Jewish folklore portrays Elijah the Prophet (Eliyahu HaNavi) as a kindly old man who visits our Passover Seder to drink his cup of wine. In the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible, Elijah was known as a zealous champion of monotheism and opponent of idolatry. Since Elijah ascended to heaven without dying, he was viewed as an immortal. In Rabbinic tradition, Elijah was the most popular character, in a new guise of a folk hero who often appeared in disguise to help the poor, rescue people, and convey messages between heaven and earth.

Elijah witnesses a dramatic wind (ruach), but finds God inside himself instead. After fleeing the notorious idolators King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the prophet is alone in the wilderness, and gets as far as Horeb, another name for Mt. Sinai. (I Kings 19)

And he came there to a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword; and I am the only one left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”

And God said, “Go out, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.

And, behold, YHWH passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.”

When this passage is chanted in the synagogue, the chant rises and falls in dramatic waves as the forces of nature are described and then rests softly on the calming words, “a still small voice,” kol d’mama daka (or as Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi translates, “a voice of subtle stillness”). Elijah, the stormy prophet, learns that the Lord can send all the forces of nature, including stormy winds. But this destructive wind, while showing God’s vast power, is not itself divine. Rather, God is perceived in the stillness, quiet and near as our breathing, our inner ruach.

Consider: How do you quiet the loud demands of the world in order to tune in to the still, small voice of guidance from within? Do you take some time each day for meditation and reflection, and time outdoors? What difference does it make in your life?

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