Wednesday, August 11, 2010

RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL:Nine entered the Garden of Eden when they were still alive #1

Nine entered the Garden of Eden when they were still alive #1
  Nine entered the Garden of Eden when they were still alive;
 Part One
Shalom My dear Talmudim, Chaverim v' Rabbanim:
I was re-studying Talmud Bavli Tractate Derek Eretz Zuta, with my dear friend, Rabbi Haim Cipriani of Milan, Italy, and we began to discuss the merits of nine people mentioned who got to see Paradise, the Garden of Eden, while still alive.
We both noted with interest that of these 9, which gets expanded in the text to ten, five of them were not Jewish. One of them was an African Eunuch, and two were women.  This of course reminded us of Judaism's pluralistic view of other religions, and the Jewish concept in the Talmud Bavli Tractate Sanhedrin 105a, that ''the righteous of all nations, i.e. religions, have a share in the world to come.'' This of course is in direct opposition to religions which teach that their's is the only way for eternal salvation and entrance into heaven, while everyone else is going to hell. Rabbi Arthur Segal: RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL:RIGHTEOUS OF ALL NATIONS HAVE A SHARE IN THE WORLD TO COME
FROM TALMUD BAVLI TRACTATE DEREK ERETZ ZUTA CHAPTER ONE: '' Nine entered the Garden of Eden when they were still alive, and they are: Enoch (Chanoch) the son of Jared, Elijah, Messiah, Eliezer the bondsman of Abraham, Hirom the king of Zor, Ebed-melech the Cushi and Jabetz the son of R. Jehudah the Prince, Bothiah the daughter of Pharaoh and Serech the daughter of Ascher, and, according to others, also R. Jehoshua b. Levi. ''
Who are these 9, now ten, people and what can we learn from them?
1. Enoch (Chanoch) the son of Jared,
Let us begin with Genesis 5:18-24. '' Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and begot Enoch.   After he begot Enoch, Jared lived eight hundred years, and had sons and daughters.  So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years; and he died.   Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah.  After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.   So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.''
Enoch is one of the main two focal points for much of the 1st millennium BCE Jewish mysticism, notably in the Book of Enoch. He avoided the mortal death ascribed to Adam's other descendants.
In classical Rabbinical literature, there are divergent opinions of Enoch. After Christianity and Judaism had separated, the prevailing view regarding Enoch was that of Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which thought of Enoch as a pious man, taken to Heaven, and receiving the title of Safra rabbah (Great scribe).
However, while Christianity was separating from Judaism, the Jewish view of Enoch was he was the only pious man of his time and was taken away before he would become corrupted.
According to Rashi   from Midrash Genesis Rabbah  "Enoch was a righteous man, but he could easily be swayed to return to do evil. Therefore, the Holy One, blessed be He, hastened and took him away and caused him to die before his time. For this reason, Scripture changed the wording in the account of his demise and wrote, 'and he was no longer' in the world to complete his years."
Among the minor Midrashim , esoteric attributes of Enoch are expanded upon. In the Sefer Hekalot, Rabbi Ishmael is described as having visited the 7th Heaven , where he meets Enoch, who claims that earth had, in his time, been corrupted by the demons Shammazai, and Azazel, and so Enoch was taken to Heaven to prove that God was not cruel. Similar traditions are recorded in Ecclesiasticus. Later elaborations of this interpretation treated Enoch as having been a pious ascetic, who, called to remix with others, preached repentance, and gathered (despite the fewness of people on the earth) a vast collection of disciples, to the extent that he was proclaimed king. Under his wisdom, peace is said to have reigned on earth, to the extent that he is summoned to Heaven to rule over the sons of God. In a parallel with Elijah , in sight of a vast crowd begging him to stay, he ascends to Heaven on a horse.
Three extensive apocryphal works are attributed to Enoch :
1st Book of Enoch , or simply the Book of Enoch , an apocryphal book in the Ethiopian   Bible that is usually dated between the third century BCE and the first century CE.
2nd Book of Enoch , an apocryphal book in the Old Slavonic  Bible usually dated the first century CE.
3rd Book of Enoch , a Kabbalistic  Rabbinic text in Hebrew usually dated the fifth century CE.
These recount how Enoch is taken up to Heaven and is appointed guardian of all the celestial treasures, chief of the archangels, and the immediate attendant on God's throne. He is subsequently taught all secrets and mysteries and, with all the angels at his back, fulfills of his own accord whatever comes out of the mouth of God, executing His decrees. Enoch was also seen as the inventor of writing, and teacher of astronomy and arithmetic , all three reflecting the interpretation of his name as meaning initiated.
