OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
The Thin, Still Voice
Ahab told Jezebel about what Elijah did on Mt. Carmel and she was not impressed. Just the opposite, she swore to kill Elijah for what he had done, so Elijah got out of town. (One cannot rely on a miracle to protect oneself from danger.) Elijah ran into the desert and took refuge under a lone tree. There he said that it would be better if G-d took his life than Jezebel. Then he fell asleep.
He awoke to find an angel offering him food. He ate and drank and went back to sleep.
When he got up, the angel was back with more food. The angel told Elijah to fill up because he was going on a long trip. That meal gave him the strength to walk forty days and nights, to Mt. Sinai. He spent the night in the cave where Moses stood to see G-d's glory pass by (see Exodus 33:22). Then G-d opened the conversation by asking Elijah why he had come. (Of course G-d knew, but He often starts conversations with a question, such as "Where's your brother?" to Cain or "What's that in your hand?" to Moses.) Elijah replied, "I have acted very zealously on Your behalf. I alone among the prophets am still doing Your business and Jezebel is trying to kill me."
G-d told Elijah to leave the cave and stand on the mountain, which he did. There, Elijah had a vision. First he saw a great wind smashing rocks, but he said "G-d is not in the wind." Then he saw an earthquake, but he said "G-d is not in the earthquake." Next, he saw a fire, but he said "G-d is not in the fire." Finally, he heard a tiny, quiet voice. Elijah knew that G-d was in the voice. (Long before Shakespeare, Elijah knew that things full of sound and fury often signify nothing.)
Elijah humbly covered his face and the quiet voice repeated the question, "Why are you here?" Elijah repeated his answer about how he acted zealously for G-d's sake and now his life was in danger. G-d told Elijah to go to Damascus and anoint Chazael as king of Aram, to anoint Yehu, grandson of Nimshi, as king of Israel and to appoint Elisha ben Shafat as his own successor. Among them, Chazael, Yehu and Elisha would wipe out the wicked people. G-d told Elijah not to worry: though there were only 7,000 righteous people who never worshipped Baal left in the kingdom, they would all be spared.
Elijah left and went to Elisha ben Shafat, who was driving twelve pair of oxen before him. Elijah allowed his mantle to pass over Elisha as he walked by, signifying that Elisha should follow him. Elisha asked permission to say goodbye to his parents first. Elijah gave his approval. Then Elisha slaughtered a pair of oxen and made a feast to celebrate being chosen Elijah's disciple. After the feast, Elisha followed Elijah and served him.
A short Insight into I Kings, Chapter 19After the miraculous events that took place at Mount Carmel and the killing of the prophets of the Ba'al, Eliyahu fled subsequent to his encounter with Izevel. After he fled, during his second encounter with the angel, Eliyahu was told, (verse 7-8), “'Get up and eat [more], for there is a long way ahead of you'... he then walked on the strength of the meal for forty days and forty nights.”
The Abarbenel asks why did the journey take forty days and nights? This was a journey that should have taken fifteen days!
The Kli Yakar writes that since Hashem did not want Eliyahu to continue his “prosecution” of the Jewish people, Hashem wanted to wear him out before he arrived at Har Ha'e-lokim, Har Sinai – the place that evokes great merit for B'nei Yisrael because they accepted the Torah at the foot of that mountain. Hashem wanted Eliyahu to arrive at Har Sinai worn out and then be “reborn” similar to the forty days from conception to the formation of a fetus. Then, Eliyahu would be ready to again advocate for B'nei Yisrael as Moshe Rabbeinu advocated for them by invoking G-d's Thirteen Attributes from that mountain after the sin of the golden calf.
Similarly, many Rishonim comment, just as Moshe was purified for forty days and forty night went he went up Har Sinai to receive the Torah from Hashem, so too, Eliyahu was purified for forty days before Hashem spoke with him at Har Sinai.