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The Eternal Message of Elijah's Cup

Isn't there a more politically-correct way to celebrate redemption?
By Arik Barel
First Publish: 3/20/2014, 12:10 PM

Elijah's cup - politically incorrect?
Elijah's cup - politically incorrect?
Flash 90

Towards the conclusion of the Passover Seder, unlike the symbols of freedom which have adorned our Passover Seder plates all night, there is a universally accepted custom to now pour a 5th cup of wine, the "Cup of Elijah," as we open the front door of the home. The Torah describes the night of Passover as a leil shimurim, a "guarded night." (Ex. 12:42) It was this same night long ago when God protected the Jews from the plague which killed all the Egyptian firstborn, and by opening the door, we demonstrate that we believe that it is still a leil shimurim, affirming our trust in God's protection.

However, this trust is not a passive notion. According to Jewish tradition, at this very moment our homes are also graced by the presence of Elijah the Prophet as we recite several verses from the Psalms which ask God to take revenge upon our persecutors and oppressors:

“Pour Your wrath (Sh’foch Chamat’cha) upon the heathen nations who do not recognize You and upon the sinful kingdoms that do not invoke Your Name. For they have devoured Jacob and destroyed His dwelling place. Pour Your anger upon them and let Your fiery wrath overtake them. Pursue them in indignation and annihilate them from beneath the heavens of the L-rd.”

The question that is sometimes raised in certain circles is can't we affirm our history and identity with more political correctness?

The circumstances that brought this passage into the Haggadah stem from about the beginning of the 13th century, when Medieval persecutions, frequently at their most bloodthirsty at Pesach time, evoked the bitter anguish which was articulated in these verses. For much of history, the only means of resistance was to refuse to despair, when really the only weapon the Jew could use was prayer that God, in His justice, would arise and remove the evil from the earth – to" pour out His wrath" upon the doers of evil. The ultimate representative of this hope, Elijah the Prophet.

The most beloved prophet of all, with whom the future redemption of Israel through Messiah is closely linked, Elijah the Prophet lived in the 9th century B.C.E. in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. A fierce and fiery prophet, Elijah fought against the idolatry brought into the country by Queen Jezebel, who married Ahab, King of Israel. Elijah warned the king of the Divine punishment that would be visited upon his land if he did not abolish idol worship and did not cause a general return of all Israel to the One G-d.

Today, with the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, the reality is admittedly drastically different from our European ancestors who first wrote these words. At the same time, they couldn't still be more appropriate. We are surrounded by constant existential threats from enemies from without whose genocidal threats hearken back to the Middle Ages. At the same time, evil today is also increasingly disguised in the media driven deception of “political correctness," such as the BDS, or the “progressiveness” of left wing social liberalism, modern day narratives that attack the validity of monotheism and the absolute morality of Judaism from within.

In a world where the lines of good and evil, of right and wrong are increasingly blurred, and even completely inverted, Sh’foch Chamat’cha acts a stark reminder that, however history evolves, those lines are the same as they have been, since the very beginning.