Much esoteric literature like the 3rd Book of Enoch identifies Enoch as the Metatron, the angel which communicates God's word. In consequence, Enoch was seen, by this literature, and the ancient Kabbalah of Jewish mysticism, as having been the one which communicated God's revelation to Moses, in particular, the dictator of the Book of Jubilees.
So what did Enoch do to merit his going to Paradise without dying? Enoch did righteousness, helping people do teshuvah, (spiritual renewal), and bringing about peace among people.
2. Elijah   
Elijah whose name (El-i Yahu) means "Yah is my God," was a prophet in Israel in the 9th century BCE. He appears in the TaNaK,, Talmud, Mishnah and even in texts of other religions.  According to the Books of Kings, Elijah raised the dead, brought fire down from the sky, and ascended into heaven in a whirlwind (either accompanied by a chariot and horses of flame or riding in it). In the Book of Malachi, Elijah's return is prophesied "before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord," making him a harbinger of the Messiah .
In Judaism, Elijah's name is invoked at the weekly Havdalah ritual that marks the end of Shabbat, and Elijah is invoked in other Jewish customs, among them the Passover seder and the Brit milah (ritual circumcision). He appears in numerous stories and references in the Haggadah  and rabbinic literature, including the Babylonian Talmud.
By the 9th century BCE, the Kingdom of Israel, once united under King Solomon, was divided into the northern Kingdom of Israel and southern Kingdom of Judah , which retained the historic seat of government and focus of the Hebrew religion at the Temple in Jerusalem. Omri, King of Israel, continued policies dating from the reign of Jeroboam, contrary to the laws of Moses, that were intended to reorient religious focus away from Jerusalem: encouraging the building of local temple altars for sacrifices, appointing priests from outside the family of the Levites, and allowing or encouraging temples dedicated to the Canaanite god, Baal. Omri achieved domestic security with a marriage alliance between his son Ahab and princess Jezebel, a priestess of Baal and the daughter of the king of Sidon in Phoenicia.These solutions brought security and economic prosperity to Israel for a time,  but did not bring peace with the Hebrew prophets, who were interested in a strict deuteronomic interpretation of Mosaic law.
As King, Ahab exacerbated these tensions. Ahab allowed the worship of a foreign god within the palace, building a temple for Baal and allowing Jezebel to bring a large entourage of priests and prophets of Baal and Asherah into the country. It is in this context that Elijah is introduced in 1 Kings 17:1 as Elijah "The Tishbite". He warns Ahab that there will be years of catastrophic drought so severe that not even dew will fall, because Ahab and his queen stand at the end of a line of kings of Israel who are said to have "done evil in the sight of the Lord."
Elijah appears on the scene with no fanfare. Nothing is known of his origins or background. His name, Elijah, "Jah is God," may be a name applied to him because of his challenge to Baal worship.
Elijah's challenge, characteristic of his behavior in other episodes of his story as told in the TaNaK, is bold and direct. Baal was the local nature deity responsible for rain, thunder, lightning, and dew. Elijah not only challenges Baal on behalf of the God of Israel, he challenges Jezebel, her priests, Ahab, and the people of Israel.
After Elijah's confrontation with Ahab, God tells him to flee out of Israel, to a hiding place by the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan, where he will be fed by ravens. When the brook dries up, God sends him to a widow living in the town of Zarephatho in Phoenicia. When Elijah finds her and asks to be fed, she says that she does not have sufficient food to keep her and her own son alive. Elijah tells her that God will not allow her supply of flour or oil to run out, saying, "Don't be afraid..this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land," illustrating that the demand of the covenant is not given without the promise of the covenant. She feeds him the last of their food, and Elijah's promise miraculously comes true; thus, by an act of faith the woman received the promised blessing. God gave her "manna" from heaven even while He was withholding food from his unfaithful people in the promised land. Some time later, the widow's son dies, and the widow cried, "Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?" Moved by a faith like that of Abraham  Elijah prays that God might restore her son so that the veracity and trustworthiness of God's word might be demonstrated. 1 Kings 17:22 relates how God "heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived." This is the first instance of raising the dead recorded in Scripture. This non-Israelite widow was granted the best covenant blessing in the person of her son, the only hope for a widow in ancient society. The widow cried, "...the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth." She made a confession that the Israelites had failed to make.
After more than three years of drought and famine, God tells Elijah to return to Ahab and announce the end of the drought: not occasioned by repentance in Israel but by the command of the Lord, who had determined to reveal himself again to his people. While on his way, Elijah meets Obadiah, the head of Ahab's household, who had hidden a hundred prophets of the God of Israel when Ahab and Jezebel had been killing them. Elijah sends Obadiah back to Ahab to announce his return to Israel.
