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SIDIC Periodical XVII - 1984/2
The Prophet Elijah (Pages 28 - 29)

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Education: Notes for Teachers: Elijah
Mary Travers


There are probably no characters quite so human and quite so supra-human in Jewish folklore as Elijah. He is constantly liable to turn up as a comforter, as an encourager and as a sort of fairy godfather. The Elijah of the folk legends is more the man of Mount Carmel than the man of the still small voice, but perhaps because he was one of the only two characters in the Jewish Bible not to die, or perhaps because his inspi- rational stand against oppression led to success, Elijah became the type of the herald of the Messianic Age.

In the Talmud Elijah is expected to settle all unresolved problems in preparation for the coming of the Messiah (which is part of the reason why we leave him to decide on the possible fifth glass at the Seder) but Jews will encounter Elijah on three particular occasions. The first is circumcision, the second is Shabbat and the third is Pesach.

Circumcision is called amongst Jews a Brit covenant and the act of circumcision is a reaffirming of the covenant made between God and our father Abraham. This covenant extended forward, through the teachings and prophesies of the Tenach, to carry as well the promise of a Messianic Age. It is hardly surprising therefore that it has become customary that as each Jew reaffirms his commitment to the covenant made with Abraham, he invites Elijah into his home in order to establish that the convenant remains truly kept and to encourage Elijah to come quickly and bring about the everawaited Golden Age.

Why Shabbat? The idea is a beautiful one. In rabbinic literature Shabbat is referred to as a foretaste of paradise. The closing ceremony of Shabbat, Havdalah, includes within it spices which are sometimes thought to be there to revive out failing spirits at the departure of this paradise on earth that we experience once a week. When else then should we call upon Elijah to come and visit our homes and re-establish this paradise on earth but just as it slips from us? As a result, many of the songs sung at the termination of Shabbat speak of Elijah and praise the dream that surrounds him.

And finally Pesach. This is perhaps the easiest to understand. Pesach is the time when Jews remember the redemption from Egypt. The entire discussion carries salvation overtones and what was started at Pesach will finish, according to Jewish tradition, with the coming of the Messiah.

The first half of the Seder service, before the meal, is devoted to recounting the history of the exodus from Egypt. The second half of the Seder service, after the meal, is devoted to looking forward to the next redemption of the Jewish people. It is hardly surprising therefore that every family pours out a glass of wine to encourage Elijah to come and we open our doors to him to welcome him in and remind him that the Jewish people remain ever ready to receive his visit.

There is hardly a collection of Yiddish tales that will not contain at least one story of how Elijah the prophet conies to a poor home and helps them to celebrate. Elijah is the herald of celebration, peace of mind and ease of body. He mote than any other is recounted in the Bible as an opponent of oppression, as one who fearlessly speaks out directly against the oppressors and, this is significant in the way of Jewish tradition, as an intensely human man. Few of our other prophets are so clearly individuals with all the inspirations and despairs that Elijah displays.

It is not for nothing that on Yom Kippur, as the Gates of Mercy close for another year after ten days of repentance, the Jewish people proclaim again "The Lord, He is God; The Lord, He is God", so that with our final statement in synagogue on this Day of Judgement even, Yom Kippur becomes a reaffirmation of our witness to Elijah's dramatic demonstration of the absolute power of God in the face of all the false gods that come to deny Him.

Clive A. Lawton,
Former Executive Director,
Education and Information Dept.,
Board of Deputies of British Jews.


Theme: God sends his Spirit.

Aim: To prepare the pupils, through their experience of the visible qualities of fire or wind, to understand something of the invisible power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

N.B. In any one year, lay the emphasis on either fire or wind, explaining just sufficient of the other to bring out the full significance of the first Pentecost.

Unit 1. The qualities of fire.

a. Fire has many qualities. Do simple experiments with a candle to bring them out. It gives light, warmth: it unites (fuse two pieces of wax); it transforms (cobalt paper from the lab.); it cleanses (cauterizing a wound, or sterilizing a needle to remove a splinter); it destroys rubbish.

b. Use of words: Make up a list of expressions which use the imagery of fire. Use them in sentences, make up poems, draw some of the more visual ones, e.g. warm-hearted, a warm smile, hot temper, hot-headed, a burning desire, etc.

Unit 2. Fire as a sign of the Presence of God.

Base the work on some of the references given in the teachers' notes. Discuss them, draw some of the "visions'. Illustrate Jesus' reference to himself as the Light of the World.

Unit 1. a. The wind inside us: breath.

Because we are alive and breathe, we have the power to move. Do some little experiments to show breath as a source of power: blow a piece of paper, blow out a match, whistle; if one of the pupils plays the recorder or any wind instrument, ask him or her to demonstrate.
Show pictures and talk about those who have lost the power of movement write about someone who is crippled and cannot move. Some people ate completely paralyzed and science has evolved ways of letting them activate page-turners, etc. by using their breath. Discuss artificial respiration.

b. Power from outside: wind.

Wind, like breath, is invisible, but we know it is there by its effect. Talk about this and make use of the Argus posters of yachts, windmills, clouds, etc. Let them find out about one of the famous yachtmen of our day Sir Francis Chichester, Alec Rose, Chay Myth. Write a picture story about one of them. Make a mobile with sail-boats to hang somewhere in a draught.

Tell the story of the stilling of the storm, Mk. 4:35-41: "Even the wind and the water obey him".

Unit 2. Wind as a sign of the power of God.

The story of Elijah could be used here, and referred hack to when the Pentecost story is told. Its value is as a sign rather than as history, so it could be a good idea to sing it. Tune: Michael, tow the boat ashore, Alleluia.

1. Up the mountain Elijah climbed, Alleluia, Hoping the Lord God to find.
Bright as day the lightning flashed, Angry thunder rolled and crashed.
God is not in all that noise. (2)

2. Then the earth began to quake, Trees and rocks began to shake. Landslides brought stones crashing down,
Elijah, he could only frown.
"God isn't in this mess" he said. (2)

3. Then there came a gentle breeze, Full of calm and joy and peace. Soft and cool as summer's day; Elijah hid his face straightway. "God is here with me" he said. (2)


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