In just another ten days Jews around the world will be sitting down to their Passover Seder. The Seder (literally order) is held around a table and the story of the Exodus is relived by using many symbols. For example, we eat bitter herbs as a reminder of the embittered lives that the Israelites experienced. We dip a vegetable in salt water and eat it as a reminder of the tears that were shed. It is a complicated evening that lasts for hours but it is one of the most exciting evenings on the Jewish calendar. Both children and adults look forward to this night. It is very special and holy.
Towards the end of the Seder we move away from reliving the past and focus on the future. We express our deepest longing for the arrival of Elijah the Prophet who will herald the Messianic era as the verse says “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5) Towards the end of the Seder, we arise out of our seats and someone goes and opens the door to greet Elijah. We even fill a cup of wine for him at the table!
As a child I always wondered why we needed to open the door for him. After all, if we can’t see him can’t he just go right through the door or at least sneak under the crack on the bottom? What is the message behind opening the door?
This question, while it seems funny, is asked by the Jewish sages. They give a powerful answer which underscores an important idea regarding the Messiah. By opening the door we demonstrate that it is not enough to sit in our seats and expect the Messiah to come and fix all of the world’s problems like he is some kind of cosmic handy man. We must actively engage in perfecting the world and do whatever is humanly possible. It is tempting to live within our own little bubble and leave the solving of the world’s problems to the Messiah. Getting up out of our seats symbolically demonstrates that we need to actively engage in the perfection of the world and not simply declare “we want the Messiah now.”
I often feel that people are too focused on the end times. God gave us a beautiful world which we are meant to enjoy and perfect. Bringing God’s presence in to the world is our task and though we wait for the Messiah each and every day, we must do our part in bringing the world closer to perfection.