Our lives are stitched together with thread that is easily broken. In this time of sorrow, perhaps the best we can do is remember the promise of Elijah—and believe that redemption is near.
At Ritualwell, we are always searching for meaning. We collect rituals and prayers so that people can pause to establish moments of holiness and to construct meaning out of the powerful moments in life. But even we professional meaning-makers are paralyzed by the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It is not easy to stare in the face of evil and respond without resorting to despair or platitudes. All we can do is try.
When Jewish babies are ritually welcomed into the world, a chair is prepared for the prophet Elijah is a biblical prophet who is said never to have died. There are therefore many legends associated with Elijah. In the Talmud, unresolved arguments will be resolved when Elijah comes. He will herald the coming of the messiah. In Jewish ritual, Elijah is a liminal figure, arriving at moments of danger and transition – at a brit milah, a chair is put out for him, a cup is poured for Elijah at the Passover seder, and he is invoked at havdalah. His Hebrew name is Eliyahu.. Elijah is associated with the messianic era, so this chair is meant to remind us that each new child might be the one who leads the world into a time of peace and redemption. Tiny babies, still bearing a fragment of the primordial mystery of their origins, are full of potential—who knows what any one of them might become? Maybe she is not the messiah, but she might cure disease or heal the hurt. Perhaps he will create great beauty or build something that lasts. When we celebrate the miracle of new life, it would be obscene to wonder if that child will someday be murdered at school. It would be unthinkable to imagine that baby becoming an adult who wields a gun and destroys worlds. So we welcome babies with faith, hope and a chair for a prophet.
We humans are so vulnerable. Our lives are stitched together with thread that is easily broken. In this time of sorrow, perhaps the best we can do is remember the promise of Elijah—and believe that redemption is near.