When Ahab confronts Elijah, he refers to him as the "troubler of Israel." Elijah responds by throwing the charge back at Ahab, saying that it is Ahab who has troubled Israel by allowing the worship of false gods. Elijah then berates both the people of Israel and Ahab for their acquiescence in Baal worship. "How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal then follow him" (1 Kings 18:21). And the people were silent. The Hebrew for this word, "go limping" or "waver", is the same as that used for "danced" in verse 26, where the prophets of Baal frantically dance. Elijah speaks with sharp irony: in the religious ambivalence of Israel, she is engaging in a wild and futile religious "dance".
At this point Elijah proposes a direct test of the powers of Baal and the God of Israel. The people of Israel, 450 prophets of Baal, and 400 prophets of Asherah are summoned to Mount Carmel, part of modern Haifa. Two altars are built, one for Baal and one for the God of Israel. Wood is laid on the altars. Two oxen are slaughtered and cut into pieces; the pieces are laid on the wood. Elijah then invites the priests of Baal to pray for fire to light the sacrifice. They pray from morning to noon without success. Elijah ridicules their efforts. They respond by cutting themselves and adding their own blood to the sacrifice (such mutilation of the body was strictly forbidden in the Mosaic law). They continue praying until evening without success.
Elijah now orders that the altar of the God of Israel be drenched with water from "four large jars" poured three times (1 Kings 18:33-34). He asks God to accept the sacrifice. Fire falls from the sky, igniting the sacrifice. Elijah seizes the moment and orders the death of the prophets of Baal. Elijah prays earnestly for rain to fall again on the land. Then the rains begin, signaling the end of the famine.
Jezebel, enraged that Elijah had ordered the deaths of her priests, threatens to kill Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-13). This was Elijah's first encounter with Jezebel, and not the last. Later Elijah would prophesy about Jezebel's death, because of her sin. Later, Elijah flees to Beersheba in Judah, continues alone into the wilderness, and finally sits down under a juniper tree, praying for death. He falls asleep under the tree; an angel touches him and tells him to wake and eat. When he wakes he finds bread and a jar of water. He eats, drinks, and goes back to sleep. The angel comes a second time and tells him to eat and drink because he has a long journey ahead of him.
Elijah travels, for forty days and forty nights, to Mount Horeb and seeks shelter in a cave. God again speaks to Elijah (1 Kings 19:9): "What doest thou here, Elijah?". Elijah did not give a direct answer to the Lord's question but evades and equivocates, implying that the work the Lord had begun centuries earlier had now come to nothing, and that his own work was fruitless. Unlike Moses, who tried to defend Israel when they sinned with the golden calf, Elijah bitterly complains over the Israelites' unfaithfulness and says he is the "only one left". Up until this time Elijah has only the word of God to guide him, but now he is told to go outside the cave and "stand before the Lord." A terrible wind passes, but God is not in the wind. A great earthquake shakes the mountain, but God is not in the earthquake. Then a fire passes the mountain, but God is not in the fire. Then a "still small voice" comes to Elijah and asks again, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" Elijah again evades the question and his lament is unrevised, showing that he did not understand the importance of the divine revelation he had just witnessed. God then sends him out again, this time to Damascus to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel  and Elisha as his replacement.
Elijah encounters Ahab again in 1 Kings 21  after Ahab has acquired possession of a vineyard by murder. Ahab desires to have the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel. He offers a better vineyard or a fair price for the land. But Naboth tells Ahab that God has told him not to part with the land. Ahab accepts this answer with sullen bad grace. Jezebel, however, plots a method for acquiring the land. She sends letters, in Ahab's name, to the elders and nobles who lived near Naboth. They are to arrange a feast and invite Naboth. At the feast, false charges of cursing God and Ahab are to be made against him. The plot is carried out and Naboth is stoned to death. When word comes that Naboth is dead, Jezebel tells Ahab to take possession of the vineyard.
God again speaks to Elijah and sends him to confront Ahab with a question and a prophecy: "Have you killed and also taken possession?" and, "In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick up your own blood" (1 Kings 21:19 ). Ahab begins the confrontation by calling Elijah his enemy. Elijah responds by throwing the charge back at him, telling him that he has made himself the enemy of God by his own actions. Elijah then goes beyond the prophecy he was given and tells Ahab that his entire kingdom will reject his authority; that Jezebel will be eaten by dogs within Jezreel; and that his family will be consumed by dogs as well (if they die in a city) or by birds (if they die in the country). When Ahab hears this he repents to such a degree that God relents in punishing Ahab but will punish Jezebel and their son--Ahaziah.
