Sorry it's been so long since I last posted - there are a few things floating around that I should get to shortly. In the meantime, in order to get into the habit of posting as soon as possible after something comes to me ...
While Pesach celebrates the initial and prototypical geula and our formation as a Jewish nation, Achron Shel Pesach is about the future geula that we are all waiting for. The Pesach narrative is very much the story of the entire Jewish history - bchol dor vador - in every generation they try to destroy us, and yet we prevail. The last couple of thousand years have been a constant cycle of threat & redemption. Rinse and repeat. But what happens after the redemption?
There certainly have been so-called "golden ages" of Jewish life where it has flourished for a time, and then been hit by a crisis. It seems Hashem doesn't like to see us too happy for too long - the old kosis lama'or paradigm where oppression brings out the best in us - the pintele yid and mesiras nefesh.
Reflecting on the juxtaposition of Pesach to a day that is about Moshiach, I think about the previous generation to ours, and the next. In Australia, many of us are descended from Holocaust survivors. As chassidim, we look back a generation or two to the elter chassidim who escaped from Eastern Europe and re-established themselves in new lands, and build oases of Chabad moisdos where there were spiritual deserts. In both cases, their narrative very much aligns with that of Pesach - escape from oppression to redemption and rebuilding.
What does this say about the next generation? The Gen Xs and Gen Ys who have been brought up not knowing of war, in the Western world where they have freedom of religion, freedom to be the best Jews they can be. We live a wonderful life in a free country, yet often this has led to greater assimilation.
I did a study a few years ago about entrepreneurship in Jewish post-war immigrants. There certainly appeared to be a link between their oppressive upbringing and their drive to succeed and appetite for risk in their new countries. Again, kosis lama'or continues to haunt us.
In what may be another golden age of Jewish life, how do we escape this cycle? For how long can we thrive as Jews amid relative freedom? Is there another crash looming? What does Hashem have in store for us next?
This is why Achron shel Pesach comes when it does. Through Pesach we look back at our history of ups and downs, and right now we find ourselves in an "up" cycle. How should we act? Achron shel Pesach establishes the long-term overlay of galus and geula. The last two thousand years may have had tens of up-down cycles, but they are all part of a single, long, galus. During the "down" times, we are drawn down by the micro situation that affects our daily lives as Jews. During the "up" times, we must step back and look at the macro situation: that any geula or salvation from oppression is only a minor or temporary one, and we are still in galus until Moshiach does come.
Our mission during this golden age is not to sit back and say "aaahhh" - we can relax and enjoy life now that we live in a friendly country and can practice our religion and express our religious pride. Rather, we need to pine now more than ever for Moshiach. May this happen bimheiro beyomeinu mamash, in time to bring Pesach Sheni in a few weeks!