Hasidism introduced or, at least, strengthened the concept of story-telling as an act of holiness and transformation. “People say that stories are good for putting people to sleep,” stated Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, “But I say that stories are good for waking people up.”
One such type of story is that of a visitation by Elijah the prophet—Eliyahu Hanavi. The most worthy person recognizes Elijah and is taught by him. More commonly, Elijah appears to people as an anonymous figure who brings about a miraculous change in their lives. And so many times a mysterious and beneficent visitor is assumed to be Elijah.
Eliezer Shore’s Meeting Elijah: True Tales of Eliyahu Hanavi contains stories that he was told (or was involved in) that include serendipitous meetings with such figures, whether they are fortunate or even miraculous, as well as stories in which an ordinary person—including the narrator himself—finds himself playing the role of Elijah.
In our era, we are swamped by news, information and misinformation that is sometimes trivial and often negative, triggering our anger, paranoia, and disconnecting us from a higher, spiritual view of reality. It is what is called mochin dekatnut—“a constricted state of consciousness.”
The opposite of that is mochin degadlut—“an expanded state of consciousness.” Sometimes a way to reach that state is to sit and study a passage of Tzidkat Hatzaddik. And sometimes a way to reach that state is to rise above a world of pettiness, anger and meaningless by reading a story.
I really enjoyed Meeting Elijah. Its short stories are invigorating capsules of uplift and a gaze at a higher plane of reality existing even within our plane of reality.
Here is one of its 57 charming stories:
The Ride to the Kotel
About ten years ago, I was studying at the Har HaMor yeshivah, in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Jerusalem. I was single and had been dating for a couple of years. It was a frustrating period. Finally, I met Ayelet, a sweet, sensitive and beautiful young woman. We dated for several months, and everything seemed to be moving smoothly toward an engagement. We had a wonderful relationship, and I can honestly say that I wanted to marry her. Suddenly, however, she decided to call it all off. She explained, apologetically, that it was just not what she was looking for.
I was heartbroken. Though I tried to take the rejection as best as I could, a deep pain lingered inside me. When, one night, several months later, I heard that Ayelet had become engaged, I was devastated. All the pain and disappointment that I had bottled up came flooding out. I felt alone and abandoned. I wanted to cry, to hug someone. But there was no one in the yeshivah who could really comfort me, and my family lived far away.
What does a yeshivah student in Jerusalem do when faced with such a dilemma? There’s only one place to go—the Kotel! I decided to go to the Western Wall and pour out my heart to Hashem, asking Him for comfort and His spiritual embrace.
I left the yeshivah at about 11:30 at night, hoping to catch one of the last buses to the Western Wall. As I waited at the bus stop, I turned my eyes and heart toward Heaven, looking beyond the stars to a Presence that I knew would help me.
At that very moment, a motorcycle pulled up beside the bus stop. A heavyset man with a full beard and bright blue eyes lifted his visor and smiled at me.
“Where’re you going?” he said. “Can I offer you a lift?”
“I’m going to the Kotel,” I replied.
“Perfect,” he said. “I’m going to the Old City. Hop on the back and hold on.”
I climbed onto the motorcycle and put my arms around him, as he set off down the quiet Jerusalem streets.
I hadn’t ridden many motorcycles in my life, and I felt a bit insecure, especially when the bike tilted and turned down Jerusalem’s winding alleys. I held on to the driver tightly, which created a somewhat awkward situation. I had never met the man before and didn’t even know his name, yet here I was sitting behind him, virtually hugging his broad back when I needed precisely that—someone to hug! I had a hard time not burying my face in his jacket and releasing my tears. By the time we reached the Old City, I felt surprisingly better, as though my pain had already been assuaged. The man dropped me off in the Jewish Quarter. I thanked him profusely and made my way down to the Western Wall. Don’t ask me how, but I sensed that my prayers had been answered even before I got there. About an hour later, I took a taxi back to yeshivah.
Time passed, my heart healed, and about two years later, I met Eliana. Today, we are married and have two children, and we are very happy.
But if you ask me whether the stranger on the motorcycle was Eliyahu Hanavi, I would have to say that he was not. His name was Menashe Ankori, and I now know him very well. After I married Eliana, he turned out to be… my father-in-law!
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Heard from Gadi B.
Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore is a teacher, writer and storyteller on topics of Jewish thought and spirituality. He teaches at various colleges and institutions around Israel and his articles and stories have appeared in journals and anthologies worldwide. He lives in Jerusalem.
You may purchase Meeting Elijah book on Amazon.