While never being named in this text, the concept of Mashiach, or Messiah (from the Hebrew word for “anointed”), has been adopted, adapted, appropriated, re-appropriated, and sometimes misappropriated in some way by almost every faith and belief system. Perhaps it is our desperate clinging to the hope that humanity will transcend its current troubled existence and progress to the next level that inspires us to represent, as absolute truth, that which is actually presented as poetry, allusion, and allegory. Will Mashiach be a person, an attitude, a paradigm shift, a transcendental movement, or a complete do-over of physical existence? No one knows for sure. The one universal, however, is that the association with the end of Pesach reunites those all too familiar friends: reality and hope.
Think of it this way. On a number of occasions, we have discussed how the Exodus saga is a poetic reenactment of Creation. A universe is formed where there was nothing, to an undefined and uncertain fate. Leaving Egypt, an unruly group of slaves coalesces into a nation with far more control over their destiny, but with no fewer challenges to their being able to reach their full potential. Every Passover, we relive the story through ritual and symbolism, equating our past with our present and finding, often to our dismay, that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Most of all, we hear the echoes and see the parallels which renew our imperative to remain empathetic to, and motivated to change, the modern iterations of slavery.
It therefore makes sense that just as the last taste of the Seder was the Afikoman, the dessert which leaves you wanting more, that the final shot fired at Passover should be a look forward to the future and what will, G-d willing, be our final redemption. The Isaiah imagery is powerful; the oppressor subdued through strength and violence followed by the Redeemer emerging as first a shoot, then a twig, from the stump of history. The famous litany of contradictory metaphors which will all ultimately find coexistent hegemony follows—wolf/lamb, leopard/kid, babe/viper, holy/evil—“…for the land will be filled with knowledge of G-d as the water covers the sea (Isaiah 11:9).” Lest we get caught in a loop of despair over the repeating cycles of historical chaos and trauma, we are given the antidote: hope. After all, didn’t Elijah, the prophet who will herald the beginning of the next era, come to visit all of us last weekend at our Sederim to remind us that it was possible?
Every week, we conclude Shabbos with Havdalah, the ceremony which brings the Sabbath to a close, setting us on our way to a new week, empowered and emboldened by our 25 hours of Divinely inspired rest. The words which open the Havdalah are among the ones which close this final Haftarah of Pesach. When the final redemption occurs, the words which we say now as we look forward to our week will be the ones we will declare in retrospect: “Behold, G-d of my salvation, I am confident and unafraid, for G-d is my strength and might, and has been my deliverance.”
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi/Hazzan David B. Sislen