A disciple of the Baal Shem Tov had heard that certain mystics and kabbalists had the privilege of seeing the prophet Elijah. He had heard that there were certain spiritual exercises one could perform in order to actually get to see Elijah. So he came to his Rebbe, the Baal Shem Tov, and asked to merit an encounter with Elijah.
His Rebbe put him off, but the man persisted.
Finally, a few days before Passover, the Baal Shem Tov told this man that he would allow him to meet Elijah, but on one condition: He’d have to carry out his instructions exactly as conveyed, without deviating even one iota. The man readily agreed.
“OK,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “if you want to see the prophet, this is what you ought to do. Take nine boxes and fill them with large quantities of food: fish, meat, matzah, wine, etc. Then, on the day before Passover, travel to the town of Okopy, and on the outskirts of town, right where the forest begins, there is a dilapidated house. Shortly before the holiday begins, knock on the door and ask if they wouldn’t mind putting you up for the holiday of Passover.”
The man gleefully went and did exactly as he was told. He filled parcels with food and traveled to the caved-in home. He knocked on the door. When the woman opened it, he asked if he could stay with them for the holiday.
“How can I welcome you when I don’t have any food in the house?” she cried. “We are a very poor family.”
“Well, I happen to have boxes of food here with me,” he said, “I have enough for all of us.” The children brought in all the boxes, jumping with joy. These poor kinderlach had never seen so much food in their lives. They were overjoyed.
He was there for two days, celebrating Passover with this family, all the while waiting to see Elijah.
But … Elijah never showed up.
Frustrated, he returned to the Baal Shem Tov and said, “Rebbe, I was in that house for two days, but I did not see Elijah! Why did you deceive me?”
“Did you do everything I told you?” asked the Baal Shem Tov.
“Yes, I did!” he said.
“And you didn’t see him?”
“In that case,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “go back to the house, but this time remain outside and just stand near the window, listening.”
The man wondered about the meaning of this strange instruction. But, he followed orders. He went back to the house. He stood near the window and heard the following conversation taking place between the wife and the husband: “Sarah,” the husband said, “where will we get some food for the last days of the holiday?”
To which his wife responded: “Why are you worried, Yankel? Didn’t you see that for the first days of Passover G-d sent us Elijah the prophet who brought us all the delicious food? If need be, G-d will send Elijah again for the second days of Passover!”
And suddenly the man understood what the Baal Shem Tov was telling him.
You want to see Elijah? Fill up nine boxes with food, feed hungry children, then take a good look in the mirror and you will see Elijah!
When we open the door for Elijah, we are also opening the door to expose the Elijah within ourselves.