Most Rabbinic commentators would agree that ‘removing’ Elijah from our world was a punishment for his lack of faith in the Israelite (Jewish people). Elijah was a constant critic and did not believe that the people of Israel would continue to perform the commandments. Thus God ‘makes’ Elijah attend the countless religious ceremonies, specifically those that attest to the continuation of the religion, e.g. the Passove seder and the ceremony at the birth of Jewish son (the convenant between Jews and God).
Yes, feldme, that’s certainly one commonly-held rabbinic view and thanks for mentioning it.
I deliberately did NOT mention it, for a variety of reasons. The first expression of Elijah as Messianic Herald is not rabbinic but prophetic, from Malachai, and the plain reading of the Malachai text (and the text of Kings and Elijah ascending to heaven, for that matter) certainly doesn’t mention punishment or sin. So, while rabbinic midrash may have gone the way of making some moralistic statement (as it often does), the plain reading of the text (p’shat) has no such implication.
And, of course, at the seder and at a bri’t, there’s no mention of “Hey, Elijah, lookit this! Nyah, nyah.” Nor would anywone explain to ar child that Elijah was coming to the seder as punishment for being too accusatory or too zealous.
The difficulty of having centuries upon centuries of rabbinic commentary is that you get a variety of opinions, often contradictory. There are plenty of midrashic stories about Elijah who comes to save people in trouble, which is inconsistent with the idea of “punishment.”
So, while I find that an amusing commentary, I deliberately avoided it in the Staff Report; partly, because adding sixteen or seventeen interpretations would have made the thing intolerably long; and partly because I find that interpretation inconsistent with the spirit of Elijah’s presence at the seder nowadays. It may have been consistent with Elijah’s appearance at the seder at the point the midrash was written, of course; midrashim usually tell us a lot about the era when they were written.
One has to wonder why you insist on referring to the prophet Malachi as “Malachai” [sic]. It also seems to me that it is quite misleading to refer to Malachi as the last book of the Bible. It is true that in the Christian Bible, Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. But in the ordering of the books in the Bible as used by the Jews, Malachi closes the “Prophets” section, which is followed by the “Writings” (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.).
Furthermore, the passage from Malachi that refers to Elijah is not read at the Seder. At the point that the door is “opened for Elijah,” the passage that is read consists of five verses, four from Psalms and one from Lamentations. And the theme of those verses is not Peace On Earth, but rather that God should send down his wrath on those nations who refuse to acknowledge Him.