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Pesach Chol HaMoed: I Think I Can See Eliyahu

Who are on the road
Must have a code
That you can live by
-Crosby Stills Nash and Young

We are in the midst of Pesach. There are a few mitzvot on Pesach, one being eating matza, the most well-known symbol and food of the chag. Another Pesach mitzva takes place on Seder night when we recount the Passover saga. Time and again the Torah stresses the importance of transmitting the epic story of the Exodus from Egypt to the next generation: 

And when your children ask you, “What is the meaning of this service?” (You shall respond,) “It is the Passover offering to God inasmuch as He passed over the houses of the Israelites…” (Exodus 12)

And you shall relate to your children on that day and say, “It is because of what God did for me when I went free from Egypt.” (Exodus 13)

And in the future, when your child asks you, “What exactly is this all about?” You will tell him, “It was with a mighty hand that God brought us out from Egypt, and away from slavery.” (Ibid)

And elsewhere as well. Parent to child, parent to child, parent to child. This is the way it has been throughout the generations. This was the method of keeping Judaism  strong and viable for thousands of years even through the darkest days of Galut/Exile. Parents and grandparents doing all they can to pass on the traditions to their offspring.  

That is the way it was – until now. Then it all changed. 

A new wrinkle in the generational transmission of the Pesach story started happening in earnest about fifty years ago. Moshe never spoke of it. And dare I say, maybe even the great Moshe, with all his super-prophetic powers, may not have even seen it coming. 

But another prophet did. And he is on the exact opposite end of the prophetic spectrum. Moshe wasn’t the first prophet but he was certainly the greatest. And way, way… way at the other end of the line was the last of the prophets, Malachi. The book named after him is the last one in the Navi/Prophet section of Tanach. Chronologically he is at the very end of the Biblical and Prophetic time period. 

And here are his final words that we read every Shabbat HaGadol – the Shabbat before Pesach : Behold I send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers unto their children, and the hearts of the children unto their fathers…  

It is noteworthy the precedence of “he shall turn the hearts of the fathers unto their children” comes before “and the hearts of the children unto their fathers.” What does Malachi primarily see in his prophetic vision right before the Messianic time which Eliyahu ushers in? He sees a process of Teshuva where the parents follow the initiative of their children, and only incidentally the other way around. The hearts of the parents following their children comes first. 

For thousands of years it was always the parents trying to ensure their children stayed the course and kept their Jewish identity. That was the struggle in the Babylonian Exile, the Persian Exile, the Greek Exile and the Roman Exile – in all lands and in all places. But that gets flipped right before Mashiach arrives. Then it becomes the children who have the outsized influence in ensuring Judaism stays strong and viable. Then it’s the kids who find themselves the vanguards of our past and our history, trying to bring their parents along with them. 

I can tell you that is how it happened in my family. When I was a young boy, our Pesach Seders consisted of the basic Seder meal where we recited Kiddush and the Four Questions. But that was it. We didn’t read the Haggadah and there really wasn’t much interaction about the meaning of the day and trying to engage the children. As such, as I have mentioned before, my vivid memories of Pesach were watching the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Boston Bruins in the NHL playoffs. The playoffs invariably coincided with the Seders. And guess who lost that battle? No, I’m not talking about the game. Yup, the Seders. 

But then one year when I was about 11 years-old, when I was in Mr. Munk’s Hebrew school class (for more about him click here: I realized we were skipping everything and I insisted we do the Haggadah properly. So my Zeida did just that. He picked up the Haggadah, and with his old Yiddish pronunciation, read through the whole thing. I think it was the first time I had ever heard him read Hebrew. 

But from that point onward, we did a proper, full Seder in our family. And as I became more and more involved in my Judaism, so did my family over the years, step by step. All because a child insisted we discuss the Pesach story, and not the other way around of the parent insisting it for the kids.

This is but one example of thousands upon thousands of households today where Pesach used to be done in a skeletal fashion – if at all – and as the younger generation came back to their Jewish roots, it, along with so many other Jewish traditions and mitzvot, are practiced by the parents and grandparents. 

The kids leading the way. This is what the very last prophet foretold us in his very last prophecy. It never happened before. It never happened until our time. The hearts of the parents following the hearts of their children. Following them to the Seder table. And to Shabbat. And to Shul. And to the Sukkah. And to a life filled with Torah and Mitzvot.

And if that happens, can Eliyahu be far behind? 

And you
Of tender years,
Can’t know the fears
That your elders grew by

And so please help them with your youth
They seek the truth…
Teach your parents well

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