Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Does Eliyahu Hanavi come to every bris?

Since it was recently parashat Pinchas, and some sources associate Pinchas with Eliyahu Hanavi, I thought to discuss the midrash that Eliyahu Hanavi visits every bris, such that we have a kisei shel Eliyahu.

The earliest source I know of is Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer, towards the end of chapter 29. There it reads:

"And so was Israel accustomed to circumcise,  until they were divided into two kingdoms, and the kingdom of Ephraim refrained from circumcising. And Eliyahu, zachur latov arose and with great kinah {zealousy / } and adjured the heavens not to rain down dew or rain upon the earth. And Izevel heard and sought to kill him. Eliyahu stood and prayed before Hashem. Hashem said to him, "Are you better than your ancestors? Esav sought to kill Yaakov, and he fled from before him and escaped, as is written 'And Yaakov fled to Sdei Aram.' Pharaoh sought to kill Moshe and he fled from before him and escaped, as is written 'And Moshe fled from before Pharaoh.' Shaul sought to kill David and he fled from before him and was saved, as it stated, 'And David fled and escaped.'
This to teach you that whoever flees escapes {and is saved}. And Eliyah arose and fled from the land of Israel (and escaped), as is written 'And he got up and he ate and he drank, etc.' Hashem appeared to him and said to him, 'What are you doing here Eliyahu?' He said to Him, 'I was zealous'. Hashem said to him, "You have always been zealous! You were zealous in Shittim regarding illicit relations {regarding killing of Zimri}, as is stated, 'Pinchas ben Eleazar, etc.' And here you are zealous! By your life, Israel will only do Bris Milah while you watch it with your own eyes!'

From here, our Sages instituted that there would be an honorable seat for the Angel of the Bris, as is written {Malachi 3:1}:
א  הִנְנִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָכִי, וּפִנָּה-דֶרֶךְ לְפָנָי; וּפִתְאֹם יָבוֹא אֶל-הֵיכָלוֹ הָאָדוֹן אֲשֶׁר-אַתֶּם מְבַקְשִׁים, וּמַלְאַךְ הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר-אַתֶּם חֲפֵצִים הִנֵּה-בָא--אָמַר,ה צְבָאוֹת.
1 Behold, I send My messenger, and he shall clear the way before Me; and the Lord, whom ye seek, will suddenly come to His temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in, behold, he cometh, saith the LORD of hosts.

May the God of Israel rapidly bring, in our lifetimes, Mashiach to console us, and to renew our hearts, as it written 'and return the heart of fathers unto the sons.'"

Now, Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer is post-Talmudic, from about the 9th century. It is also found in Shir HaShirim Rabba, which is also about that early, and in Zohar, which is much later. I don't know of any early source -- that is, from the Tannaim or Amoraim -- which makes this claim.

There is an obvious problem with Eliyahu Hanavi coming to every Bris. And that is that in the gemara in Eruvin, which I have been discussing lately, they try to prove that there is no techum higher than ten tefachim. And they attempt proof from Eliyahu being in Sura and later that Shabbos afternoon, in Pumpedisa, which was extremely far off, as well as past the techum. They reject this because maybe it was not Eliyahu Hanavi but Yosef the Sheid who delivered the message from Sura. And in the same gemara they try to prove it from Mashiach not being able to come on Shabbos, and so on and so forth.

Now, if Eliyahu must visit every seder, and there has been at least two brissim which co-occured on Shabbos or across Yom Tov, distant from one another, then Eliyahu would need to visit both. And given the number of Jews throughout history, in disparate places, this must certainly have happened at least once! If so, the gemara should have brought this as a proof. That it did not is evidence, to me at least, that they did not know about this belief. (Yes, we can always make teirutzim; e.g. Eliyahu sends a spark of himself; or as "angel" is not subject to halacha, which he is when clothed in human form; or he has elves -- though the latter only really works for Eliyahu at the seder table.)


Nosson Gestetner said...


Tommy said...

There is an obvious problem with Eliyahu Hanavi coming to every Bris ...

The Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, that you quote and translate, doesn't actually say that Eliyahu will be present at each and every Berit. All it says is that he will see with his own eyes Yisra'el performing the Berit. It would be enough that he be present only at some, and know of other Beritot by account of others, or at least by lack of evidence of them not having been done. The chair could be put there in case( and in hope ?) he shows up, not because he always does.

The part,
חייך שאין ישראל עושין ברית מילה עד שאתה רואה בעיניך,
that you translate as:
"By your life, Israel will only do Bris Milah while you watch it with your own eyes",
might better be translated as:
"By your life, Israel will not do Brit Milah until you have seen it with your own eyes",
where "you have seen [it] with your own eyes"(שאתה רואה בעיניך) can be taken as meaning "you will know beyond doubt", and Israel doing the Berit Mila could be meant in general rather than in every single instance.

According to the Da'at Encyclopedia's "כסא של אליהו", it is the Zohar who says that Eliyahu has to be present at every Berit Mila, as it says:
א"ל הקב"ה: חייך, בכל אתר דהאי רשימא קדישא די ירשמון ליה בני בבשרהון, אנת תזדמן תמן ופומא דאסהיד דישראל עזבו, הוא יסהיד דישראל מקיימין האי קיימא
In Hebrew( from Da'at):
אמר לו הקב"ה לאליהו, חייך בכל מקום שבו ירשמו בני בבשרם ברית מילה, אתה תהיה שם, והפה שהעיד שישראל עזבו את הברית, הוא יעיד שישראל מקיימים אותו
My translation( of the Hebrew one):
"Said to him, the Holy-One-blessed-be-He to Eliyahu: 'By your life, in every place where my sons mark in their flesh a Berit Milah, you will be there, and the mouth the testified that Israel abandoned the Berit, it shall testify that Israel are upholding it.'"

Anonymous said...

Dear friend

Ekyahu Hanavi is comibg back.
From 3 years ago he work hard to make the world hard to every ones.
He will bring his human son as Mashiah ben xDavid.
His hebrew name Yeoshuah and he is yet youg 13years old.
But as Elyahu teach him so quick he can because the time is short before the end.
Why because as the 5 powers have not dedtroyed their nukes then he will for them.
Of course Hashem can now use his power becayse Elyahu Hanavi left his heder to not interfere in human affairs after a law was agreed longtime ago .
Now the heder is ended by Elyahu Hanavi in behalf of the Galaxi counsel.
It is nit a joke.
You will see. Only the peoples who will be in the 6 milees around Jerusalem will be safe.
For others nothing.


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