Elijah's Cup

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Reader:  I asked my Rabbi about Elijah and was told that he was a perfected man and was in his mother's womb for 12 months in order for his soul to be perfected. He also told me he was the only man that didn't die and instead his soul ascended directly into heaven. He explained that we leave the door open the night of the seder in order for Elijah to come to the seder and that Elijah is able to attend all seders because he exists in a spiritual world and not in the physical world. This doesn't make any sense. Can you please help?

Answer: Human perfection cannot be prior to birth. This "perfection" – by definition – refers to upright acts and intelligent choices as outlined in the Torah. "Walk before Me and be perfect" (Gen. 17:1) was God's command to Abraham. God teaches that perfection is arrived at through an intelligent choice of following God's commands...matters that apply only once one is born and reaches the age of intelligence.

A wise Rabbi once commented on your second question, of Elijah ascending alive to heaven. Elijah had told Elisha that if he saw him being taken from him, then Elisha would receive his request. (Kings II, 2:10) The wise Rabbi taught that if this taking of Elijah was a physical event on Earth, then Elisha would most definitely see the event! What is his statement "If you see me?" Therefore, the Torah is teaching that this in fact was a vision, and not a physical event. Elijah's statement means, "If you see this vision, then you (Elisha) are on the level to receive your request". This makes sense.

Finally, one man cannot be in two locations at a time. And if one suggests it is not Elijah in the physical who visits all homes, but it's his soul, then a spiritual entity certainly cannot partake of location and "attend" Seders. 

Elijah's role in Seder is that we truly anticipate and accept that the final redemption can arrive at any moment. Elijah will usher in that era, indicating that resurrection will take place.