Holiday Traditions, History & Celebrations

The Seder Plate

Image credit: Shmuel Munkes (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The seder table includes Elijah’s cup, which is filled with wine. At one key part of the seder, the seder attendees open the front door to welcome the arrival of the prophet Elijah—believed to attend every seder.

Why do we leave a cup for Elijah?

The tradition in the Haggadah, “Let all who are hungry come and eat,” has suggested that Jews open their door during the seder. But how does this translate to Elijah? Although Elijah is never mentioned explicitly in the Torah as being a part of the seder, in the 11th century, a rabbi said, “Passover is a time of redemption, and the Messiah is the ultimate redemption, so we’re leaving the door open because we hope Elijah will come.”

Who is Elijah?

“Yahweh is God”, the meaning of Elijah’s name, signifies what Elijah’s mission was. Elijah proclaimed that there is no reality except the God in Israel. Elijah’s greatest prophetic experience took place on his pilgrimage to Horeb, where he learned that God is not in the earthquakes, storms or lightning. Rather, Elijah concluded that God is invisible and spiritual through the form of the “still, small voice”.