I once read a Hasidic story about a wealthy man who approached the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, and asked if he could meet Elijah the Prophet, the messenger of God who rose to heaven in a chariot of fire. The man
had heard rumors that Elijah wanders the earth to bless people in need of his
At first the Baal Shem Tov insisted he didn't know how to find Elijah. And
then one day the Baal Shem Tov said to the man, "You can meet Elijah this
Sabbath. Here is what you must do: Fill up your coach with a Sabbath feast.
Pack bread, wine, chicken and vegetables. Pack cakes and fruit and delicacies
and bring it all to a certain hut in the forest and ask if you can spend the Sabbath
On Friday afternoon the wealthy man rode his coach along a winding
forest trail until he came upon the hut the Baal Shem Tov had told him about. He
knocked on the door and a poor woman in tattered clothes answered. The
wealthy man asked if he could spend the Sabbath with her family.
The husband and his wife were overjoyed to have a Sabbath guest even
though there was barely enough food to go around. Their emaciated children
giggled with excitement. Then the wealthy man showed them the feast he had
brought. For a moment they froze at the sight of such abundance. And then the
children cheered, the wife wept with joy, her husband comforted her.
That Sabbath eve was like no other this family had ever experienced.
They ate well, drank well, sang, prayed. The wealthy man kept staring at the
poor father. Could this be Elijah? He asked the poor man to teach him Torah,
but the man was illiterate. The father ate until his belly was full, he drank and
burped and picked his teeth. This wasn't Elijah. All through that night and the
next day the wealthy man waited impatiently for Elijah to appear. But there was
no sign of the holy prophet anywhere.
On Saturday night, as the Sabbath came to an end, the wealthy man was
fuming. "The Baal Shem Tov deceived me. He made a fool of me." And then he
said his goodbyes to the family and raced outside in a huff. As he was stomping
away, the wealthy man's boot got stuck in the mud. As he leaned down to pick it
up he overhead sounds of rejoicing coming from inside the window. The children
were jumping up and down and squealing with joy over the most wonderful
Sabbath they had ever seen.
The wife said to her husband, "Who was that man who brought us all that
food?" Her husband replied, "Don't you see? It was Elijah the Prophet who
came to bless us."
Suddenly the wealthy man saw who Elijah was. "Elijah is me,"
he said to himself.
Yes, we are all Elijah. And so often we fail to recognize the role we can
play in healing this broken world. We are so much more powerful than we realize.
Peace is in our hands. Forgiveness is in our hands. Comforting others is in our
hands. Raising up those in need is in our hands. Can you imagine what this
world would be like if every person claimed his or her true identity? What if we
all unleashed the power within us, the power to heal this world?
That is my prayer for this Jewish new year. That we will all wake up, look
in the mirror and say, "Elijah is me."