Named after the prophet Elijah, Elijah’s cup is to be placed on every traditional Passover Seder table. It is a great Passover tradition to fill Kos Eliyahu with wine and have the children leave the door open, so that Elijah comes in and drinks from the wine cup. There is no direct reference to the connection of Elijah to Pesach, so how did this holiday custom come to be?
Elijah appears in books of I Kings and II Kings, where he frequently confronts King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, who worship the pagan god Baal. Elijah’s biblical story ends with a chariot of fire that lifts him into the heavens. “Behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire… and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven,” II Kings 2:11. This unusual departure made it possible for Elijah to become a legendary figure in Jewish tradition. Opening the door on the Seder is to allow Elijah to enter and mark the final redemption. Redemption and drinking 4 wine cups are tightly connected through Elijah.
Four or Five Cups of Wine?
The four cups correspond to the four “expressions of redemption” promised by G?d: “I will take you out from the suffering of Egypt, and I will deliver you from their bondage; I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you to Myself as a nation . . .” So, Elijah’s cup becomes the fifth cup and corresponds to the fifth expression of redemption, which comes in the following verse: “I will bring you to the Land . . .” This expression, however, is an allusion to the future messianic redemption, which will be announced by Elijah. This is also why we do not drink, “enjoy,” the fifth cup—as we have not yet experienced this redemption and leave it to Prophet Elijah.
Final redemption will come at the season of Israel's redemption from Egyptian bondage – On Passover when Elijah walks through the door.
While we wait for Elijah to enter our home, we can learn about Miriam's significance in the story of Pesach.
If the Cup of Elijah symbolizes hope for future redemption, Miriam's Cup symbolizes redemption realized through the tireless efforts of Israel's women. Miriam was a fearless woman and played a significant role in the Exodus chapter. Read more about Miriam in our Miriam’s cup article. be sure to check out another Passover symbol- the traditional Seder plate and discover the symbolism behind every ornamentation and foods!