Cantor’s Corner

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Cantor’s Corner2019-03-31T11:36:59-04:00

The Secret of Elijah

A disciple of the Baal Shem Tov* yearned to meet the prophet Elijah. The Baal Shem Tov told him that it could happen. All he needed to do was to go to the home of a very poor but pious family that lived in the forest, bring them food and wine for Rosh Hashanah, eat and pray with them, and at the end of the holiday Elijah would appear.

The Hassid did as he was told. But at the end of the holiday, Elijah did not arrive. Returning to ask why his request had not been granted, the Baal Shem Tov told him, “It does not happen all at once. Now for each of the ten days of repentance, bring more food. Then before Yom Kippur supply them with enough to sustain the family so they can fast. Sit and pray and fast with them, and at havdalah after Yom Kippur when you sing to Elijah, you will receive what you wish.”

Once more the man did as the Baal Shem instructed; he brought food and fasted and prayed. Yet when Yom Kippur ended, Elijah did not appear. He returned dispirited to his teacher. “Why was I not granted a vision?” he asked. “Because,” answered the Baal Shem Tov, “it was not important that you see Elijah. It was important that you be Elijah.” (with appreciation to Rabbi David Wolpe)

In the weeks to come, many of us will begin to think about and to prepare for Passover. We will complete our guest lists, send out the invitations and prepare the all important Passover shopping list in advance of the trek to a nearby Passover superstore.

One guest that will be at our seder who does not need any advanced invitation is Elijah. We may not reserve a chair for him, but who has a seder without a cup of wine in the center of the table reserved for that legendary prophet? As we prepare the guest list, why not invite an Elijah stand-in? We begin our Seder with the words “Let all those who are hungry come and eat”. There are those in the community who may not have a seder to attend or who cannot produce their own. Please consider inviting an individual or a couple or even a small family to be a part of your seder experience. Please contact the temple office or reach out to Susan Liebeskind, Chairperson of our Community of Caring. She will be happy to connect you with someone in need of a seder.

As we open the door at the Seder’s end to sing Eliahu Hanavi**, we should all be able to say that Elijah came, just for a moment, to grace our seder table. But isn’t it even more important that we do the work of Elijah and invite others to our Seder? As the Baal Shem Tov said, “it is not important that we see Elijah. It is important that we be Elijah.”

Erica, Arielle and Ranan join me in extending to you our best wishes for a joyous and festive Pesach holiday.

*Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760), knows as the Baal Shem Tov, was a Jewish mystical rabbi from Poland. He is regarded as the founder of Hassidic Judaism.

** You can find a melody for Eliahu Hanavi and other Passover songs in the Cantor’s Corner section of the TEPV website.

Chanukah song sheet

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