Elijah continues now from Ahab to an encounter with Ahaziah. The scene opens with Ahaziah seriously injured in a fall. He sends to the priests of Baalzebub in Ekron, outside the kingdom of Israel, to know if he will recover. Elijah intercepts his messengers and sends them back to Ahaziah with a message. In typical Elijah fashion, the message begins with a blunt, impertinent question: "Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron?"(2 Kings 1:6). Ahaziah asks the messengers to describe the person who gave them this message. They tell him he wore a hairy coat with a leather belt and he instantly recognizes the description as Elijah the Tishbite.
Ahaziah sends out three groups of soldiers to arrest Elijah. The first two are destroyed by fire which Elijah calls down from heaven. The leader of the third group asks for mercy for himself and his men. Elijah agrees to accompany this third group to Ahaziah, where he gives his prophecy in person.
The biblical story of Elijah's departure is unique. Elijah, in company with Elisha approaches the Jordan. He rolls up his mantle and strikes the water (2 Kings 2:8). The water immediately divides and Elijah and Elisha cross on dry land. Suddenly, a chariot of fire and horses of fire appear and Elijah is lifted up to heaven in a whirlwind. As Elijah is lifted up, his mantle falls to the ground and Elisha picks it up.
Elijah is mentioned once more in 2 Chronicles 21. A letter is sent under the prophet's name to Jehoram. It tells him that he has led the people of Judah astray in the same way that Israel was led astray. The prophet ends the letter with a prediction of a painful death. This letter is a puzzle to readers for several reasons. First, it concerns a king of the southern kingdom, while Elijah concerned himself with the kingdom of Israel. Second, the message begins with "Thus says YHVH God of your father David..." rather than the more usual " the name of YHVH the God of Israel." Also, this letter seems to come after Elijah's ascension into the whirlwind. But this is not surprising, as the books of 1 and 2 Kings are told largely out of order, to depict one individual or event at a time. There are a number of possible reasons for this letter, among them that it may be an example of a better known prophet's name being substituted for that of a lesser known prophet. Others rejects the letter as having any connection with  Elijah . Others argue that Elijah`s letter: 'does address a very 'northern' situation in the southern kingdom', and thus is authentic.
The final mention of Elijah in the Hebrew Bible is in the Book of Malachi, where it is written, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord." That day is described as the burning of a great furnace, "... so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." (Malachi 3:19) Traditionally, in Judaism, this is taken to mean the return of Elijah will precede the Messiah.
According to one recent researcher  the Elijah stories were added to the Deuteronomistic   History in four stages. The first stage dates from the final edition of the History, about 560 BCE, when the three stories of Naboth's vineyard, the death of Ahaziah, and the story of Jehu's coup were included to embody the themes of the reliability of God's word and the cycle of Baal worship and religious reform in the history of the Northern Kingdom. The narratives about the Omride wars were added shortly afterwards to illustrate a newly introduced theme, that the attitude of the king towards the word of the prophets determines the fate of Israel. 1 Kings 17-18 was added in early post-Exilic times (after 538 BCE) to demonstrate the possibility of a new life in community with God after the time of judgment. In the fifth century BCE, 1 Kings 19:1-18 and the remaining Elisha stories were inserted to give prophecy a legitimate foundation in the history of Israel.
Jewish legends about Elijah abound in the aggadah, which is found throughout various collections of rabbinic literature, including the Babylonian Talmud. This varied literature does not merely discuss his life, but has created a new history of him, which, beginning with his death - or "translation" - ends only with the close of the history of the human race. The volume of references to Elijah in Jewish Tradition stands in marked contrast to that in the TaNaK. As in the case of most figures of Jewish legend, so in the case of Elijah, the Biblical account became the basis of later legend. Elijah the precursor of the Messiah, Elijah zealous in the cause of God, Elijah the helper in distress: these are the three leading notes struck by the Aggadah, endeavoring to complete the Biblical picture with the Elijah legends.His career is extensive, colorful, and varied. He has appeared the world over in the guise of a beggar and scholar.
From the time of Malachi, who says of Elijah that God will send him before "the great and dreadful day" (Mal. 3:23), down to the later stories of the Chasidic rabbis, reverence and love, expectation and hope, were always connected in the Jewish consciousness with Elijah.
Since, according to the Bible, Elijah lived a mysterious life, the Aggadah naturally did not fail to supply the Biblical gaps in its own way. In the first place, it was its aim to describe more precisely Elijah's origin, since the Biblical (I Kings 17: 1) "Elijah, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead," was too vague.
Three different theories regarding Elijah's origin are presented in the Aggadah literature: (1) he belonged to the tribe of Gad (Midrash Genesis Rabbah lxxi.) (2) he was a Benjamite from Jerusalem, identical with the Elijah mentioned in I Chron. 7:27 (3) he was a priest.
