Cup of Elijah - Passover Tradition

by: Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf
excerpt from "The Passover Survival Kit"
Elijah the Prophet occupies a fascinating place in Jewish historical consciousness. Our tradition teaches that as history approaches the climactic era of universal peace and brotherhood, it will be Elijah the Prophet who announces the heralding of the messianic era. Additionally, when the Talmud is unable to definitively resolve certain questions of law or practice, it often states that the question have to wait for Elijah. With the advent of the final era, one of Elijah's roles will be to resolve all those lingering scholarly quandaries.
There is an opinion in the Talmud which states that five cups of wine, not four, are to be drunk at the Seder. In practice we follow the majority opinion and drink only four cups. In deference to the minority opinion, however, we pour the Fifth Cup of wine even though no one drinks from it. This Fifth Cup of wine bears the name of Elijah because it is he who will eventually resolve this question, as well as many others.

Jews believe in questions. Whether it is the innocent question of a youngster at the Seder, or the penetrating query of a Talmudic sage, Judaism neither hides its questions nor hides from them. Thoughtful questions fueled by a relentless pursuit of truth and wisdom are part and parcel of the Jewish experience. We celebrate questions and applaud a desire for truth that burns not for a day, a semester, or even for years -- but until the end of time itself.

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