Welcoming Elijah

Posted on March 7, 2018 by Cantor Emily Wigod Pincus

As we all know, no Seder is complete without a communal expression of our hope for a visit from Elijah the prophet, who signals the time when “the hearts of parents will be turned towards their children, and the hearts of children will be turned towards their parents” (Micah 3:24). Elijah heralds the coming of the messianic age, the day when the lion will lie down with lamb, when there will be peace on earth, when nations will study war no more. We connect our redemption from slavery in Egypt to the redemption of the world.

Traditionally, there are three special Shabbatot in the three weeks leading up to Pesach: Shabbat Parah, Shabbat Hachodesh, and Shabbat HaGadol. Just as before the High Holy Days, we have the month of Elul to prepare us for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the three-week period containing these Shabbatot serve to prepare us for this special time. The themes of the haftarot for all of these special Shabbatot are purification, redemption, and renewal. It is a good time to think about what our mission as Jews in the world should be. This leads up to the last Shabbat, Shabbat Hagadol, when we read these words from the prophet Micah, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before the great and awesome day of Adonai” (Micah 3:23).

For the next coming three Shabbatot, we will prepare to welcome Elijah with musical references to our hopes for a messianic age. When you come to services, please do listen for it! With music, we will express our hopes and prayers for the redemption of the world. We are a house of prayer, and as such, we are the original address for this.

But in an unexpectedly significant confluence of events, the Saturday of the last Shabbat, Shabbat Hagadol, falls on March 24. This is also the day of the March for Our Lives, whose mission and focus is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address gun issues. The hearts of parents and their children will be turned outward, towards other children and parents, and towards the safety of all.

Some of us may pray in shul, and some of us may pray with our feet, but either method is a valid way to welcome Elijah and to prepare our hearts for the possibility of a visit. May each of us choose the way that brings us closer to that day.

Cantor Emily Wigod Pincus

Originally published in the March-April issue of the Shofar. For more, visit the Shofar archives.