In some later works some rabbis speculate that he is to be identified with Phinehas (Pirḳei R. El. 47, Targum Yerushalmi on Num. xxv. 12)
Mention must also be made of a statement which, though found only in the later Kabbalistic literature (Yalḳuṭ Reubeni, Beresheit, 9a ) seems nevertheless to be very old . According to this legend Elijah was really an angel in human form, so that he had neither parents nor offspring.
In spite of Elijah's many miracles, the mass of the Jewish people remained as godless as before. A midrash  tells that they even abolished the sign of the covenant, and the prophet had to appear as Israel's accuser before God (Pirḳie R. El. 29.).
In the same cave where God once appeared to Moses and revealed Himself as gracious and merciful, Elijah was summoned to appear before God. By this summons he perceived that he should have appealed to God's mercy, instead of becoming Israel's accuser. The prophet, however, remained relentless in his zeal and severity, so that God commanded him to appoint his successor (Tanna d' Eliyahu Zuṭa viii.).
The vision in which God revealed Himself to Elijah gave him at the same time a picture of the destinies of man, who has to pass through "four worlds." This world was shown to the prophet in the form of the wind, since it disappears as the wind; storm () is the day of death, before which man trembles ; fire is the judgment in Gehena, and the stillness is the last day (Tan., Peḳude, p. 128.).
Three years after this vision (Seder 'Olam R. xvii.) Elijah was "translated." Concerning the place to which Elijah was transferred, opinions differ , but the old view was that Elijah was received among the heavenly inhabitants, where he records the deeds of men (Talmud Bavli Tractate Ḳedoshim  70; Midrash Beresheit. Rabbah . xxxiv. 8), a task which according to the apocalyptic literature is entrusted to Enoch, as per my above.
But as early as the middle of the second century CE, when the notion of translation to heaven was very much changed by Christian theologians, the assertion was made that Elijah never entered into heaven proper (Talmud Bavli Tractate Sukkah  5a). In later literature paradise is generally designated as the abode of Elijah (  Pirḳie R. El. xvi.), but since the location of paradise is itself uncertain, the last two statements may be identical.
At Jewish circumcision ceremonies, a chair is set aside for the use of the prophet Elijah. Elijah is said to be a witness at all circumcisions when the sign of the covenant is placed upon the body of the child. This custom stems from the incident at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19): Elijah had arrived at Mount Horeb after the demonstration of Jehovah's presence and power on Mount Carmel. (1 Kings 18) God asks Elijah to explain his arrival, and Elijah replies: "I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away" (1 Kings 19:10). According to Rabbinic tradition, Elijah's words were patently untrue (1 Kings 18:4 and 1 Kings 19:18), and since Elijah accused Israel of failing to uphold the covenant, God would require Elijah to be present at every covenant of circumcision.
In the Talmudic literature, Elijah would visit rabbis to help solve particularly difficult legal problems. Malachi had cited Elijah as the harbinger of the Messianic age. Thus, when confronted with reconciling impossibly conflicting laws or rituals, the rabbis would set aside any decision "until Elijah comes."
One such decision was whether the Passover seder required four or five cups of wine. Each serving of wine corresponds to one of the "four expressions of redemption" in the Book of Exodus:
"I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an out-stretched arm and with great acts of judgment, and I will take you for my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians" (Exodus 6:6-7).
The next verse, "And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord." (Exodus 6:8) was not fulfilled until the generation following the Passover story, and the rabbis could not decide whether this verse counted as part of the Passover celebration (thus deserving of another serving of wine). Thus, a cup was left for the arrival of Elijah.
In practice, the fifth cup has come to be seen as a celebration of future redemption. Today, a place is reserved at the seder table and a cup of wine is placed there for Elijah. During the seder, the door of the house is opened and Elijah is invited in. Traditionally, the cup is viewed as Elijah's and is used for no other purpose.
Havdalah is the ceremony that concludes the Sabbath Day (Saturday evening in Jewish tradition). As part of the concluding hymn, an appeal is made to God that Elijah will come during the following week. "Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbite. Let him come quickly, in our day with the messiah, the son of David."
The volume of references to Elijah in folklore stands in marked contrast to that in the TaNaK.
"At the appointed time, it is written, you are destined to calm the wrath of God before it breaks out in fury,
to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob." (Sirach 48:10).
In the Wisdom of  Joshua  ben Sira (Sirach 48:10) his tasks are altered to: 1) herald the Messiah, 2) calm God's fury, 3) restore familial peace, and 4) restore the 12 tribes.
