Kings I ch. 16: 46 – ch. 19 v. 21
Elijah (prophet)- 9th century BC
Elijah, or Eliahu (the Hebrew pronunciation) is probably the best known prophet of the Jewish people. He was a colourful personality, full of fire and action. As a matter of fact when he dies he leaves the earth in a fiery chariot that carries him to heaven. Even those who know little about the prophets remember Eliahu as the angel who visits each seder table at Pesach and has a sip of wine.
Eliahu lived during the reign of the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Jezebel was a Pheonician princess who mandated the worship of Baal, forbade the worship of the Jewish God, and ordered the murder of all the Israelite prophets. Eliahu confronted the foreign and false prophets of Baal. We read that incident in the haftarah of parashat Balak.
Eliahu is a strong, larger than life character. He is supposed to be preaching to b’nei Yisrael but he knows that his life is at risk- Jezebel can’t wait to have him done away with. In this haftarah we read how Eliahu has gone into hiding, is supplied food by an angel, and God’s communication with him.
God’s communication with Eliahu is profound. While the prophet is fearfully hiding from Jezebel in the cave God asks him “Why are you here, Eliahu?” Eliahu’s responds that he has acted with zeal on God’s behalf and is now hiding to save his own life. He is told to stand in the mouth of the cave. First there is a great and powerful wind splitting mountains and shattering rocks- but the Lord wasn’t in the wind. Then there was and earthquake, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake either. These were followed by a fire- the Lord was not in the fire. Finally there was a soft murmuring sound. When Eliahu heard the soft high sound he wrapped his face in his cloak and stood in the entrance of the cave.
The description of these powerful acts of nature followed by the soft murmur evoked a strong image in my mind. I thought of HaShem’s power over all the earth. I thought of Moshe having his meeting with God in the cleft of a mountain in Sefer Shemot (Exodus 33: 22-23). And I thought of the Kohanim wrapped in their tallises blessing their congregations, and parents covering themselves with their tallis as they pray to God for their families and their nation. The idea of communing with the Almighty who is the source of the power of nature as well as the fragility of life as represented by the small soft murmur resonates especially today.
We are like the small figure of Eliahu who is strong yet frightened. His brothers and sisters have been attacked but God tells him he has to continue to fight the evil that surrounds b’nei Yisrael. When God asks Eliahu again, “Why are you here?” God of course knows that Eliahu is frightened for his life and troubled about the future. HaShem is connecting and reminding that He is the Creator and the Comforter- the earthquake and the small, still voice.
May we see peace in Israel soon. May the fighting stop and the senseless death and destruction cease. As God reminded Eliahu may we also remember that we don’t understand the whole story but we must not lose our faith.
Shabbat Shalom, Laya