Elijah the Prophet

June 14, 2006

Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet, was one of the greatest prophets of Jewish History and Jewish Legend. He lived in the period after Yeravam ben Nevat, who caused the Jewish Kingdom to be split into the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Yehuda, when the First Temple stood, but the People of Israel was sunk in the depths of idol-worship. His main antagonists were King Achav (Ahab) and his wife Queen Izevel (Jezebel), and his major disciple was the Prophet Elisha.

Our first encounter with Eliyahu is when he prophesies in the name of G-d to Achav that it will not rain until HaShem, through Eliyahu, allows it to happen.
Soon afterward, he performs a miracle for a widow and her son who are on the brink of starvation, causing their supplies of flour and oil to become limitless. But tragedy strikes, and the widow’s son dies. Eliyahu prays for the life of the child to be restored, and HaShem responds positively to his prayer.
The famine has become very strong, and HaShem commands Eliyahu to confront Achav. Eliyahu challenges Achav to assemble all 450 of the prophets of the Ba’al, and he will contend with them in the presence of the entire nation as to who can bring rain. He says to the People, “How long will you continue to stand on both sides of the threshold? If HaShem is the true G-d, follow Him. But if the Ba’al is, then follow him. And the People could not answer him.” (I Melachim (Kings) 18:21) He allows the false prophets to go first, and they pray all day long to their idol without result. In one of the only places in the Bible where we find mockery, Eliyahu says to his opponents, “Call louder…maybe he’s in the bathroom or maybe he’s away from home; maybe he’s sleeping, and you can wake him up.” (I Melachim 18:27)

After their abject failure, Eliyahu calls out to HaShem, “Hear me, HaShem, hear me, that this People should know that You are the True G-d… Then the Fire of HaShem fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood pile, and the stones… And when the People saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘HaShem, He is G-d, HaShem, He is G-d!’ ” (I Melachim 18: 37-39) Then a small cloud appeared, seeming to be no larger than a man’s hand, over the sea, and soon, “…the sky became darkened with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.” (I Melachim 18:45)

When Eliyahu was taken up to Heaven, and Elisha was walking with him, “…behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them one from another, and Eliyahu went up by a storm of wind into Heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, ‘My father, my father, chariot of Israel, and its horseman…’ ” (II Melachim 2:11-12)

Eliyahu HaNavi was one of the very few to be taken up to Heaven without dying. He is known as the “Angel of the Covenant,” and according to Jewish Tradition, he is present at each circumcision, when a new Jewish soul is brought into the World. Generations of children have heard the lullaby that begins:

“Eliyahu HaNavi, Eliyahu HaTishbi, Eliyahu HaGiladi…”
“Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, Elijah the Giladite…”
“Bi’mehera Yavo Elaynu, im Mashiach ben David.”
“May he soon come to us, accompanying the Messiah, Son of David.”
Eliyahu is the harbinger of the Mashiach , and he is the one “who will restore the hearts of the fathers unto the children and the hearts of the children unto the fathers,” uniting the generations of the Jewish People across all of the ages.