The time I met Elijah the Prophet

He was right there on an ordinary day.

Rabbi Elchanan Poupko, | updated: 10:37

Judaism .Street view with synagogue
.Street view with synagogue
צילום: PR

As Passover nears, there is a great deal of talk about Elijah the prophet, will he come this year to sip from his cup of wine or not? Is it just a kids’ fiction or is there any religious significance to that belief? I will never forget the time I met Elijah personally. Yes, Elijah and I go a long way back. It was not on a Passover night, it was on an ordinary day when I was just a middle school child. Please bear with me.

Growing up, my mom was a single mom. I remember her going to law school while working full time—and raising four children. Though I didn’t realize at the time, I now begin to understand how difficult that must have been—on so many levels. Running that household on the smoothest of days, could not have been easy in any way.

One day, the door to our big closet broke. Ugh. I can just imagine. The additional expense to an already tight budget, the trouble of finding a handyman, and arranging for him to come at the right time. But she did it. My mother arranged for it all.  

And so, the handyman/carpenter came. I still remember him. Tall, salt and peppered beard, and a large kippah on his head. He came and did his work with a smile, and the closet was all fixed. My mother then asked how much it was. With a shy smile on his face, he said: “oh, there is no need”. He dashed to the door and left. We were all surprised. As a child, I didn’t understand who he was or why he just walked out after doing his work. I thought perhaps he was a family friend. I asked my mother: “who was that?”

She responded: “it was Eliyahu Hanavi”, Elijah the prophet. As a child I was amazed. I got to meet Elijah himself, indeed a special moment. It all made so much sense so I just continued with my day.

Fast forward about more than twenty years later when I suddenly remembered that story and came to the shocking realization: the handyman was not actually Elijah. He was just a kind handyman who saw a family with a single mom, a bunch of kids, and not much money to spare and decided to give them a break. Things were not as special as I thought they were, I did not get to meet Elijah the prophet. Kind of disappointing.

After giving the matter some thought and upon further consideration, I came to the more mature and balanced conclusion: indeed, it was Elijah who came. It was Elijah who came and helped us when we needed him. No matter how ordinary that handyman may have been, at that moment, for our family, he was Elijah. Each and every one of us has the power to be the Elijah of others. Each and every person who decides to show extraordinary kindness, compassion, to be that anonymous helping hand along the way, is indeed another Elijah. To themselves, but more importantly, to others.

We wake up each and every day with a simple binary option: we can choose to go about our lives like regular folks, or we can be—even just for today—someone’s Elijah. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself: can I be Elijah today?

As we celebrate Passover and have all that talk about Elijah coming to the Sader, just remember: Elijah is at the Sader, you just need to make it happen. 

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