Beware of False Messiahs

“There is no easy road to the Promised Land. There is no way of avoiding the wilderness of suffering and endurance in our journey towards the better life. No one can relieve us of our responsibility.

In this sermon, delivered on February 18, 1968, Rabbi Olan notes that the harder the times, the more likely we are to turn to self-styled Messiahs who promise us instant relief.  He then challenges the whole idea that redemption comes from outside: “It will not come through the magical power of some one being called a Messiah.  No!  It will come as [people],[1] each [person] learns to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.”

Rabbi Olan recalls the story of the Exodus: after many years wandering in the desert, the Hebrews complained to Moses about their suffering, and he took their complaints to God.  Moses himself “never expected redemption to be so rigorous”.  God’s answer was, “Keep going!”, and this answer was not just to Moses but to the whole people.  As in previous sermons, Rabbi Olan emphasizes that Judaism is grounded in community, so we are all part of the Messianic process.

Rabbi Olan concludes that just as “the voice which is true” spoke to Moses during the Exodus, so again today it “will show us the wilderness we must endure and suffer before we get near any solution to our desperation….  It will tell us that each of us is part of the Messiah, that we are all together, the deliverer and redeemer with God’s Help.”

[1]      Like almost all other men of his time, Rabbi Olan used “men” where we would use “people”.

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the audio recording.

*Written by Lionel S. Joseph and Frances M. Olan*