The Shabbat before Pesach is called “Shabbat HaGadol”, the Great Shabbat. This is because of its significance, being right before Pesach, and also because the word “HaGadol” appears in the special Haftarah for the day: “Behold I am sending you the prophet Eliyahu before the great (HaGadol) and profound day comes.”
Eliyahu (Elijah) is our guest at our Seders because it has been promised that he would come to announce the Messianic era. Throughout our years in exile, as we sat at home recalling the redemption from Egypt, we hoped that Eliyahu would come and announce that the new redemption was here. Today, too, we still follow this practice, filling a cup in his honour and opening the door for him. In times of danger, opening the door in the middle of the night was often a brave and courageous act, and this became an exercise of faith as well.
Every year during the Seder, at least three times, we hope for a better Seder the next year. Aside from the Elijah moment, at the beginning during “ha lachma anya” we say, “This year we are here, next year may we be in the Land of Israel. This year we are slaves, next year may we be free.” And we conclude each year’s Seder with “L’shanah haba’ah birushalayim hab’nuyah” – “Next year may we be in the rebuilt Jerusalem.”
Even when celebrating, it’s natural and very Jewish to hope for an even better celebration the next time; even when suffering, it’s important to remember those blessings that we still do have.
This year, Elijah will have many more houses to visit as we are all forced to celebrate small Seders with only those who live in our homes. Aside from exile, and aside from the pandemic, what are the other troubles that you and your families are hoping to be redeemed from this coming year? Don’t just focus on the pandemic, think of those other things too as you open the door for Elijah. And as we hope for a better Seder next year, let’s count our blessings and remember those too.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!