Why do Jews set a place/open the door for Elijah at the Passover seder?

Is there some prophecy or legend about Elijah returning?


Elijah is prophesied to return to ordinary Earthly existence in order to herald the coming of the Messiah. See Malachi 4:5-6 - “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

There is a sense that Passover is “the season of redemption” and thus at the Seder, we prepare for the arrival of Elijah, the herald of the future redemption from exile.

There is also a legend that Elijah, during his life of zealotry in the Kingdom of Israel, accused the Israelites of abandoning G-d’s covenant of circumcision. G-d refused to accept this accusation, and therefore, requires the (disembodied) Elijah to attend every circumcision ceremony in order to bear witness that he was wrong. The Passover Sacrifice (when it was offered in the Temple) could only be eaten by circumcised males (or by females; the main thing is, not uncircumcised males), and Elijah attending the seder would also bear witness to the Israelite’s faithfullness to the covenant. While there is no sacrifice these days, much of the seder is maintained in the form and customs that the rite had during Temple times, so such customs do not become forgotten.

We were having a Passover seder when I was a kid, and forgot to leave the door open. At one point, the dining-room door swung open on its own, and my father, without thinking, kicked it shut from his chair.


Also, someone is supposed to secretly drink the wine in Elijah’s cup, then show the kids that the wine has mysteriously vanished.

So what happened? Did you get seven years of locusts? Was your kid brother torn apart by bears?

Not that I have ever heard.

Well, everything bad that’s happened to the Jews since the early '70s I blame on my father . . .

Or, at seders for klutzy people, someone spills Elijah’s cup. That happened at my in-laws’ second seder this year.

Mr. Neville said that once, when they opened the door for Elijah during the seder, his family’s dog came walking in :smiley:

On more than one occasion we’ve opened the door to have the family cat come sauntering in.

Well, is it anywhere written that when Elijah returns, he’ll return as a human? ;j

Are you sure? That sounds more like Mom and Dad scarfing down the cookies and milk on Christmas Eve so the kids think Santa Claus did it.

Elijah could kick Santa’s ass.

Yeah well, all you get from Elijah is the “turning of hearts” and all that. Christians get toys!!!


One Christmas I just couldn’t wait and put out milk and cookies at, like, noon. By four or so they were gone, and no presents! I was absolutely heartbroken.

The dog had eaten them.

I’m not Jewish, but I bet the dog would be happy to drink a bit of wine, too.

Are you sure? That sounds more like Mom and Dad scarfing down the cookies and milk on Christmas Eve so the kids think Santa Claus did it.


Pretty much. It’s a symbolic cup of wine, and now that the youngest person at our table is older than 10 and all that, no one bothers to pretend otherwise. Actually, I don’t think we ever seriously tried to fool anyone. (My parents never seriously tried to trick me into believing in the tooth fairy either.) It’s important to be congnizant of the coming of Elijah and the Messiah, and to make the redemption feel real, I suppose, so we do something concrete to welcome Elijah. But it’s not religiously required to prepare your kids for major trauma when they realize it was Aunt Gladys, and not Elijah, who depleted the wine. (Hmmm… maybe that’s why Aunt Gladys always looks so loopy by the end of the night.)

Whoops. Messed up the coding. Sorry.

It is a necessary point (see the Malachi quote provided earlier) that Elijah, at his return, will announce the arrival of the Redeemer. It is difficult to do this if Elijah isn’t in Human form, although not impossible.

If you can get Jews, Christians, and Muslims to peacefully share the Temple site (along with the other stuff the Messiah is supposed to do), getting a cat or dog to talk should be pretty easy for you.

“What’s that boy? The Messiah is here? He’s trapped down the old well?”

One ticket, please.