There’s a story from the Talmud which says that one of the sages, Joshua, the son of Levi, met Elijah the Prophet, who was at the opening of the cave where Rav Shimon bar Yochai is buried. This in itself is a great secret revealed to us, letting us know that one of the most powerful ways to connect to the soul of Elijah the Prophet is through Rav Shimon bar Yochai and the Zohar.
So, Joshua has the opportunity to meet this great soul, and asks him, “When is Mashiach coming, when is the End of the Correction coming?” Elijah the Prophet answers him in an interesting way. He says, “I’ll tell you where he is so you can go and ask him yourself.” He tells Joshua that Mashiach is sitting in the entrance to the city of Rome and he will know it is him because Mashiach is the one sitting amongst all the poor and sick people; we know that the Light of Mashiach, of the Gemar HaTikun, is in those people who are poor, in the people who we think are undeserving.
Joshua goes to him and says, “Peace unto you, my master and teacher.” Mashiach answers, “Peace unto you, the son of Levi.” Then Joshua asks Mashiach, “When are you coming? When is the Light of the End of the Correction, the end of pain, suffering and death going to come to our world?” Mashiach answers, “I’m coming today.”
Can you imagine the joy that overcame Joshua? He runs back to Elijah the Prophet at the cave of Rav Shimon bar Yochai and tells him what Mashiach said. But when it gets to the end of the day, Joshua says, “He lied to me, because he told me that pain, suffering, and death is going to be removed from the world today. And it hasn’t happened.” Elijah the Prophet tells Joshua that he made a mistake, that he didn’t understand Mashiach properly. “What he meant if you listen,” Elijah said, “‘is that ‘today’ means if you change today, if you complete your spiritual process today, then that Light will be revealed to you.”
When we read the story literally, Joshua is in Meron at the cave where Rav Shimon bar Yochai is. Then he travels all the way to Rome, and then comes all the way back to Meron. However, the great kabbalist, the Maharal of Prague, explains that this story was not happening in the physical. It was happening in the spiritual realm; it was a dream, a prophecy, a revelation to Joshua. And this is where we all want to go to, where these souls are being revealed to us.
However, probably the most important thing to take from this story is the understanding that in order for those of us who take our spiritual work and the ending of pain, suffering and death in our world seriously to complete what we came to this world to accomplish, we have to awaken this true connection where Elijah becomes revealed to us. Therefore, one thing to be aware of on Shabbat Pinchas is the clarity to ask for that gift of Elijah’s revelation.
There are many righteous souls who are willing to go all the way down into every person’s darkness and garbage to assist them. Rav Shimon bar Yochai is one of them. We know, just like the Light of the Creator does for everybody, so too will the Light of the Zohar and of Rav Shimon bar Yochai be with a person - no matter how low he is - and elevate him. Elijah the Prophet is also there for us no matter what. No matter how dark we go, he is willing to go down there with us and elevate us.
And there is practical usage of this assistance. Let’s say a person does a negative action, and then later – maybe an hour, a day, or a week - he wants to do something that will reveal Light, but thinks, “I know I did something negative… what can I possibly accomplish now?” If that person calls the soul of Elijah to come and do it with him, then no matter how low he is, he has the strength and assistance of that great soul. And the thing about Elijah the Prophet is that whenever you call him, he comes. Whenever you ask for his assistance, he is there.
When we call for the soul of Elijah the Prophet to come, then whatever action we are doing, we are not doing it alone; Elijah is doing it with us. Imagine how much Light having his assistance reveals… and there is never a time, no matter where we are, that we cannot call for that assistance. He’s there waiting for us to use him.