Sunday, July 20, 2008
17 of Tamuz & Eliyahu Hanavi - Guest Post by Yosef ben Shlomo Hakohen
Sunday, (July 20th) is the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tamuz. This special day – a fast day – begins a three-week period of sober reflection which focuses on the loss of our Holy Temple and the suffering of our exile. During these three weeks, we also reflect on the causes of the destruction of the Temple and the exile. This period concludes with Tisha B’Av – the Fast of the Ninth of Av, which begins this year on Saturday night, August 9th. On Tisha B'Av, both the First Temple and the Second Temple were destroyed. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the Second Temple was destroyed in a later era by the Romans.
It is important to maintain our hope for redemption as we approach this sober period, as our reflection on the causes of the destruction of the Temple and the exile is to inspire us to engage in a process of spiritual renewal which can hasten the arrival of the Messiah and the birth of the messianic age of redemption. In this spirit, I am sharing with you the attached recording of an old folk song of our people about the comforting messenger of our final redemption: Elijah, the Prophet. According to our tradition, Elijah is the forerunner of the Messiah. A source for this tradition is found in the concluding prophecy of Malachi, the last of the Prophets until the birth of the messianic age, when prophecy will be renewed. This concluding prophecy of Malachi conveys a Divine message to our people around the beginning of our exile. It is a call to remain loyal to the path of the Torah so that we can hasten the birth of the messianic age when the Redeeming One will send us Elijah, the Prophet, the forerunner of the Messiah. As the following words of this Divine message indicate, Elijah will arrive before the great and awesome day of Divine judgment and redemption:
“Remember the Torah of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him at Horeb for all of Israel – its statutes and social laws. Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem.” (Malachi 3:23)
How can we begin to remember the Torah? Rabbi Akiva, a noted sage of the Talmud, cites the verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), and he states that this verse expresses the essential principle of the Torah (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). This essential principle of the Torah reveals that the goal of the Torah path is to enable us to be “other” directed.
We can therefore begin to remember the Torah by remembering the essential principle of the Torah. According to our tradition, Elijah, the Prophet, stressed this idea, and the following example is found in “Tanna D'vei Eliyahu” – an ancient midrashic work which contains teachings from Elijah, the Prophet, which were revealed to Rabbi Anan:
“The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Israel: My beloved children! Is there anything I lack that I should have to ask of you? All I ask of you is that you love one another, honor one another, and respect one another. In this way, no sin, robbery, or based deed will be found among you, so that you will remain undefiled forever. Thus, it is written (Micah 6:8): ‘He has told you, O human being, what is good! What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, love loving-kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ ” (Tanna Dvei Eliyahu 28)
It is especially relevant to remember the above teaching of Elijah during the period when we reflect on the loss of our Temple, as the Talmud teaches that the Second Temple was destroyed because of unwarranted hatred (Yuma 9b).
There is a custom to sing the words of this song about Elijah on Saturday night, as we hope that through the merit of our having observed Shabbos, Elijah will arrive and announce the coming of the Messiah (ArtScroll Siddur). Some people also have a custom to sing the words of this song when we begin the second half of the Passover Seder and briefly open the door of our home. The second half of the Seder is dedicated to the future redemption (commentary of the Vilna Gaon); thus, we begin this part of the Seder by expressing our desire to welcome Elijah, the Prophet – the forerunner of the future redemption.
Within our Sacred Scriptures, Elijah is referred to as, “Elijah the Tishbi, a resident of Gilad” (1 Kings 17:1). The commentator, Radak, explains that Elijah was originally from the city of Toshav, and he later lived in Gilad. This is why the song refers to him as both, “Elijah the Tishbi, and Elijah the Giladi.”
The words of this song are the opening stanza of a hymn about Elijah which is found in the Saturday night section of the Siddur, our classical Prayer Book. (In the Art Scroll Siddur, it appears with an English translation on pages 626-629.)
The following is a transliteration of the Hebrew words of this song with the English translation:
Eliyahu HaNavi, Eliyahu HaTishbi, Eliyahu HaGiladi, bimhayra yavo aleinu im Moshiach ben David.
Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbi, Elijah the Giladi – May he quickly come to us with Messiah, son of David.
I will conclude this letter with the following traditional blessing which appears towards the end of Birchas HaMazon – the Grace After Meals:
“The Compassionate One! May He send us Elijah, the Prophet – he is remembered for good – to bring to us good news of salvation and consolation.”
Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
P.S. The song that I sing on this recording is not accompanied by musical instruments.
(Picture courtesy of Flikr Pictures)
Click here to get Dixie Yid in your e-mail Inbox.