Jerusalem-based Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore has a personal fascination with stories of open miracles. In Meeting Elijah: True Tales of Eliyahu HaNavi, he shares 57 stories that he collected over a period of years.
Shore connects each story to the spirit of the biblical personality Elijah the Prophet.
As he explains, “Jewish tradition teaches that Eliyahu’s presence still resides among us.”
Traditional Jews have been known to postulate that when, in the midst of a crisis, a person experiences a kind of mysterious assistance, often rendered by a stranger who disappears as soon as the crisis is averted, it was the spirit of Elijah that came to the rescue.
In his introduction, Shore makes the following proposal. “I would like to suggest that many of the stories here, though involving real people, are also a type of encounter with Eliyahu HaNavi. The very fact that the individual appeared at precisely the right moment and offered the help that he or she did shows that the spirit of Eliyahu had entered into them, leading them to fulfill the prophet’s work in the world.”
Whether you buy Shore’s premise that these stories are a reflection of the spirit of Elijah or not, for those who are comfortable viewing the world as holding a measure of inexplicable mystery, the stories in the book are fiercely engaging. Readers will almost certainly finish some of the stories saying to themselves, “That was so cool!” and wondering, To whom can I now tell this story?
One of my favorite stories was “The Souvenir,” which tells of a secular Israeli soldier named Ronen who survived the Yom Kippur War. Through a heavenly-orchestrated meeting with an Egyptian prisoner, booty Ronen had earlier taken from the body of a different, dead Egyptian soldier brought him back to Torah. Shore translated “The Souvenir” from a 1990 Hebrew publication.
Shore retold a second chill-inducing tale based on a story he heard from a descendant of the main character. In “Crossing the River,” a story set in Hungary in the late 19th century, tzedakah collector Masha Rabinowitz (not her real name) is accosted by “an old man.... He was ragged and foul smelling, with an unkempt beard and missing teeth.” His inexplicable, erratic behavior saved Rabinowitz from a dangerous situation, and, in classic Elijah style, once the danger had passed, the mysterious stranger disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
“The Mugger” recounts how a crime that occurred 20 years earlier in Brooklyn saved a man’s life while he was riding the No. 18 bus in Jerusalem. In that story, Jerry Greenfield (not his real name) related that “there’s a lesson here worth learning: even things that seem detrimental in the moment may ultimately prove to be for our benefit, when seen in the larger frame of events – from God’s perspective, as it were.”
As can be expected in a collection like this, not every story is as chill-inducing as the next, but some of them, like “The Mystery Doctor,” are just remarkable.
Nearly all the stories in Meeting Elijah: True Tales of Eliyahu HaNavi are explicitly Jewish stories, many of which take place in Israel. Shore includes an extensive glossary for readers who might need an explanation of some of the Jewish terms used in the book. He also invites readers to contact him by email either to receive new Elijah stories or to submit open miracle stories of their own.
Shore shared about the inspiration he derives from these stories. “Above all, I love these stories because of their intrinsic message – that our world is a place of mystery, that the simplest-looking person may hold the deepest secrets, and that God’s deliverance can take place in an instant.”
When not collecting Elijah stories, Shore teaches about Hassidism and Jewish spirituality at colleges, seminaries and other institutions around Israel.
Meeting Elijah:True Tales of Eliyahu HaNavi
By Eliezer Shore
266 pages; $12.50