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There appear to multiple views about which tribe Eliyahu came from:

  1. Bereishis Rabbah 71:19

אֵלִיָּהוּ מִשֶּׁל מִי, רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אָמַר מִשֶּׁל בִּנְיָמִין, דִּכְתִיב (דברי הימים א ח, כז): וְיַעֲרֶשְׁיָה וְאֵלִיָּה וְזִכְרִי בְּנֵי יְרֹחָם כָּל אֵלֶּה מִבְּנֵי בִנְיָמִן

From where was Eliyahu from? Rabbi Eliezer says he was was from Binyomin, since it writes (Divrei HaYamim I 8:27): 'Ya'aresiah and Eliyahu and Zichri were the sons of Yerocham' and all of these were from the children of Binyomin.

  1. In the same Midrash there is an alternative opinion:

רַבִּי נְהוֹרַאי אָמַר מִשֶּׁל גָּד הָיָה, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (מלכים א יז, א): וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלִיָּהוּ הַתִּשְׁבִּי מִתּשָׁבֵי גִלְעָד

Rabbi Nehorai says he was from Gad, as it writes (Malachim I 17:1) - 'And Eliyahu the Tishbite, the resident of Gilad said...'

  1. Finally we know famously from the Yalkut Shimoni, 771:

אמר רבי שמעון בן לקיש פינחס הו אליהו

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish says: Pinchas is Eliyahu

And thus, as per the Midrash Shocher Tov 43:

זה אליהו הנביא מבית אהרן

Eliyahu the Prophet is from the house of Aharon. (i.e. he is from the tribe of Levi)

Do we just view these as differing opinions or does anyone / source help to make sense of this, and synthesise these viewpoints? Was there a transformative process - i.e. is that how we understand Pinchas/Eliyahu?

  • How about, he was klali - a man of all of Israel? – Harel13 Aug 27 at 17:10
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    Abie Rotenberg has a whole sefer on Eliyahu. I'm sure he addresses this. – robev Aug 27 at 18:28
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Yes, it is a machlokes. As the Radak writes:

ונחלקו רז"ל מאיזה שבט היה מהם אמרו משבט גד היה ומהם אמרו משבט בנימין ומהם אמרו פנחס זה אליהו וכל אחד מהם סומך דבריו אל הפסוקים בדברים רחוקים ואנחנו לא ידענו האמת

[My traslation] Our sages of blessed memory disagreed from which shevet [Eliyahu] was from. Some said Gad, some said Binyamin, and some said Pinchas is Eliyahu. Each of them supports his opinion from the verses with far-fetched proofs, and we do not know the truth.

Many sources though seem to side with the opinion that Pinchas was not Eliyahu.

The Gemara in Bava Basra quotes a Beraisa from Seder Olam:

,תנו רבנן שבעה קפלו את כל העולם כולו מתושלח ראה אדם, שם ראה מתושלח, יעקב ראה את שם עמרם ראה את יעקב, אחיה השילוני ראה את עמרם, אליהו ראה את אחיה השילוני ועדיין קיים The Sages taught: Seven people spanned in their lifetimes the whole world in its entirety, i.e., their lives have spanned all of human history. Methuselah saw Adam in his lifetime; Shem saw Methuselah; Jacob saw Shem; Amram saw Jacob; Ahijah the Shilonite saw Amram; Elijah saw Ahijah the Shilonite; and Elijah is still alive.

As the commentaries there point out, if Pinchas was Eliyahu the list should be that Pinchas saw Moshe who saw Amram, not Eliyahu who saw Achiyah. Thus, the Seder Olam and Gemara go with the opinion that Pinchas was not Eliyahu.

Rashi in Melachim references a Midrash in which Eliyahu Hanavi himself declares that he is from the children of Rachel. As far as I know, this is the only place in Melachim where Rashi discusses the matter.

The Rambam in his introduction to Mishna Torah describes the chain of transmission, and he lists both Pinchas and Eliyahu.

And many Elders received it from Joshua. Eli received it from the Elders and from Phinehas; Samuel received it from Eli and his tribunal; David received it from Samuel and his tribunal; Ahijah the Shiloite who was among those who went forth out of Egypt, and a Levite, heard Moses expounding it; but, as he was an infant in the days of Moses, he became the recipient from David and his tribunal;Elijah received it from Ahijah the Shiloite and his tribunal;

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  • +1 - Really great answer shkoiach! – Dov Aug 27 at 22:07
  • Thanks. Click the check mark if you want to make it official. – N.T. Aug 27 at 23:35
  • Sure - just want to see if anyone else has something to say :-) – Dov Aug 28 at 6:21
  • Just checked you :-) – Dov Sep 10 at 11:30
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So after fishing about a bit online I came across a mehalach from Rabbi Pinchas Winston here - it seems to be based on the Arizal's Shaar HaGilgulim, Chapter 32 (translation can be found here). It is clearly, deeply kabbalstic, and I can't say I understand it totally, but it does somewhat help to unify all these disparate viewpoints.

