How are Mashiach and Eliyahu “elevated and revealed” at the Seder? Not because they appear – they do not, and cannot, appear. But the Seder begins with the original account of our victimization – “we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt” – and then we transcend it, celebrating “our redemption and the salvation of our souls,” our physical and spiritual liberation. That intends to point us away from bitterness and self-pity and toward redemption, gratitude, faith, independence, personal responsibility and the promises of the future.
Mashiach and Eliyahu can only redeem a people that is proud and defiant – a people that are leaders, not slaves; optimistic, not gloomy; self-confident, not timid. Mashiach and Eliyahu together reflect the zenith of our national life – and thus are “revealed” at the Seder. We see ourselves not as victims anymore, but as God’s chosen people. We see ourselves as victims never again. That perception is itself redemption.
The joy and freedom we experience on Pesach is the foretaste of the Messianic era, which calls to us out of the darkness and brings us into the light, which guides us from agony to happiness, from slavery to complete redemption, and to the moment when we will indeed greet Mashiach and Eliyahu in person, in the rebuilt Holy City of Yerushalayim, speedily and in our days.
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim” (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at Rabbipruzansky.com.