Friday, May 26, 2017

Eliyahu's Gift: Forgiveness

The Presence of Eliyahu Ha'navi at a Brit Mila by Rabbi Eli Mansour

Tradition teaches that Eliyahu Ha'navi is present – in one form or another – at every Brit Mila, and for this reason a chair must be designated for him. One should expressly designate the chair by saying, "Zeh Kisei Shel Eliyahu Ha'navi Zachur Latov" - ["This is the chair of Eliyahu Ha'navi"]

Why does Eliyahu attend every Brit? The Gemara tells that Eliyahu, who lived during the reign of the idolatrous king Achav when many Jews abandoned the Torah, came to God and complained that Bnei Yisrael were not observing the Mitzva of circumcision. God reprimanded Eliyahu, saying that He does not need a prophet to prosecute against His people, to accuse them of disloyalty. The prophet's job is to pray on their behalf and show them compassion even if they sin. God therefore decreed upon Eliyahu that for all time he must attend every circumcision ritual performed by Bnei Yisrael, and then return to God and report that the Jewish people faithfully observe this Mitzva.

It is further told that Eliyahu then told God that he would be unable to tolerate attending a Brit Mila if the child's father is a sinner. After all, Eliyahu was a zealot, who could not tolerate any sin or infringement upon the Almighty's honor. [The Sages teach that Eliyahu was Pinchas, who, as we know from the Torah, was a zealot when it came to God's honor.]  God replied that He will forgive all the father's sins. Eliyahu then noted that the Mohel, or perhaps one of the guests, might have a sinful record, and God again responded that He will forgive the sins committed by the Mohel and all the attendees. [See Taamei HaMinhagim]

For this reason, attending a Brit Mila is considered an effective means of achieving atonement. It should be noted that according to the Bnei Yissaschar [work by the Chassidic sage Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, 1783-1841], attending a Brit earns one atonement only if he stands near Eliyahu's seat. Given Eliyahu's zealotry, those near him at the Brit Mila require atonement lest he react angrily to their sins. One should therefore endeavor to stand near Eliyahu's chair at a Brit Mila.

Additionally, some Rabbis write that one earns atonement at a Brit Mila only if he performs Teshuva. Attending a Brit does not obviate the need for repentance, but rather allows a person to repent and earn atonement more easily. It is therefore appropriate when attending a Brit Mila to contemplate sincere thoughts of remorse and repentance.

Eliyahu Hanavi appears at a baby naming for a girl just as he appears at a bris [Rabbi Sholom of Belz]. This is hinted in the verse [Bereishis 2:19] vchol asher yikro lo haadam - the acrostic forming the word Eliyahu. [Divrei Naftali Berishis ibid]. in the name of the Yismach Moshe, it is reported that he also attends a pidyon haben, as alluded to in the words which follow the injunction of pidyon haben [Bo 13:2] "lee hu". These words can be rearranged to read Eliyahu [ibid].

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