Daffodils herald the springtime – and the approach of Passover. (photo from commons.wikimedia.org)
I had not seen him check into the inn. And I did not see him that night as we travelers exchanged vodka toasts to Pesach – only 10 days away. But here he was this morning, awaiting the same coach that would take me to my daughter’s seder table. I like to get there early and remind her that her papa – who gave her life, in
cooperation with her mama – loves being in her home, made gefilte fish and is more than willing to evaluate her Pesach culinary efforts.
Anyhow, awaiting the carriage, we clustered together – exulting in a glorious spring day under the giant willow that shaded the station showing off her spring-new leaves as though she was competing with her neighbor, an old, mottled-bark sycamore. Aged, but still capable of spring whimsy. She seemed even showier when the newcomer leaned against her and I could swear the light green of her new leaves gleamed even greener by contrast.
The mysterious stranger glanced at me. I checked him out, too. A stern face, whose only laughter was in his eyes. He was dressed like the rest of us, except he had a jonquil in his lapel. We seated ourselves opposite each other in the coach.
He was the first to speak. “How do you do?” he said, “My name, I’m sure you know, is Elijah. And, I’m sure you know, I’m beginning my Passover planning.”
I involuntarily rose from my seat like I was sitting on a hot, pot-bellied stove and banged my head on the top of the coach. Elijah, Grand Master of the Prophetic Fraternity, sitting with an undistinguished shtetle Jew – me!
“Can you imagine,” he said, “I visit every seder from Chicago to Katmandu. Roughly,” he continued, “we’re talking millions of homes. And on the same night. The same night,” he repeated. “And nobody says, ‘Ellie (that’s what my friends upstairs call me), good job! Great job, Ellie.’ They’re all too busy being impressed with that watery miracle. They’ve talked for 3,300 years now about a breeze that allowed you Israelites to wade across the Red Sea. And they think it’s a miracle that the Master caused a bunch of birds to fall out of the sky to feed you guys. I’ve tasted ’em. Oily, tough, need a ton of spices to get ’em down. Big deal! And that manna. Ever tasted it? Like raw oatmeal. And me? The showpiece of Pesach? I’m hustling to a few million seders. And you think I can drop in – say hello and run next door? No way. I gotta have a shot of wine – a few million sips of wine. You wouldn’t believe my headache the next day.”
I listened. Shocked. Even the Prophetic Master, semi-human/ semi-angel, had the ego of our coach driver, who prided himself in making the run to Minsk in under six hours.
But Elijah wasn’t through. “And that’s not all. Unknown to a cold and frigid world, there’s a precious little secret that only the angels know. On Pesach – if the year has been a sweet one wherein mankind has controlled his hybrid heart – I beckon to springtime, which is waiting in the wings of winter for my call. It’s the great gift the Master has bestowed upon me. It’s my dividend, as you say down here, for my Pesach duties. I call, and nature, everywhere, listens. Springs into action. (I never could resist a good pun.) Timing? It depends on those 36 Tzadiks – God’s spies we call them – who roam the world and annually report. Mankind behaving? Following Torah? I beckon – spring does her thing. It all hangs on human behavior. Sometimes the earth is only gilded with a pale reflection of a bountiful spring.”
He stopped, turned his head to stare at the passing parade of dreary woodlands and grey vales and brown meadows. But I could see red and yellow tulips dancing in his eyes.
By the time I reached Minsk and burst into a living room full of expectantly waiting kids and grandkids – over their hugs and kisses, I could see the daffodils blooming through the living room windows. We must have behaved.
Ted Roberts is a freelance writer and humorist living in Huntsville, Ala.