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Did you ever wonder how Elijah (Eliyahu in Hebrew) became part of the Passover Seder? We certainly can't find Elijah leaving with Israel in the Exodus, but we do find him centuries later as a central figure in 1 and 2 Kings. So how did he find such a prominent place in the Seder?

The answer? It's all about time, which is why Abraham Joshua Heschel described Judaism as “a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time.” Passover is the time chosen by God for sanctification to take place. Eliyahu is linked to Passover because of a moment in time called Shabbat haGadol, which means The Great Sabbath. This special Shabbat is always the Sabbath before Passover on the Jewish calendar. In the same way, Eliyahu is the forerunner of Messiah Yeshua.

But how did this fusion across time take place? For nearly 500 years before the coming of Messiah, Malachi 3 and 4 were read on Shabbat haGadol just before Passover. God commanded our people in Exodus 23:14-23 to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year in time for Passover. Jewish traditions points to Ezra and Nehemiah as the framers of the one-year Torah-Haftorah cycle and were credited with placing Malachi as the Haftorah for Shabbat haGadol.

So what was the last thing anyone heard in the synagogue just before making their journey in the first century? They heard Malachi 4:4-5: “Remember the Torah of Moshe my servant, which I enjoined on him at Horev, laws and rulings for all Israel. Look, I will send to you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of Adonai” (Complete Jewish Bible).

Malachi 4 connects Horeb (the book of Exodus) and Elijah in verses 4 and 5. God's future warnings of destruction were made at Horeb, and Elijah is connected to “that great terrible day of the Lord.” But today when we look at the first part of the Haftorah portion of Malachi, we find that it begins with a rather ambiguous sentence: “Then the offering of Y’hudah and Yerushalayim will be pleasing to Adonai, as it was in the days of old as in years gone by (Mal. 3:4, CJB).”  

But what does the word “Then” in verse 4 refer to? Why does the Torah portion begin in verse four? The sentence does not make sense until we read three verses of Malachi 3, which seem to be curiously missing from what I believe to be the original Haftorah portion that was read in the days of our Messiah. Malachi 3:1 says: “Look! I am sending my messenger to clear the way before Me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His Temple. Yes, the messenger of the covenant in whom you take such delight look! Here he comes,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot (CJB).”

“Then, the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Adonai” (Mal. 3:4). Not only does Malachi 3 and 4 link Elijah to the Passover one week before the celebration of Passover, but again, in Malachi 3:1 we see “the messenger” (i.e. Elijah/Yochanon the Immerser - John the Baptist) linked to the One who is coming: “The Lord whom you seek.” And where is this to take place? It will take place “suddenly” as Messiah, “the one whom we see…will suddenly come to His Temple (Mal. 3:1, CJB).”

What was the last thing that Yeshua and His family heard every year before they faithfully made their journey to Jerusalem in time for Passover? They heard Malachi 3 and 4 on Shabbat haGadol, and just like everybody else, it made them feel a deep expectation that Messiah would one day come on Passover. Luke clearly establishes their commitment to the Exodus 23 mitzvot by saying, “Every year Yeshua's parents went to Yerushalayim for the festival of Pesach (Luke 2:41, CJB).”

The rest of Luke's story in 2:42-50 adds new meaning to the profound response of Yeshua to His parents’ concerns for His whereabouts at the tender age of 12. “He said to them, “Why did you seek me? Didn't you know that I must be about my father's business?” (Luke 2:46, NKJ)

“But they didn't understand what he meant (Luke 2:50, CJB).” His father's business was a divine appointment between Shabbat haGadol and the Passover that would begin 21 years later in His final journey to Jerusalem after hearing these same words of Malachi on the last Shabbat of His life, the greatest Shabbat haGadol of all time.

Malachi continues to open the door every time, forever becoming a part of proclaiming Messiah in the Passover story.

In every Passover Seder, a child opens the front door for Elijah. When this door in time is opened, links the past to the present and the present to the future Messianic hope. For us Messianic Jews, Elijah inspires us in the Passover to look toward His return-“next year in Jerusalem!”

Reprinted from The Messianic Times. (Used with permission).

Miscellaneous Notes About The Connection Of  These Two Men:

Some sages say that Elijah will come "before" the coming of the Messiah.(1)

He will be considered the harbinger who will proclaim peace, the harbridger of good who will proclaim salvation, saying to Zion "your God reigns." (Isaiah 52:7)(2)

There is a tradition that Elijah will make two appearances: first he will appear with the coming of Mashiach; then he will be concealed to appear again before the war of Gog and Magog. The phrase "great and awesome day of God" is thus read (a) as a reference to the day of Mashiach's coming; stating that Elijah will come prior to this to announce and proclaim his coming; and (b) as a reference to the awesome day of war of Gog and Magog and Elijah's involvement with the resurrection of the dead.(3)

It is believed that Elijah is the person referred to as "he" in Malachi 3:24 or Malachi 4:6 depending on Bible version, which reads; He will turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers."(4)

It is believed that one of the two witnesses spoken about in Revelation 11:3 may be Elijah.

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. (Mal. 4:5 or 3:23 depending on Bible version)

Miscellaneous Links:

See where Elijah's Cup has a place at the Passover Seder.

Read more about the Holiday Of Passover.


Reprinted from The Messianic Times. (Used with permission).

1). Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition by Jacob Immanuel Schochet p.78 Quoting Eruvin 43b; Pesikta Rabaty 36:4

2). Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition by Jacob Immanuel Schochet p.83 ( Pesikta Rabaty 36:4).

3). Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition by Jacob Immanuel Schochet p.84

4). Mashiach: The Principle of Mashiach and the Messianic Era in Jewish Law and Tradition by Jacob Immanuel Schochet p.85

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