The snow started to fall on Saturday afternoon. The talk prior to the weekend was of ‘a few inches, maybe’ but we ended up with snowfall that lasted through the night, covering everything with a thick powdery layer -- and leading to cancellations for Sunday activities.
While the kids played outside yesterday, and the sun was going down, I had a choice to make. Wait for the plough service to come and clear the driveway or clean it up myself. With snow like this, we like to know that, if necessary, we can scoot over to CVS or the market for something in an emergency. There are other reasons I thought about clearing the driveway by myself in that moment. We’d been cooped up inside for many hours, my wife wanted to stay inside, and the kids wanted to play outside, and I needed some exercise.
Reflecting back on the decision of ‘to shovel or to wait’, I think there is a lesson here about redemption. When we speak of redemption and Messiah/Moshi’ach (the redeem-er) or about a ‘Messianic Era’, we are thinking faith-forward. How will the future unfold and what will be my role in that future? In my snow-dilemma, either way I knew that the driveway would, at some point, be clear. But…If I had a very long driveway, read ‘if my future seemed laden with trouble and travail or dim with uncertainty’, I might have felt overwhelmed at the thought of trying to push so much snow with my one shovel, read ‘bring about redemption with my own action’. On the other hand, I might have decided to tilt at the driveway-windmill as much as I could until I collapsed knowing that I had put in a full effort despite the odds.
The conclusion is that we tend to evaluate our faith-future in relative terms, and the way we think about these terms determines how likely we are to participate in creating that future or in waiting for, a la Coelho, the universe to conspire to create that future for us. Either way, the assumption in Jewish thinking is that the redemption is coming. Much like Christians believe in a ‘2nd Coming’, and the way others hope for an ABBA reunion tour, we feel, at different levels of intensity, a need to ‘see’ the future. Jewish tradition asks us to believe that the ancient covenants between God and people are immutable, and that the Exodus from Egypt is something that is an archetype for a future liberation.
In ‘snowfall surprise moments’ like this past weekend’s blizzard, we tend to think about redemption much more than an average day. When we ask questions like ‘How soon until it melts?’ ‘Are the roads open?’ ‘Are the movie theaters going to be open?’ we are asking low-level redemption questions. We’re contemplating liberation from the natural order of things even as the snow itself ‘liberates us’ by changing the environment, keeping us closer to home, and quieting down the general rush into more of a walk.
Redemption-thinking is as much about these moments, when we are inspired to question as we contemplate the future, as it is about the destiny of the world.