Elijah: We need you

I have often wondered why, of all the great prophets of Israel, Elijah was chosen.

Matza (illustrative). (photo credit: REUTERS)
Matza (illustrative).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
To the Seder we either invite guests or are invited as guests.
It is an extraordinary time, when we remember difficult periods in our history, yet at the same time celebrate freedom. However, the most important guest at every Seder is invisible – the prophet Elijah, for whom a special cup of wine is prepared.
I have often wondered why, of all the great prophets of Israel, Elijah was chosen for this honor. Would not Moses, the very architect of Jewish liberation, be more deserving of this invitation? Moses, the hero of the Exodus story, is identified with the redemption of our people from Egyptian bondage. Elijah is the hero of the future who, according to our tradition, will usher in the Messianic Age of peace and freedom for our people. Elijah’s life is a symbol of courage. He was ready to stake his life in the struggle against idolatry, corruption and evil.
It is important to reiterate that Elijah is a symbol of the future, a kind of hope for eventual redemption. In Judaism, it is imperative that we to never forget our past, therefore we have different holidays, each reminding us of turbulent times and how with belief, hard work and God’s help we pushed through. Consequently, Passover is no different. We sit down and remember the story of the Exodus from Egypt, reminisce on the past and remember how we survived and continued from there.
We usher in Elijah after we conclude the Seder and say the grace after meals. We have already experienced freedom and remembered our difficult times as slaves. The Seder concludes with us focusing on the next step, as we get up and open the door toward the future, with Elijah guiding us.
To those who seek to compromise with our Jewish heritage and biblical homeland, Elijah’s cry can be heard by the discerning ear: “How long will you play both sides of the court?” (Kings 1, 18:21). Considering the atrocities and heinous acts perpetrated against the Jewish people, Elijah’s thunderous voice can still be heard: “You have murdered in cold blood innocent men, women and children – and you still expect to take possession of our land?” (Kings 1 21:19).
O how we need, today, a hero like Elijah, with the courage to denounce international tyrants, political hacks, masters of deceit and hypocrisy in our midst, and a perverted United Nations. We live in a time where although the world has slowly grown, yet there are people around the world still experiencing slavery and yet to experience freedom. We all need an Elijah in our lives, that invisible being that we can hope for, as hope is a strong thing.
So, we welcome you, Elijah, the uncompressing prophet of courage, truth and justice, as a most deserving guest of honor at our Seder. May you soon bring us good tidings.
Rabbi Max Fox served as a pulpit rabbi in the USA for over 30 years, and currently resides in Israel, to which he made aliya at age 91.
Nathan Altshuler is a former lone soldier and now a student at the IDC Herzliya in the Argov Fellows Program for Leadership & Diplomacy.