Why do we open the door at this point for the Prophet Elijah?
Elijah is traditionally regarded as the precursor of the Messiah – an impression traced back to the third chapter of Malachi, which is read as the haftarah in shul on the Shabbat before Pesach. There, we are told, G-d “will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord,” the day of judgement.
We open the door at the end of the Seder to check whether Elijah has appeared, ushering in the messianic era. Seder night is considered particularly auspicious for his arrival; redemption from Egypt is the major theme and we allude throughout to the next and final redemption, when the Messiah comes and the Temple is rebuilt.
For Jews throughout history, who have been mistreated and downtrodden, this represented their only hope of a better future.
When we see that Elijah has not arrived, delivering a new age of peace, our immediate response is to urge G-d to pour his wrath upon the nations who have oppressed the Jews (“Shfoch Chamatcha”).
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