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Thought for the Day: Praying for the Return of Eliyahu ha'Navi on Motzei Shabbos

Today (that is, the day on which this was written, for those of you reading this in the future on the blog or after release of the forthcoming book...) is the 5th yahrtzeit of my father, יעקב בן יוסף/Jerry Allen; a"h, and I ask that the learning done as a result of this d'var torah should stand as a זכות לעילוי נשמתו/merit for the elevation of his eternal soul.

One of the fun things about learning the Dirshu edition of the Mishna Brura is that you'll pretty much see a little bit of every dimension of Jewish Law and philosophy; all within the "dalad amos" of the laws of daily living.  Not shocking, I suppose, but some of the connections still surprise me from time to time.  For example, I hadn't thought that learning the relatively dry and almost esoteric halachos of תחום/allowed territory would lead to a discussion of how far angels can travel on Shabbos and what day of the week the mashiach might come.  Even better (for my misnagid mind) is that it comes from three of the stars of "just the facts, ma'am, just the facts" poskim: Magein Avraham, Pri Chadach, and Chasam Sofer.

The Magein Avraham, in hilchos havdala (295:2), explains the custom to daven for Eliyahu HaNavi havdala; ie, to sing the famous song.  The issue, he explains, is that there is a machlokes about whether or not the laws of תחום/allowed territory apply to traveling above 10 t'fachim (about 40") above the ground.  Since Eliyahu would need to travel from outside the maximum allowed territory of 12 mil (approximately 3.4 miles), it is inappropriate for us to daven for Eliyahu to come on Shabbos.  I know you've heard it's because it would detract from our Shabbos observance to have to pack up and all that (I've heard that also); I'm just telling you what the Magein Avraham says.  The Pri Chadash explains that Eliyahu would be traveling from at least the first sky, which is 500 years away (again, don't shoot the messenger; that's how Chazal explain the distance).  We may not know how far 500 years is, says the Pri Chadash, but it is certainly more than 12 mil.  I personally want note that the Magein Avraham does not say that Eliyahu can't come on Shabbos; only that is it inappropriate for us to daven for him come on Shabbos because of this machlokes.

Now... the Chasam Sofer asks: Then how does a mohel daven at a Shabbos circumcision that Eliyahu should attend?  No problem, he answers:  You see, Eliyahu has two dimensions of existence; one as a heavenly being (read: angel), one as a human (who lives forever).  To announce the mashiach at the Temple Mount, he would have to travel as a human from Gan Eden to Yerushalyim.  Since he is traveling "dressed in a body", he needs to respect the laws of תחום/allowed territory; so we can't ask him to violate that in case we pasken like those who say travel is restricted even about 10 t'fachim.  On the other hand, when he comes to a bris, that is as a heavenly emissary and as such is not restricted by physical limitations.

Hamlet noted: There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science].  Poor Hamlet and Horatio.  We don't have that problem; there are not more things in heaven and on earth than are discussed by even the most dry of our poskim.


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