Wednesday, April 16, 2008
KOS SHEL ELIYAHU - ELIJAH'S CUP
After the conclusion of the Seder's Grace after Meals, there is a universally accepted custom to pour a cup of wine, the "Cup of Eliyahu," open the front door of the home, and recite several verses from Tehillim [the Psalms] wherein we beseech G-d to pour His wrath upon our persecutors and oppressors. According to tradition, at this moment our homes are graced by the presence of Eliyahu HaNavi [Elijah the Prophet]...
The Cup of Eliyahu
1. There is an open question in the Talmud whether we are obligated to have four or five cups on the night of Pesach [Passover]. Since the issue was never resolved, we pour a fifth cup, but do not drink it. After heralding the coming of the Messiah, one of Eliyahu's tasks will be to resolve all hitherto unanswered Halachic [Jewish legal] questions. Thus this fifth cup whose status is in doubt is dubbed "Eliyahu's Cup," in anticipation of the insight he will shed on the matter.
2. The four cups correspond to the four "expressions of Redemption" promised by G-d: "I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their bondage; I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a nation..." [Shemos, 6:6-7]. The fifth cup corresponds to the fifth expression of Redemption which comes in the following verse: "I will bring you to the Land..." This expression, however, is an allusion to the future Messianic Redemption which will be announced by Eliyahu. This is also why we do not drink, "enjoy," the fifth cup -- as we have not yet experienced this Redemption.
The timing of the pouring of the "Cup of Eliyahu" is also apropos, right before we start reading the Hallel, whose focus is on the future Redemption. After commemorating the very first Redemption of the Jewish people from Egypt, we express our hope and firm belief in the coming of the Moshiach who will usher in the new and final Redemption very, very soon.
As told by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Adapted from Holy Beggars' Gazette, transcribed by Elana Rappaport (Schachter), and Shmuel Zivan’s Lev HaShamayim Pesach [Hebrew] book.
One ordinary night the Apter Rav made a feast [seuda]. When the holy Apter makes a feasteleh it is okay with everybody, but the Chassidim wanted to know why he was making a feasteleh that particular night. This is the story he told:
Somewhere, somewhere lived a very wealthy Jew. As wealthy as he was, he spent half his fortune to buy a cup for Eliyahu HaNavi. It was a truly beautiful cup, decorated with jewels. Everybody knows, that at the Seder on Pesach night, you need a special cup for Eliyahu HaNavi. You put it on the table and you believe that he is coming to drink from it. So this man put his heart and soul and half his fortune into buying a cup for Eliyahu HaNavi.
Then the saddest thing happened. Suddenly he became very poor, he lost everything, but G-d forbid, he would never sell the cup of Eliyahu HaNavi. But when it came to two days before Pesach and he didn't have enough money even to buy matzos - he had absolutely nothing - he said to his wife, "I'm sorry to tell you, we'll have to sell the cup of Eliyahu HaNavi. It's very good to have a cup for Eliyahu if you have a Seder, but if you don't even have a Seder, what good is the whole thing?"
His wife refused; she would not let him sell the cup of Eliyahu HaNavi. They had a little fight, and by Erev Pesach morning [the morning before the Seder] he was very upset with her.
"What do you mean you are not selling the cup? Can't you see that we don't even have matza?!"
She still refused to sell the cup. He was very angry at her. "I'm going to the Beis Medrash [study hall],” he said. "We don't have anything to eat at home, I have nothing to do, so I might as well be studying."
He had just left when a very wealthy man knocked on the door and asked if this was the home of the very great and learned scholar so-and-so. She told him it was. "I have come from a very far country. I heard of your husband and I would like to be at the Seder with you."
The woman said, "I would very much like to invite you to the Seder, but we have nothing to eat."
"Oh, that's no problem," he says, "I'm a very wealthy man. Here is some money. Do me a favor, buy food for the whole week because I want to spend the entire Pesach with you." He left her a sack of gold pieces, asked when she was beginning the Seder, and promised to be back on time.
So the woman went and prepared a beautiful Seder. The poor husband came home very late. He was sure that he would find an empty house, without Yom Tov [holiday] candles, matzos, or wine. What a surprise when he came in found a great feast!
She said, "We can't start the Seder yet, because we have to wait for the rich man," and she told him the whole story. They were waiting, waiting, waiting. He didn't show up. Finally, it was twenty minutes before midnight. You have to eat the matza before midnight, so they ate fast, rattled off the Seder Haggada, and had a feasteleh, but they were really sad that their guest didn't show up.
Then when the time came for the man to open the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, he wanted to get up, but suddenly he felt very heavy, and couldn't keep himself from falling asleep. The door opened and Eliyahu HaNavi came in. Sure enough, it was the rich man!
He said to the woman, "Thank you so much. I am so glad you didn't sell my cup." He blessed her with the greatest blessings in the world.
As soon as he walked out, the husband woke up. "What's going on? I don't know why I fell asleep so suddenly." She told him the whole story of why he fell asleep. "Apparently, you didn't get to see Eliyahu HaNavi because you wanted to sell his cup, but I was so strong, thank G-d, that I didn't allow you to sell the cup, so he spoke to me, and blessed us."
Years later, this little Yiddeleh [Jew] died and came up to Heaven. He really deserved Gan Eden [paradise], and he was just about to slip through the door when Eliyahu HaNavi came along and said, "Not while I'm around, brother".
This is a very deep story. Deep down, Eliyahu HaNavi probably realized the man didn't really believe in him, he didn't really believe in miracles. So why should he go to Gan Eden? So Eliyahu HaNavi blocked his way. What could the man do? He didn't deserve Hell, so he wasn't going to Hell, but he couldn't get into Gan Eden either. So he just sat by the gate.
Four years later, his wife came up to Heaven, and Eliyahu HaNavi came to greet her with all the tzaddikim [righteous ones], and all the holy people. They wanted to take her into Gan Eden right away, but she was a faithful woman, and she wanted to know where her husband was. They told her that Eliyahu HaNavi wouldn't let him in yet, he wasn't ready for Gan Eden. She said, "If my husband isn't going in, neither am I." So they were both sitting at the gates of Gan Eden.
The holy Apter said, "Yesterday Eliyahu HaNavi came to see me. I told him, 'Eliyahu, really, cut it out. How long are you going to make them sit like that by the gates of Gan Eden? Let them in already!' So Eliyahu promised me last night that he would let them in today. So tonight I am making a feast in their honor, to congratulate them upon being admitted to Gan Eden."
I've heard this one in the name of both Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Rebbe Yechezkel of Kuzmir: They would wish their fellow Jews a Kosher Purim, and a Freilich [joyous] Pesach. They explained, everyone knows you have to be happy on Purim, so I have no doubts your Purim will be a joyous one. But kosher? That I bless you it should be! Similarly, everyone knows you have to have a meticulously chametz-free home on Pesach. I have no doubts yours will be Kosher. But Freilich? I wish you a joyous Pesach!
So to all my readers, a Zissen, Freilichin and Kosherin Pesach - a Sweet, Joyous and Meticulous Holiday of Freedom!