Elijah's miraculous transferral to heaven lead to speculation as to his true identity. He is equated  with Phinehas the grandson of Aaron (Exodus 6:25). Because of Phinehas zealousness for God, he and his descendants were promised, "a covenant of lasting priesthood" (Numbers 25:13). Therefore, Elijah is a priest as well as a prophet. Elijah is also equated with the Archangel Sandalphon, whose four wing beats will carry him to any part of the earth. When forced to choose between death and dishonor, Rabbi Kahana chose to leap to his death. Before he could strike the ground, Elijah/Sandalphon had appeared to catch him. Yet another name for Elijah is "Angel of the Covenant"
References to Elijah in Jewish folklore range from short observations (e. g. It is said that when dogs are happy for no reason, it is because Elijah is in the neighborhood ) to lengthy parables on the nature of God's justice.
One such story is that of Rabbi Joshua ben Levi. The rabbi, a friend of Elijah's, was asked what favor he might wish. The rabbi answered only that he be able to join Elijah in his wanderings. Elijah granted his wish only if he refrained from asking any questions about any of the prophet's actions. He agreed and they began their journey. The first place they came to was the house of an elderly couple who were so poor they had only one old cow. The old couple gave of their hospitality as best they could. The next morning, as the travelers left, Elijah prayed that the old cow would die and it did. The second place they came to was the home of a wealthy man. He had no patience for his visitors and chased them away with the admonition that they should get jobs and not beg from honest people. As they were leaving, they passed the man's wall and saw that it was crumbling. Elijah prayed that the wall be repaired and it was so. Next, they came to a wealthy synagogue. They were allowed to spend the night with only the smallest of provisions. When they left, Elijah prayed that every member of the synagogue might become a leader.
Finally, they came to a very poor synagogue. Here they were treated with great courtesy and hospitality. When they left, Elijah prayed that God might give them a single wise leader. At this Rabbi Joshua could no longer hold back. He demanded of Elijah an explanation of his actions. At the house of the old couple, Elijah knew that the Angel of Death was coming for the old woman. So he prayed that God might have the angel take the cow instead. At the house of the wealthy man, there was a great treasure hidden in the crumbling wall. Elijah prayed that the wall be restored thus keeping the treasure away from the miser. The story ends with a moral: A synagogue with many leaders will be ruined by many arguments. A town with a single wise leader will be guided to success and prosperity. "Know then, that if thou seest an evil-doer prosper, it is not always unto his advantage, and if a righteous man suffers need and distress, think not God is unjust."'
The Elijah of legend did not lose any of his ability to afflict the comfortable. The case of Rabbi Eliezer son of Rabbi Simon ben Yohai is illustrative. Once, when walking a beach, he came upon a hideously ugly man–the prophet in disguise. The man greeted him courteously, "Peace be with thee, Rabbi." Instead of returning the greeting, the rabbi could not resist an insult, "How ugly you are! Is there anyone as ugly as you in your town?" Elijah responded with, "I don't know. Perhaps you should tell the Master Architect how ugly is this, His construction." The rabbi realized his wrong and asked for pardon. But Elijah would not give it until the entire city had asked for forgiveness for the rabbi and the rabbi had promised to mend his ways.
Elijah was always seen as deeply pious, it seems only natural that he would be pitted against an equally evil individual. This was found in the person of Lilith. Lilith in legend was the first wife of Adam. She rebelled against Adam, the angels, and even God. She came to be seen as a demon and a witch.
Elijah encountered Lilith and instantly recognized and challenged her, "Unclean one, where are you going?" Unable to avoid or lie to the prophet, she admitted she was on her way to the house of a pregnant woman. Her intention was to kill the woman and eat the child.
Elijah pronounced his malediction, "I curse you in the Name of the Lord. Be silent as a stone!" But, Lilith was able to make a bargain with Elijah. She promises to "forsake my evil ways" if Elijah will remove his curse. To seal the bargain she gives Elijah her names so that they can be posted in the houses of pregnant women or new born children or used as amulets. Lilith promises, "where I see those names, I shall run away at once. Neither the child nor the mother will ever be injured by me.''
So what were Elijah's merits to enable him to cheat death and go to Paradise alive. He was a proponent of God, and of God's justice. He is to be the harbinger of the Messiah.  He fought against injustice.
