Next Year in Jerusalem
Passover’s inspiring message of hope.
I can’t believe it’s already a year since last Passover. I can’t believe I bought my shmurah matzah on sale before Purim (!) and that it’s time to sit down and make my menus. I can’t believe all the groceries I’ve bought (and all the money I’ve spent!) and all the groceries I’ve yet to purchase! I can’t believe all the cleaning and cooking that lies ahead. I can’t believe that I have to figure out new ways to keep my grandchildren entertained during the plagues.
I can’t believe how much I long for the renewal and hope of this springtime holiday. For the timing of the holiday is no accident. Passover occurs in the spring so that we can harness our connection to the physical renewal to our spiritual goals. Just as the ground is bringing forth new blossoms and hope seems re-ignited after a long bleak winter, so too with our souls. Passover is our chance to rise from the darkness and gloom and pessimism of the dark days of winter and embrace the hope and optimism and opportunity of spring. With the advent of Passover and spring, our downtrodden spirits can fly anew.
This is the message of the Seder as well. The Passover Seder takes us on a journey, a trajectory from slavery to freedom. At the beginning of the evening we are caught up in the bitter experience of our slavery in Egypt. We are focused on the tears and the pain. By the end of the evening we have moved towards freedom. We sing songs of praise to the Almighty culminating in our heartfelt wishes for next year in Jerusalem, not just the physical city but the spiritual one, not just the modern city of malls and cars and hi-tech but the spiritual one of the Temple and the Messiah.
When we sit at our Passover Seder, wherever we are in the world, we share these same goals. We share this hope for the future of our nation. We have shared many bitter times for our people throughout the generations and we are expressing our firm belief that in the future we will share the joy of redemption.
“Next year in Jerusalem” is not just a slogan, a rallying goal, a clever Madison Avenue tag line. It is a deeply rooted expression of religious belief and of trust in God. It is not just a way to end the Seder on am emotional high; it is an expression of our reality. When we utter those words at the end of our Seder (those of us who are still awake!) we are saying that we know there is something more than the pain and trauma we are experiencing now. We know that, like all exiles in the past, this too will end. We know that our salvation comes from the Almighty and that He is only waiting for us to turn to Him to come to our rescue. When the Jewish people groaned under the burden of slavery and cried out to God, He “remembered” His covenant. God does not have senior moments. He did not forget His covenant with the Jewish people in the midst of all His other tasks. He was waiting for us to cry out to Him.
He’s waiting now as well. But He’s making it so easy for us. He’s even fed us the script. As we express our gratitude to the Almighty for all the good He has bestowed on us throughout the ages, as we tell tales of servitude and redemption, we continue to focus on the ultimate future experience. When we say that last line, when we get up and dance around the table in a fervent prayer for the fulfillment of this Messianic dream, we don’t just get caught up in the moment, we don’t just focus on our family and friends around the table (as wonderful as that is!) but we turn our hearts and minds heavenward as we recognize that only the Almighty can bring us what we truly want in the depths of our souls – “leshana haba b’yerushalayim habenuyah – next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem!”