Closing the Gap

I’d like to share with you all the holiday message I have written to the members of Or Shalom Synagogue, Vancouver BC, the holy community I will soon begin to serve as spiritual leader.

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Just prior to Pesach, it’s traditional to read a haftarah from the book of Malachi ending with this description of the coming of the Messiah: “The hearts of parents will turn toward their children, and the hearts of children towards their parents… Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet to herald the coming of the Day of the Lord.” Malachi’s prophesy is that the era of peace for all peoples will be inaugurated by the resolution of the Generation Gap. Parents and children will turn their hearts toward one another in a shift that has cosmic ramifications.

At the very least, healing between generations denotes reconciliation of tradition with innovation, and of history with its relevance to the future. If we scratch the surface of what underlies empathy between parents and children we see respect for difference and the bridging of divergent perspectives. Closing this gap ripples toward the close of lots of other disjunctions, gentling our human connections and strengthening our sense of interconnection so that we might more easily see the divine flow between us all.

Soon we’ll sit around our tables turning toward one another as we re-tell our sacred story by way of questions and answers exchanged between the generations of our families and community. The mitzvah of the Seder is to teach and learn from all who are present at our tables, all the archetypes and all the paths of Torah we represent. We contribute our divergent perspectives so that we can collectively envision the biblical redemption as relevant to us, here and now.

Elijah’s entrance, at the Seder’s end, reminds us that our renewed identification with our mythic past is not enough. What we were given must inform what we, in turn, give. There is so much more that needs saving, and we, the redeemed, must become redeemers.

As the Baal Shem Tov taught, it is incumbent upon every Jew to prepare that particular aspect of the Tikkun Olam that is uniquely relevant to his or her soul. And as Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, each of us embodies a fraction of God’s power and holds a particular treasure. It is only in collaboration that all the necessary soul tasks can be fulfilled, and that is why we simply must turn toward one another with open hearts. Together we can lift our world to its highest potential, raising the Messianic Era like a communal barn raising.

The Chernobler Rebbe said that what stands between us and a perfect world is the passion of our convictions. So when we open our doors for Elijah, let’s remember that this, as Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has taught, is a new era. Elijah comes to urge us to heal to a wholeness that supports our cooperation in building the world of our dreams. Elijah comes to urge us to reach across, join hands, and take redemptive action in our world.

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Here is a recording of Ha Lachma Anya, the Seder’s welcome to all who are hungry. My friend Rabbi Rachel Barenblat says: “All who are spiritually hungry…” This particular melody has been sung in my mother’s family for generations and comes from the Börneplatz Synagogue Jewish community of Frankfurt am Main.

audio credit: Hannah Dresner                                                                                                         
photo credit: Jay Shefsky

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