The story of אלישע בעל כנפים (Elisha-the-man-of-the-wings) is told on Shabbos 130a:

דא"ר ינאי תפילין צריכין גוף נקי כאלישע בעל כנפים [...] ואמאי קרו ליה אלישע בעל כנפים שפעם אחת גזרה מלכות הרשעה גזרה על ישראל שכל המניח תפילין על ראשו יקרו את מוחו והיה אלישע מניח תפילין ויצא לשוק וראהו קסדור אחד רץ מלפניו ורץ אחריו כיון שהגיע אצלו נטלן מראשו ואחזן בידו א"ל מה בידך אמר לו כנפי יונה פשט את ידו ונמצאו בה כנפי יונה לפיכך היו קוראין אותו בעל כנפים

For R. Jannai said: Tefillin demand a pure body, like Elisha-the-man-of-the-wings. [...] And why is he called 'the man-of-the-wings'? Because the wicked State once proclaimed a decree against Israel that whoever donned tefillin should have his brains pierced through; yet Elisha put them on and went out into the streets. A quaestor saw him: he fled before him, and the latter gave pursuit. As he overtook him, he [Elisha] removed them from his head and held them in his hand, 'What is that in your hand?' he demanded, 'The wings of a dove,' was his reply. He stretched out his hand and the wings of a dove were found therein. Hence he is called 'Elisha-the-man-of-the-wings.'

(halakhah.com Soncino translation)

See Tosfos and other commentators there for discussion as to the permissibility/obligation that Elisha had to risk his life for tefillin.

Did the tefillin really turn into dove's wings, or was it just an illusion that fooled the quaestor? If they really did turn into dove's wings, did they turn back into tefillin after?


1 Answer 1


The Ateres Yehoshua (רב יהושע קרלנשטיין) offers a unique perspective on the Sugya: The wings never turned back to Tefilin because Hashem doesn't perform miracles without purpose. He also offers an insightful explanation for the enduring moniker "Elisha, Man of Wings," a distinction rarely granted to other sages who experienced miraculous events. Elisha's name endured to ensure that no one would misconstrue the miracle as a mere illusion. Instead, it served as a reminder that he was indeed left with the wings while his Tefilin were lost, solidifying the authenticity of the divine intervention.

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