Eliyahu (D’veykus)

March 20, 2021

What if I told you that at this time next week we’ll be welcoming into our homes one of the most famous Jewish personalities of all time? In fact, few are as well-known as the person who will be dropping by, and it’s not really that debatable…

Presumably, it didn’t take long for any of you to conclude that I am referring to none other than Eliyahu HaNavi. He traverses the globe on the night of Pesach in order to reinforce the special bond that we have with Hashem – acting as our indefatigable advocate during those precious, fleeting hours of opportunity to help hasten the Ultimate Redemption.

There is much to be discussed when it comes to Eliyahu HaNavi; from the seven chapters of historic and prophetic recordings found in the Navi Melachim, to the countless Midrashic, Talmudic, Aggadic and Halachic discussions found throughout the volumes of our sacred sefarim.

When one learns of the role that he has played and of the responsibilities that he continues to fulfill, one quickly realizes that Eliyahu HaNavi is one of the most significant individuals not just of Jewish history, but to Jewish life as a whole! Even after ascending to heaven, he continues to advocate on behalf of his nation. A seat of honor is set for him at every bris milah and a cup named for him is poured at the Seder. He is a figure not only of the past, but also of the present and future.

One of the many reasons I was inspired to post something tonight was that I recently saw a Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 18:12) that states that it will be on the Seder night that Eliayhu, together with Moshiach, will make their long-awaited appearance. And in truth, the connections that are made of Eliyahu HaNavi to the Seder night are almost as numerous as those made of him to Motzei Shabbos (see Eruvin 43a for starters). So with this year’s Seder occurring on Motzei Shabbos, I couldn’t help but connect the dots to share a quick story with the group that I hope we can all relate to in a very real way.

Not too long ago, there was a wealthy man who was obsessed with stories of meeting Eliyahu HaNavi. One year before Pesach, he spoke to his Rav and complained that for all of his yearning to meet Eliyahu, he was always disappointed that Eliyahu did not appear at his Pesach Seder. “I want to meet Eliyahu HaNavi this Pesach,” he grumbled. The Rav responded by telling him to load a cart full of food, wine and Pesach supplies and to travel into the forest, go down a certain path, take a left turn, then make a right, and spend Pesach at the house that he would find at the end of the path. “Eliyahu HaNavi will be at that home this Pesach,” the Rav promised.

He did as he was told, and after getting a little lost along the way, arrived at the home in the forest just minutes before Yom Tov. He knocked, and a man opened the door. The wealthy man asked if he could spend Pesach there. The man at the door explained that he and his wife had no food for Yom Tov, let alone enough to share. The wealthy man showed him his wagon, filled with enough food for all of them to eat and so they spent Pesach together in that home in the forest.

As you could imagine, the wealthy man spent the entire Seder in eager anticipation for the arrival of Eliyahu HaNavi. The Rav had promised him that Eliyahu would be in this home on Pesach and so he raced through the Seder to be able to fling open the door for Eliyahu. Finally, the moment arrived, and when he opened the door… he was met by the sound of crickets in the quiet and empty night. He was sorely disappointed.

After Pesach the man rushed to the Rabbi’s study to complain. “You promised me that Eliyahu HaNavi would be at that home this Pesach and he wasn’t!” The Rav told him to go back to the forest early the next morning, to the same path, but to take a left turn instead of a right turn at the end of the journey.

The man did so and came to a clearing in the forest. In this clearing a group of woodcutters who had been cutting wood since dawn were sitting together to eat breakfast. The wealthy man recognized his Pesach host among the woodcutters and he heard the man say to his friends, “You would not believe what happened to me! My wife and I had no food for Pesach, but minutes before Yom Tov began, Eliyahu HaNavi came to our door with a wagon filled with food….”

It is taught that Eliyahu HaNavi only appears to the most compassionate (see Kesubos 61a). This coming week, we will find ourselves entirely occupied with our Yom Tov preparations and checklists, anxiously awaiting our Seder night encounter with the aforementioned prominent prophet. But whether it is our local Kimcha D’Pischa or a neighbor in need, there are those who find themselves in a more difficult financial spot, and we must do our utmost to take care of them as well.

We have the ability – and especially this week, a tremendous responsibility – to actually become Eliyahu HaNavi for someone else, transforming ourselves into heavenly emissaries of Hashem.

Numerous beautiful piyutim have been composed for recital on Motzei Shabbos. Most of them contain references to Eliyahu HaNavi and how we pine for him to come and fulfil his role as the mevaser and herald Moshiach Ben Dovid (see Shabbos HaGadol’s Haftorah, Malachi 3:23). So for tonight, I decided to choose yet another extraordinary composition of master songwriter, Abie Rotenberg. The song is called Eliyahu, and is from the 1995 Shabbos-themed album of D’veykus, Vol. 5.

As a bonus, I have also included a beautiful instrumental version (arranged by the one and only Suki Berry) that was released on the 2011 album called Then & Now – Big Time – Alter Heim. There were many songs to choose from tonight, but this was the only one that gave me a chance to give more than usual – something I hope I will be able to do more of in the coming days ahead.

Shavua Tov – Gut Voch!

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