3. Eliezer the bondsman of Abraham 
Eliezer, the '' Servant of Abraham.'' mentioned by name only in Gen. xv. 2, a passage which presents some difficulties. Eliezer is described by Abraham as ( "possessor of my house") and as ( "Dammesek-Eliezer"). here, as frequently, has the force of an adjective or participle, and the phrase "ben mesheḳ" (steward; comp. , Zeph. xi. 9, and , Job xxviii. 18) is the subject of the sentence, which reads "and the steward of my house is this Damascene.   Eliezer," "Damasheḳ" being used intentionally for the adjective "Damashḳi. "   
That Abraham, on his way from Haran, passed through Damascus is certainly not improbable. Nacḥmanides  connects him with that city, as do various traditions ( Josephus, "Ant." vii. 1, viii. 2).  He may there have acquired this servant, who is also spoken of in Gen. xxiv., though the name is not given, in connection with the commission to choose a wife for Isaac. Still, even the Rabbis felt the difficulties of the present text.  According to Eleazar b. Pedath, it denotes Eliezer as one "that draws and gives others to drink" ()—that is, imparts to others the teachings of his master (Talmud Bavli Tractate Yoma 18b).  
Others found in the word "mesheḳ" an allusion to his coveting () Abraham's possessions. In lies the indication that Abraham pursued the kings (Gen. xiv.) to Damascus, and the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan and Yerushalmi read: "through whom many miracles were wrought for me in Damascus" (Midrash Genesis Rabbah. xliv.).
That Eliezer took part in that battle, or was, perhaps, the only combatant at Abraham's side, the Rabbis find indicated in the number (318) of the soldiers (Gen. 9:14), the numerical value of the letters in being 1 + 30 + 10 + 70 + 7 + 200 = 318 (Genesis  Rabbah. xliii. and  xliv. Talmud Bavli Tractate Pesachim 70a, 70b, Talmud Bavli Tractate  Nedarim  32a). Kabbalists  have held this "318" to refer to the number of days in the year that the moon is visible. 
Let's take a look at some interesting Gematria that appears in the book of Genesis (Beresheit) in the TaNaK .

In Genesis 14, when Sodom and Gomorrah are attacked and Lot is taken captive, we read:

Gen 14:14:'' And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. '' We are told that Abraham armed his 318 servants. Without Gematria, this is a strange bit of detail. 318 is not mentioned anywhere else in the TaNaK.. It is not explained. Could this reference to 318 be explained using  Gematria?

Gematria can indeed explain this reference to 318 servants. In the very next chapter of the TaNaK , we are told that:

Gen 15:2 :''And Abram said, Lord God , what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?  ''  Eliezer is Abraham's chief servant, the steward of his house. The Gematria of Eliezer adds up to 318.

Let's examine this interesting Gematria. Eliezer  is written as in Hebrew:
Reading from right to left, the Hebrew letters  are Alef, Lamed, Yod, Ayin, Zayin and Resh. The Gematria values are as follows:

Alef: Gematria of 1.
Lamed: Gematria of 30.
Yod: Gematria of 10.
Ayin: Gematria of 70.
Zayin: Gematria of 7.
Resh: Gematria of 200.
Thus, the total Gematria is 1+30+10+70+7+200 = 318.

Eliezer in Hebrew means My God helped or My God is a help. The Gematria (318 trained servants), with Eliezer (also with a Gematria of 318, and meaning My God helped) as Abraham's chief servant, wonderfully sheds more light on this otherwise obscure passage from the TaNaK.
Eliezer was presented to Abraham by Nimrod. Once Eliezer saved Abraham's life by disclosing to him the devices for his destruction prepared by Nimrod (Pirḳie R. El. xvi.). At Sodom Eliezer saw a native maltreating a stranger: taking the part of the wronged man, he was himself severely wounded. He brought suit against his aggressor, but the judge condemned Eliezer to pay to the native of Sodom a certain amount of money for having been bled. Thereupon Eliezer inflicted a severe wound upon the judge, saying: "Pay to the man who bled me the amount you owe me for having bled you." The men of Sodom used to place a guest on a bed, and if his length exceeded that of the bed they cut off the excess, but if the man was shorter than the bed he was stretched. Asked to lie in the bed, Eliezer replied that at the death of his mother he had vowed never to sleep in a bed. Another custom in Sodom was that he who invited a stranger to a wedding should forfeit his coat. Once Eliezer, being very hungry, entered a house where a wedding was being celebrated, but could get nothing to eat. He then sat down next one of the wedding guests; on being asked by him who had invited him, he replied: "By you." The latter, fearing to lose his coat, left the house precipitately. Eliezer then sat near another, on whom he played the same trick, with the same result, until at last he had succeeded in driving all the guests out of the house. He then secured the meal for himself (Talmud Tractate Bavli Sanhedrin 109b).
