Posts Tagged ‘Eliyahu haNavi’

Midrash Eleh Ezkerah is a dramatized narrative describing (with poetic license) the tragic executions of ten of Israel’s greatest sages at the hands of the Romans. The story depicts these ten as having lived contemporaneously and having been executed more or less in the same time and place, though this was not actually the case.

Nevertheless, in this work, the body of the sage Rabbi Akiva is carried by Elijah the Prophet. Elijah meets Rabbi Yehoshua haGarsi, who asks Elijah how he could carry Akiva’s dead body when Elijah is a Kohen, and a Kohen is forbidden to come into contact with a dead body, lest he become tamei — spiritually contaminated. Elijah replies, “The bodies of the righteous do not render spiritual contamination.”

It appears that the author of this narrative was of the opinion that Elijah was a Kohen, and therefore would line up with the opinion that Elijah was in fact Pinchas.

Mesilath Yesharim (The Path of the Just), ch. 19:

And Elijah said (I Kings 19:10): ‘I have been exceedingly zealous for the Lord of Hosts…’ We have already seen what reward he received for his zealousness on behalf of his God, as is stated (Numbers 25:13): ‘Because he acted zealously on behalf of his God and atoned for the Children of Israel.’

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6th installment in “Pinchas is Eliyahu” series.

Another source similar to the previous, but with noteworthy differences:

Tana d’Vey Eliyahu Rabah 18:

One time, our sages and other wise men were sitting in the study hall and arguing with one another, and they said: ‘From where does Elijah come?’ This one said from the seed of Rachel and this one said from the seed of Leah. While they were arguing with eachother, I came to them and stood before them and said to them: ‘My masters, I come from none other than the seed of Rachel!’ They said to me: ‘Offer a proof to your words!’ I said to them: ‘Does it not say in the genealogy of the tribe of Benjamin: ‘And Yaareshyah and Eliyah (Elijah) and Zichri the sons of Yerucham’ (I Chronicles 8:27)?’ They said to me: ‘Are you not a Kohen (priest)? Did you not say to the widow: ‘Make for me from there a small cake first and take it out for me, and for you and for your son make last’ (I Kings 17:13)?’ [NOTE: The Torah obligates that a small portion of dough must be separated out as a gift for a Kohen before the rest may be consumed. The Sages inferred from Elijah’s command to the widow in this verse that he was Kohen and therefore she must separate out a small portion for him first. -Me] I said to them: ‘That child [of the widow] was Mashiach ben Yoseph (Messiah the son of Joseph) , and I was alluding to the world that I will descend first to Babylon and afterwards the Son of David will come.’

Let me first say that I have no clear understanding of this passage. I am familiar with the concept of Mashiach ben Yoseph as a kind of quasi-redeemer that may come prior to the final redeemer, Mashiach ben David (Messiah son of David). I do not know the relevance here of the widow’s son being Mashiach ben Yoseph. It is difficult to understand how the boy was Mashiach ben Yoseph considering there is no indication of who this boy was and in what way he brought about any redemption. Furthermore, Eliyahu goes on to say that apportioning a loaf for him first was a sign to the world (not to this boy in particular) that he (Elijah) would come first to Babylon, and then the redeemer would come, and the redeemer he names is Mashiach ben David, not Mashiach ben Yoseph. So if you’re confused, so am I.

The point, however, of quoting this passage, was to bring out the following points:

-Here again, according to the text in front of me, Elijah declares his lineage as being from Binyamin (the seed of Rachel).
-The text states explicitly that the opposing opinion (that Elijah was of the seed of Leah) is that he was a Kohen, as we suspected based on the passage from Eliyah Zuta. This opinion would align with the view that Pinchas is Eliyahu. Nevertheless, Eliyahu rejects this suggestion.

The conclusion of this source, therefore, appears to score another point for the view that Pinchas was NOT Eliyahu.

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5th installment in the series exploring whether Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same.

I feel it noteworthy that the title of this midrashic work, Tana d’Vey Eliyahu, literally means, “The Teaching of the House of Elijah.” This midrash purports to be information transmitted from Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah the Prophet) himself to Rav Anan, a sage of the Talmudic era (circa 5th century CE). If true, this teaching represents the authoritative word of Elijah himself and ought to be granted especial weight, particularly on this subject.

From Tana D’Vey Eliyahu Zuta, Ch. 15:

Our Sages were sitting the study hall and saying, “From whence does Elijah come?” Some of them said that he comes from the seed of Rachel, and some of them said that he comes from the tribe of Gad, and some of them said that he comes from the seed of Leah. While they were sitting involved in this, Elijah came and stood before them. He said, “Our Sages, why are you distressed over this? I come from none other than the seed of Rachel!”

Note the similarity to the story from Midrash Rabah. I have quoted this midrash as well because of the addition of the opinion that Elijah was of the seed of Leah. This is a gamechanger because the Kohanim (priests) were of the tribe of Levi who was of the seed of Leah. Pinchas, a grandson of Aaron (Aharon) the High Priest, was of the seed of Leah. If Elijah was of the seed of Leah, then it becomes possible that he and Pinchas were the same. This opinion among the Sages may indeed be that voice from which the view that Pinchas is Elijah originates.

But what of it, you may ask. After all, Elijah appears at the end and clarifies the issue, concluding once and for all that he is a descendant of Rachel, confirming that view that he is of the tribe of Benjamin. So that’s that, right?

What complicates this conclusion is that there are alternative manuscripts of Tana d’Vey Eliyahu that indicate the opposite. In these versions, Eliyahu announces that he is of the seed of Leah, confirming the other opinion.

I have merely quoted the Tana d’Vey Eliyahu according to the standard printed version, which conforms to the Midrash Rabah quoted earlier. But as widely accepted a source as the midrashic anthology Yalkut Shimoni presents the text according to the opposite manuscript.

The conclusion from Tana d’Vey Eliyahu remains, therefore, ambiguous, scoring a full point for neither side, but setting an important precedent as the first source that does not absolutely contradict the possibility that Pinchas is Eliyahu, but might, according to some versions, even support it.

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The 4th installment in a series exploring whether Pinchas and Eliyahu ha-Navi (Elijah the Prophet) are the same person.

Here is another source from Midrash Rabah weighing in on the background of Eliyahu.

B’Reshith Rabah 71:12:

‘Leah said, ‘Good fortune (gad) has come” (Genesis 30:11). The one who is destined to cut down (‘l’gaded’) the foundation of the idolaters has come. And who is this? Eliyahu (Elijah). Of which [tribe] is Eliyahu? Rabbi Elazar said: Of Binyamin (Benjamin)… Rabbi Nehorai said: Of Gad… One time, the Sages were arguing over the matter. Some said of Gad and some said of Binyamin. [Eliyahu] came and stood before them. He said to them: ‘My masters, why do you argue over me? I am of the descendants of Rachel.’

Here again, and in seeming agreement with the other source in Midrash Rabah, quoted in the previous installment, this passage concludes as well that Eliyahu derives from Binyamin (Binyamin, not Gad, was the son of Rachel). Notably, while there is a second opinion here, that Eliyahu derives from Gad, there is no opinion that Eliyahu is a Kohen as was Pinchas.

So far, 3 out of 3 sources in this series have negated the notion of Pinchas and Eliyahu being the same person.

See this post for a possible synthesis.