THE BLOG
09/07/2010 03:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

My Rosh Hashanah Prayer: A Prayer for the Jewish New Year

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

help.

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

there."

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."