Various Christian commentators state that Jewish literature represents Elijah as one who appears from heaven to help in times of need.

The only example given is contained in the Babylonian Talmud Tractate Baba Mezi'a 114:

Rabbah b. Abbuha met Elijah standing in a non-Jewish cemetery. Said he [Rabbah] to him [Elijah]: Art thou not a priest: why then dost thou stand in a cemetery? — He replied: Has the Master not studied the laws of purity? For it has been taught: R. Simeon b. Yohai said: The graves of Gentiles do not defile, for it is written, And ye my flock, the flock of my pastures, are men; only ye are designated 'men'. — He replied: I cannot even adequately study the four [orders]; can I then study six? And why? he inquired. — I am too hard-pressed, he answered. He then led him into Paradise and said to him: Remove thy robe and collect and take away some of these leaves. So he gathered them and carried them off. As he was coming out, he heard a remark, 'Who would so consume his [portion in] the world [to come] as Rabbah b. Abbuha has done?' Thereupon he scattered and threw them away. Yet even so, since he had carried them in his robe, it had absorbed their fragrance, and so he sold it for twelve thousand denarii, which he distributed among his sons-in-law.

Are there other stories in Jewish literature that would support the claim that Elijah was viewed as someone who comes to help in times of need?

1 Answer 1


The origin is the last two verses of Malachi (3:23-24):

הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ לָכֶם אֵת אֵלִיָּה הַנָּבִיא לִפְנֵי בּוֹא יוֹם יְהוָה הַגָּדוֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא: וְהֵשִׁ֤יב לֵב־אָבוֹת֙ עַל־בָּנִ֔ים וְלֵ֥ב בָּנִ֖ים עַל־אֲבוֹתָ֑ם פֶּן־אָב֕וֹא וְהִכֵּיתִ֥י אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ חֵֽרֶם׃

Behold I send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem. And he will return the hearts of fathers to their sons, and the hearts of sons to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with destruction

In Netzach Yisrael ch. 28, the Maharal quotes the gemara in Perek Chelek (Sanhedrin 98a):

רבי יהושע בן לוי אשכחיה לאליהו, דהוי קאי אפתחא דמערתא דרבי שמעון בן יוחאי. אמר ליה אתינא לעלמא דאתי, אמר ליה אם ירצה האדון הזה. אמר ריב"ל, שנים ראיתי וקול שלשה שמעתי. אמר ליה אימת אתא משיח, אמר ליה זיל שיילי לדידיה. היכי יתיב, אפתחא דמלכות רביעית. ומאי סימניה, יתיב בין עניים סובלים חלאים, וכולם אסרי ושרי בחד זימנא, איהו שרי חד ואסר חד. אמר, דלמא מבעינא ולא מעכב. אזל לגביה, אמר ליה שלום עליך רבי ומורי. אמר ליה שלום עליך בר לוואי. אמר ליה אימת אתי מר. אמר ליה היום. אתא לגבי אליהו, אמר ליה, מאי אמר לך. אמר ליה שלום עליך בר לוואי. אמר ליה אבטח לך ולאביך לעלמא דאתי. אמר ליה שקורי משקר בי, דאמר לי היום אתינא, ולא אתא. אמר ליה כי אמר לך "היום אם בקולו תשמעו"

Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi found Elijah standing at the entrance to Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai's cave. He said to him, "I have come to the World to Come!" He said to him, "If this Master wills." Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, "Two have I seen, and the voice of three have I heard!"

He said to him, "When will Moshiach come?" He said to him, "Go ask him himself." --"Where is he?" --"At the entrance to the Fourth Kingdom." --"What is his sign?" --"He is among the poor lepers; they all change all their bandages at once, but he changes one at a time." He said, "Perhaps I should not wait!"

He went to him, he said to him, "Peace unto you my teacher and master!" He said to him, "Peace unto you, son of Levi!" He said to him, "When will my master come?" He said, "Today!"

He went back to Elijah, he said to him, "What did he say to you?" He said to him, "'Peace unto you, son of Levi!'" He said to him, "I guarantee you and your father the World to Come." He said to him, "He lied to me! He said he would come today, and he didn't come!" He said to him, "'Today' - if you heed His voice..."

(Rashi explains: When Rebbi Yehoshua says he sees two and hears three, that the Shechinah was there also. When Elijah tells Rebbi Yehoshua that he and his father are guaranteed the World to Come, it is because Moshiach wished him Peace and called him by his father's name)

The Maharal says that Elijah is found at Rashbi's cave due to specific properties of the location, and that Elijah is there now too.

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