The Power of LoveOctober 12, 2012 - 5:00 am
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” — Malachi 4:5–6
Malachi was the last of the Minor Prophets. His book concludes the section of Prophets included in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament as it is known to Christians. His final words are not just the end of his prophecy; they also mark the end of an era. As God’s last message to the original prophets, we cannot take these words lightly. They are words that are meant to echo into the future and carry us through to the End of Days.
The book of Malachi ends with a reference to Elijah the prophet. He will reappear just before the coming of the Messiah and he will have a specific job: “He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents.” The Sages explain the verse like this: “He will turn the hearts of the parents” to God by way of “their children” and he will turn “the hearts of the children” to God by way of “their parents.”
The Sages are teaching us that Elijah’s job is to turn people back to the Lord. But he won’t do it through force or threats. He will do it like a father who cares for a child and like a child who cares for his parent. He will do it with love.
For thousands of years, religious leaders have made the mistake of trying to bring people to God through coercion. They used intimidation and domination. But our God is a God of love. He wants us to know that the way to bring the world to perfection is not through tactics of fear. The only way to bring real and lasting change to an imperfect world is to inspire people through love.
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a rabbi and musician who died in the mid 90’s, was legendary for his unparalleled love. He brought thousands of people closer to God through his warmth and kindness. When someone asked him how he was able to be so successful at changing lives while other scholars and leaders couldn’t, he said the following: “If you put people next to ice, they freeze. But when you put them next to an oven, they become warm.”
Rabbi Carlebach understood Malachi’s message. When we are warm and loving, it is contagious. When we love others, we soften their hearts, and then they can also love God.
Friends, love is the answer. We won’t win the war of good against evil through guns and swords. We will change the world with acts of loving-kindness. Can you think of someone who seems far from God? Reach out to them with your warmth. Don’t underestimate the power of love.