbi Ranon Teller

Based on a sermon delivered by Rabbi Harold Shulweis z”l

I was blessed to be influenced by his imagination and leadership.

Our sages spoke of two Passovers:  One is called the Passover of the past - Pesach Lish’avar and the other is called the Passover of the future Pesach Latid. The first Pesach is historic the second is futuristic.

Our Pesach of the future looks forward to a messianic era. The Jewish view of Messiah is not supernatural, not immortal, not infallible. The Jewish Messiah is natural, mortal, fallible. Jewish Messianic redemption will not come from a supernatural being descending from the heavens. The Jewish Messiah is a person who is gifted with wisdom and insight and empathy for those who are outcast and forgotten – compassion for those who are on the fringes. The Jewish Messianic dream is not to escape from the world, not to leap to another universe, but to transform this world and to sanctify it.

A rabbi was once asked, “What is the Jewish belief about this world and the next world – olam hazah and olam habah?” He answered, “There are two worlds. But we believe that both worlds are one.” The Messianic dream is not to transcend this world, but to transform this world.

Once a great rabbi was told by his students that the Messiah has arrived: “Come, Rabbi, and greet the Messiah!” The rabbi calmly looks out the window and looks back at his students and says: “No, the Messiah has not come.” “How do you know?” they asked. He said “See for yourselves. Do you still see homelessness and poverty? Do you still see fighting and jealousy? Then, the Messiah had not arrived.” First, we put in the work, only then will the Messiah come.

During the seder, we send our children to open the door to welcome Elijah the prophet. We urge our children to open the door and unlock the future. We urge our children to look at the world as it is and envision a better future. The hero of our Seder is not Moses. The hero of the seder is Eliyahu! Moshe is our past leader and he is never mentioned in the Haggadah. The very culmination of the seder is “Elijah’s cup,” kos Eliyahu and he is the one who ushers is the messianic future.

Once Rabbi Joshua ben Levi encounters Elijah the Prophet and asks him, “When will the Messiah come?” Elijah said, “Go and ask him yourself.” “OK. Where is he?” “He is sitting at the entrance to the city of Rome.” “And how will I know it’s him?” “He is sitting among the poor beggars, and he is binding and rebinding their bandages.”

Rabbi Joshua went and found the Messiah, He said “Shalom aleichem, peace be upon you, master and teacher. When will you come?” And the Messiah answered, “Today….” Rabbi Joshua was so excited that he didn’t let the Messiah finish his sentence. He ran home and waited by the door all day and night. Nothing happened.

In the morning, he found Elijah again and said: “I found the messiah, just like you said, and I asked him when he would come. He said he would come today – and he never came!” Elijah listened patiently and answered him, “You didn’t let the Messiah finish his sentence. He said that he would come today if the people of the world would stop their violence and spread more love. The Messiah will not come unless we begin to change the world.”

We now begin our Yizkor service. The ritual of Yizkor is here for us to remember out past. And like the Passover seder, we recite the Yizkor not only to remember the past, but to inspire our future. Our task is to look back at our memories and allow those memories to influence the way that we live in the future. Let’s make their memories a blessing. Let’s do the work to usher in a messianic era of peace and loving kindness.

Wed, July 24 2024 18 Tammuz 5784