13 Post – Will Elijah save him?

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5634-elijah B. Ḳ. 60b

Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 59b, H.N. Bialik and Y.H. Ravnitzky, eds., Sefer Ha-Aggadah (The Book of Legends), translated by William G. Braude, Schocken Books, NY, 1992). page 223

Teachers and rabbis even dreamed up their own stories and slapped “Elijah” on them. A few based their tales on things that really happened, and most put in those fun apocryphal twists that rabbis and preachers use to help us remember.

Here are five from the Talmud and the New Testament.

One rabbi said the chariot dropped Elijah off at the crossroads of paradise[1] with three forever duties.

1) To show the pious the door into paradise.

2) To lead the people in hell outside each Sabbath. People in hell get the Sabbath off?

3) To usher the wicked into paradise after they have suffered for their sins.

Nobody in Elijah’s family liked the idea of him on crossing-guard duty eternal 24/7. They preferred the story invented by a rabbi in Belarus about the travelling salesman.[2]

The way Howd told it, the salesman got into town just as Sabbath was about to start and needed a place to stash his cash. Jews are not supposed to carry money on the Sabbath — you knew that.

Well, the salesman went to the synagogue and saw a man wearing little leather boxes. (The more religious Jews put these boxes with scripture verses inside on their hand and forehead as a literal way of doing Exodus 13:16, “And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead.” They call little boxes “phylacteries,” an old word meaning “guards,” because they guard the wearer against forgetting the Lord’s teachings.) The little boxes made him think he could trust this man to hold his money for him. So he gave him his purse until the Sabbath was over.

Elisheva liked to interrupt here with, “How was it legal for one person to carry money and not the other?” But everyone else let Howd tell the story his way.

When the salesman came back after the Sabbath, people said, “You gave your money to that hypocrite?!”

Not to worry, for that night Elijah appeared in a dream and showed the salesman how to get his money back from the swindler’s wife.

Elisheva again: “Just what did your little brother suggest, Howd? Show up at the door with a knife?” Howd, with a straight face: “The rabbi in Minsk does not reveal our little brother’s tactics.”  

The little brother, himself, told the tale of the sympathetic dogs.

Dog owners understand how their pet senses mood changes, feeling sad or happy in sympathy with the master’s sadness. And it seems a Rabbi in Poland started telling people that because Elijah rescues so many Jews from so many troubles in so many places and so often, their sympathetic dogs learned his scent.[3] To smell Elijah on the air meant their masters would soon be released from certain calamity and be happy. Before long, people all over the Diaspora knew that when their dogs began making happy puppy noises, Elijah was nearby, doing a good deed.

Elijah rather enjoyed the feel of the noses of the many dogs which people brought up to take a whiff.  

The story of the Rabbi Who Was Right,[4] made Elijah’s mother squint sideways at Elisheva, but it put a big smile on the face of her father. “Crazy story,” he chuckled. “But spot on about God.” A rabbi in Babylon invented this story. The main character is a Rabbi Eliezer, and Elijah only comes in at the end.

It seems this Rabbi Eliezer proposed a technology to prevent an oven from becoming ritually impure, but the wise men studying with him said his method would not work. He showed them all the ways it would work. But they disagreed.

The Rabbi was so confident that he said, “Look, I’m right, and this carob tree will prove I’m right!” And with everybody watching, the carob tree uprooted itself, moved 100 cubits (some say 400), and dug itself in again. The other scholars said, “Carob trees have nothing to do with our discussion.”

“Okay,” he said, “If I’m right, let the water prove it!” But when the stream started flowing backward, they said, “Water has nothing to do with this.”

Again he urged, “Let these walls prove it!” The walls started to fall in on the sages, but Rabbi Joshua lifted his hand. “When we are discussing halakhah (the path), what right have you to interfere?!” So the walls stood still, and the sages said, “Walls have nothing to do with this.”

“Hmm … ,” Rabbi Eliezer told them, “I know I’m right, and a voice from heaven is going to prove it.” Sure enough, a divine voice boomed down at them, “Why do you dispute Rabbi Eliezer?! He is always right about halakhah!”

But Rabbi Joshua looked up and replied, “The Torah is not in heaven, and we pay no attention to voices from heaven! Our Torah tells us the majority rules!” (Deut. 30:12, Ex. 23:2)

When the sages were on their way home, one saw Elijah and asked how the Holy One reacted to Rabbi Joshua’s rebuke. Elijah told him the Lord laughed out loud, “My children have defeated Me! My children have defeated Me!”

Elijah’s father, Zadok, said he liked how this story shows our Father in Heaven wanting His children to grow up and cooperate. He gave us His Torah, and now He wants us to put our heads together and make it work.[5] Elijah’s mother, Tirzah, said it’s just a silly story.

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5634-elijah Pirḳe R. El. l.c.

[2] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5634-elijah Pesiḳ. R. xxii.; Yer. Ber. ii.

[3] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5634-elijah B. Ḳ. 60b

[4] Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 59b, H.N. Bialik and Y.H. Ravnitzky, eds., Sefer Ha-Aggadah (The Book of Legends), translated by William G. Braude, Schocken Books, NY, 1992). page 223

[5] From Hyam Maccoby

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