Becoming Elijah: Prophet of Transformation
In the Bible Elijah is a zealous prophet, attacking idolatry and injustice, championing God. He performs miracles, restoring life and calling down fire. When his earthly life ends, he vanishes in a whirlwind, carried off to heaven in a fiery chariot. Was this a spectacular death, or did Elijah escape death entirely? The latter view prevailed. Though residing in heaven, Elijah revisits earth—to help, rescue, enlighten, and eventually herald the Messiah. Because of his messianic role, Jews open the door for Elijah during each seder—the meal commemorating liberation from slavery and anticipating final redemption. How did this zealot turn into a compassionate hero—apparently the most popular figure in Jewish tradition? In our “Becoming Elijah” series, we explore this question, tracing how Elijah develops from the Bible to Rabbinic Judaism, Kabbalah, and Jewish ritual (as well as Christianity and Islam). His transformation is pertinent and inspirational for our polarized, fanatical world.
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