The main points are as follows:

Regarding Pinchas’ birth it says, “Elazar the son of Aharon took a daughter of Potiel for a wife and Pinchas was born” (Shemos 6:25). On this Chazal say: Potiel-this is Yosef, “sh’patpet” (controlled) his yetzer hara; this is Yisro, “sh’patem” (fattened) calves for idol worship. This is the sod: when Pinchas was born, he incorporated two soul-sparks. This is the meaning: “Potiel,” which is similar to “tippin” (drops), for he was from two soul-drops, one spark from the root of Yosef HaTzaddik and the second spark was from the side of Yisro. This level that incorporates these two souls is called “Pinchas.” (Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Chapter 32)

Thus, Pinchas was like a spiritual time bomb waiting to go off. Though he may not have been conscious of it himself, there was something in him waiting to burst forth when the time was right. All it would take was the proper ignition, and then the two soul-sparks that Pinchas contained would reveal themselves through his act of zealousness......

... The soul that comes to a man when he is born is an actual gilgul, even if it is the combination of two sparks, as in the case of Pinchas who had a spark of Yosef and a spark from Yisro. Nothing else is required to coalesce them. (Ibid.)

In other words, they automatically join with the body and remain with it until the person dies; the body cannot survive without them, and they cannot leave the body before its time is up. However:

In the case of a soul that comes b’sod ibur after birth, like the Nefesh of Nadav and Avihu that came to Pinchas, another spark must accompany it. Furthermore, this spark must be new to the world and not a reincarnation. Such a spark joined with the Nefesh of Nadav and Avihu that came b’ibur, to unify it with the Nefesh of Pinchas, which was an actual reincarnation. Therefore, another new soul had to come b’ibur in Pinchas called “Eliyahu HaTishbi” from the inhabitants of Gilad, and from the root of Gad, which was a new soul at that time. This was in order to combine the Nefesh of Nadav and Avihu with the Nefesh of Pinchas itself, a gilgul from the time of his birth. (Ibid.)

Thus, reviewing the composition of Pinchas’ soul, we find that he was born with a soul-spark from both Yosef HaTzaddik and Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law. This was the soul with which he was born, and which made him Pinchas ben Elazar HaKohen, and with which he would have died, had he not metamorphosed into a new being called “Eliyahu HaNavi.”

However, when he acted zealously by killing Zimri and Cozbi in last week’s parshah, he inherited two additional souls, that of Nadav and Avihu, which, apparently, had been on a long journey through history in the process of tikun. Since these were not Pinchas’ main souls, they could come and go as was necessary, enhancing Pinchas’ spiritual ability, and therefore required something to “bind” them to him. That extra soul is called, “Eliyahu HaTishbi” from the root of Gad.

Thus, Eliyahu who never died, but had ascended to Heaven in a fiery chariot to become an angel, had not been born either. He was a soul that entered and attached itself to an existing person, Pinchas ben Elazar.

And, as if that wasn’t confusing enough, the Arizal explained further:

He also required an additional new soul in order to unite the new soul called “Eliyahu HaTishbi” with the rest of the older souls, that is, the Nefesh of Pinchas and that of Nadav and Avihu. Therefore, he received an additional soul called “Eliyahu” from the root of Binyomin, mentioned in Divrei HaYomim in the posuk, “And Ya’areshyah, Eliyahu, and Zichri were the sons of Yerucham” (I Divrei HaYomim 8:27), as Eliyahu himself wrote to the Chachamim, “from the children of the children of Rachel” (Bereishis Rabbah 71:12) . . . Thus we find that four levels were in Pinchas. The first was that of the Nefesh of Pinchas with which he was born, a single soul even though it was the combination of two drops, one from Yosef and one from Yisro. The second level was the Nefesh of Nadav and Avihu, which came b’sod ibur and was also called “one soul,” as is known from the Zohar: Nadav and Avihu were two limbs of one body (Acharei Mos 57b). The third was a Nefesh called “Eliyahu HaTishbi” from the root of Gad, and the fourth level was “Eliyahu” from the root of Binyomin. (Ibid.)

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  • beta.hebrewbooks.org/… – kouty Aug 28 at 4:00
  • @Kouty - thanks for the link, but please can you explain your point? – Dov Aug 28 at 7:43
  • I want only add a reference – kouty Aug 28 at 8:12

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