We Need Jewish Heroes
I was recently asked: “who is your favorite hero in the Bible?”
Almost 3000 years ago there arose in Israel one of the most fascinating people of all human history: Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the prophet. Besides Moses and King David, there is more folklore regarding Elijah than anyone else in Judaism.
As Jews, we invite Elijah into our homes on three specific religious occasions: during a bris, Passover and havdalah. Elijah is the person who will announce the coming of the messiah. Jewish folklore describes him as an eternal wanderer who intervenes on behalf of the Jewish people. And yet to most of us, Elijah is a mystery.
Initially Elijah was depicted as stern, demanding and uncaring person who was a passionate and uncompromising defender of God. Also he was a miracle worker.
Elijah did not have a social life. He appeared as a lonely figure, who had no family and no home
Elijah was a passionate advocate for Israel who was socially awkward. And yet now, he is one of the most beloved people in Jewish history.
Elijah started as a religious zealot who was distant from his people and concerned with starting fights. He later became someone who stopped fights, who settled disputes. Elijah was transformed from being a religious zealot to a guardian angel.
He went from being a miracle worker to a changer of hearts. Elijah discovered that miracles do not bring people closer to God. People need to discover God within themselves. How did Elijah learn this lesson?
How did this stubborn, stern person evolve into the benefactor of the oppressed?
According to the Bible, Elijah went to a mountain (probably Mt. Sinai) to find God.
On the mountain Elijah learned:
God is not found in specific places. God is found in the “still small voice.” Literally the Hebrew text says that Elijah found God in the thin voice of silence. This has been interpreted to mean that God is found in ourselves. Instead of trying to find God in the right place, we should try to encounter God by being the right person.
Elijah learned that the best way to bring people closer to God is to change their hearts, to transform people. God is found in the quiet moments when we confront ourselves.
To quote the singer Michael Jackson, the best way to improve the world is to “confront the man in the mirror.”