As Napoleon marched triumphantly through Europe, the Jews of the ghetto felt joyous by his arrival. Was Napoleon really the Messiah? Many of our ancestors thought so; but again, that was before Napoleon got defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. And then there was Franklin Delano Roosevelt better known to my parent’s generation as “FDR.” Many Jews living back in the gloomy days of WWII believed that FDR might have been the Messiah, but that was before we learned that FDR decided not to bomb Hitler’s crematoria.
To our surprise, the Messiah, it turns out, didn’t dress like an emperor, nor did he appear as a president. In Jewish tradition, the reality of deliverance comes disguised. At the Passover Seder, Jews express hope that the following year will be redemptive in character. By opening the door for Elijah, we keep the flame of hope alive that redemption is near at hand. Yet, for all the fanfare about the Messiah, the redeemer of Israel’s birth is uneventful and anonymous. Yet, curiously, he walks hidden among us.
When Moses first appeared to the Israelites, they never thought for a minute that this strange speaking man would be the savior of whom their ancestors had spoken. Here was a person who was originally discovered as a foundling in Pharaoh’s court, then as a shepherd who stammers and stutters before a burning bush. So, too, the ultimate messianic presence that we seek may lie hidden in the least likely person around. Continue reading “The Inconspicuous Messiah”