Ravens Bring Food to Eliyahu HaNavi
Part Two (Malachim I 17:2-9)
By Rabbi Eliyahu Asher Prero
Last issue we discussed Eliyahu HaNavi’s confrontation with Achav, King of Israel. Due to the fact that the B’nei Yisrael openly served avodah zarah, Eliyahu HaNavi independently declared there would be no more rain until further notice.
Immediately following Eliyahu HaNavi’s declaration, Hashem told him to run away to Nachal Krees (Stream of Krees), adjacent to the Yarden. There, he would hide from Achav and his wife, Izevel (Rashi).
Hashem to Eliyahu HaNavi: Drink From the Stream, and Eat Meat Brought By Ravens
Hashem told Eliyahu HaNavi (17:4): “V’haya may-hanachal tishteh, v’es ha’orvim tzivisi l’chalkelcha sham– And it will be that you will drink from the stream, and the ravens I commanded to sustain you there”
Ravens brought Eliyahu HaNavi bread and meat in the morning and evening. After a period of time, the stream dried up, as there was no more rain in the Land of Israel. Subsequently, Hashem told Eliyahu HaNavi to leave Nachal Krees and travel to Tzarfata.
Two details remain unexplained. What significance lays in the fact that Eliyahu HaNavi drank from a rain-fed stream of water, and not a spring of water. In addition, why did ravens deliver the food to Eliyahu Hanavi? In contrast, when Reb Shimon Bar Yochai hid in a cave, Hashem miraculously created a carob tree and spring of water (“israchish nisa, ivra l’hu charuva v’aina d’maya” –Shabbos 33b).
No’ach and the Raven
No’ach (B’reishis 8:7) sent a raven to check if the flood waters resided. The raven circled the teivah and did not check to see if there was dry land. Chazal explain: The raven was ready for a different purpose, for bringing bread and meat to Eliyahu HaNavi in the times of the stoppage of rain. “Muchan hayah ha’oraiv l’shlichus achares ba’atziras geshamim b’mei Eliyahu (Rashi from Medrash Aggada).”
The Raven is a Cruel Creature
Maharal (Gur Aryeh) wonders: Why would the raven be ready for shlichus in the time of the stoppage of rain, but not for Noach? The Maharal quotes a pasuk in Tehilim (147:9), “Nosain livhayma lachma- livnei oraiv asher yikri’u- Hashem gives an animal bread, and feeds the children of the raven who call out for food.” The Talmud explains (Eruvin 22a) that the raven is a cruel animal, as it does not feed its own child. The pasuk in Tehilim highlights the fact that Hashem feeds the baby ravens. The raven is known as an achzar– a cruel animal.
The Difference Between The Mission of Noach and the Mission of Eliyahu HaNavi
Maharal writes that the purpose of the raven in the times of Noach was positive– to see if the water had subsided. The cruel raven was not willing to travel on such a mission. He was only ready to work to feed Eliyahu HaNavi who brought suffering and hunger to the world. If Eliyahu HaNavi did not have food, posits Maharal, he would not have been able to bring hunger to the world. The raven, by bringing food to Eliyahu HaNavi, was able to bring more hunger into the world. This was a mission even a cruel raven could accept.
A Subtle Message to Eliyahu HaNavi
Indeed, the meforshim comment that Hashem sent a subtle message to Eliyahu HaNavi by sending the food with a raven. A raven is cruel. If Klal Yisrael needs rain, Eliyahu HaNavi should not act with cruelty towards them and stop the rain (Metzudas David).
The Malbim adds, a natural spring continues to produce water regardless of rainfall. A rain-fed stream supplied Eliyahu HaNavi with water. When the rain stopped, eventually the stream dried up. This was a message to Eliyahu HaNavi; it was his curse that caused the rain to stop.
The Talmud tells us (Sanhedrin 113a) that when the stream dried up, Hashem saw there was too much suffering in Klal Yisrael. Hashem told Eliyahu HaNavi to leave his spot by Nachal Krees, and start a journey that would eventually bring rain.
Maharsha: Eliyahu HaNavi Understood the Message, and was Unmoved
What about Eliyahu HaNavi? Did he understand all the clues? Maharsha provides an awe-inspiring clarification of Eliyahu HaNavi’s actions. In reality, Eliyahu HaNavi understood the symbolism and observed the suffering, but he was not ready to move from Nachal Krees and allow rain to fall, until Hashem directly command him to leave his place of solitude.
“U’vchol zos, lo hishgiach Eliyahu la’avor al sh’vuaso ad- ‘vayhi d’var Hashem.’ ” (Maharsha)
Eliyahu HaNavi held the B’nei Yisrael had to do teshuva, and until they did, he was not willing to budge one inch.
Hashem commanded Eliyahu HaNavi to run away to a stream, drink its waters, and eat food brought by ravens. The stream was rain fed, and ravens are cruel, which symbolize the harshness of Eliyahu HaNavi’s decree to stop rain. Eliyahu HaNavi understood the hints, but remained unmoved.
Life Lesson: Every Detail in Life is Important
Eliyahu HaNavi was on the level that he understood hashgacha (Providence). The method in which he was sustained provided a medium for a message. Although we are not on the level of Eliyahu HaNavi, we have a great deal to gain, if we search life for meaning and hashgacha, even in the subtle and minute detail of everyday existence.
©Rabbi Eliyahu Asher Prero is a Musmach of Yeshivas Chevron. He is currently a Maggid Shiur and Mohel Mumche. He can be reached at 845-659-0359 or MohelMehadrin@gmail.com.