Eliezer is credited with having acquired all the virtues and learning of his master ( Talmud Tractate Bavli Yoma 28b). It is even said that his features resembled so closely those of Abraham that Laban mistook him for his kinsman. When Abraham led Isaac to Mount Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice, Eliezer cherished the hope of becoming Abraham's heir, and a discussion on this subject arose between him and Ishmael (Pirḳei R. El. xxxi.). On completing the mission of selecting a wife for Isaac he was freed, and God rewarded him with the kingdom of Bashan, over which he reigned under the name of "Og." It was he who refused to allow the Israelites to go through his territory on their way to Palestine (Masseket Soferim, end). His size was so vast that from one of his teeth, which he had lost through fright when scolded by Abraham, the latter made a chair on which he used to sit.  
So what was Eliezar's merit? Loyalty in the Torah, but this trait was tarnished in later Rabbinic literature. We see that he developed all the virtues and ethics and spirituality of Abraham. We see him defending the 'little guy' in Sodom, but discussing with Ishmael who would inherit Abraham's lot if Isaac was sacrificed. Obviously in the case of Eliezar, his good deeds have over come his less attractive traits.
4. Hirom the king of Zor also known as King Hiram of Tyre
Hiram I (Hebrew: חִירָם, "high-born";) according to the Bible, was the Phoenician  king of Tyre. (Now Lebanon).  He reigned from 980 BCE to 947 BCE, succeeding his father, Abibaal. Hiram was succeeded as king of Tyre by his son Baal-Eser I.  Hiram is also mentioned in the writings of Menander of Ephesus , as preserved in Josephus's Against Apion, where some additional information is given that is not found in the Bible. One such item is that Hiram lived 53 years, and reigned 34.
During Hiram's reign, Tyre grew from a satellite of Sidon into the most important of Phoenician cities, and the holder of a large trading empire. He suppressed the rebellion of the first Tyrean colony at Utica, near the later site of Carthage (Against Apion i:18).
The TaNaK says that he allied himself with King Solomon of Israel, the upcoming power of the region. Through the alliance with Solomon, Hiram ensured himself access to the major trade routes to Egypt, Arabia and Mesopotamia. The two kings also joined forces in starting a trade route over the Red Sea, connecting the Israelite harbor  of Ezion-Geber with a land called Ophir (2 Chronicles 8:16,17).
Both kings grew rich through this trade and Hiram sent Solomon architects, workmen and cedar wood to build the First Temple in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 2 ''Solomon sent this message to Hiram king of Tyre: "Send me cedar logs as you did for my father David when you sent him cedar to build a palace to live in...Send me, therefore, a man skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, and in purple, crimson and blue yarn, and experienced in the art of engraving, to work in Judah and Jerusalem with my skilled craftsmen, whom my father David provided. Send me also cedar, pine and algum logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are skilled in cutting timber there. My men will work with yours, to provide me with plenty of lumber, because the temple I build must be large and magnificent. I will give your servants, the woodsmen who cut the timber, twenty thousand cors of ground wheat, twenty thousand cors of barley, twenty thousand baths of wine and twenty thousand baths of olive oil. Hiram king of Tyre replied by letter to Solomon: "Because the Lord loves his people, he has made you their king. And Hiram added: "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who made heaven and earth! He has given King David a wise son, endowed with intelligence and discernment, who will build a temple for the Lord and a palace for himself. I am sending you Huram-Abi, a man of great skill, whose mother was from Dan and whose father was from Tyre. He is trained to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, and with purple and blue and crimson yarn and fine linen. He is experienced in all kinds of engraving and can execute any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and with those of my lord, David your father. Now let my lord send his servants the wheat and barley and the olive oil and wine he promised, and we will cut all the logs from Lebanon that you need and will float them in rafts by sea down to Joppa. You can then take them up to Jerusalem.''
He also extended the Tyrean harbour, enlarged the city by joining the two islands on which it was built, and built a royal palace and a temple for Melqart (Against Apion i:17).
Hiram's beginning date is derived from the statement of Josephus, citing both Tyrian court records and the writings of Menander,  relating that 143 years passed between the start of construction of Solomon's Temple until the founding of Carthage (or until Dido's flight that led to its founding). Josephus also related that Hiram's reign began 155 years and 8 months before this event, and that Temple construction began in his twelfth year, 143 years before the building of Carthage. The redundancy inherent in these multiple ways of expressing the total years (the 143 years is mentioned twice, and the 155 years minus 12 years once) has guaranteed that all extant copies of Josephus/Menander that contain these passages give 155 years and 8 months between the start of Hiram's reign and the foundation of Carthage. (One copy has 155 years and 18 months, but this is an obvious error for 155 years and eight months.) Modern historians have therefore had confidence in the 155-year figure and have used it to date Hiram's reign.
However, classical authors give two dates for the Carthage's founding: 825 BC and 814 BC. The 814 date is derived from the Greek historian Timaeus (c. 345-260 BC) and the 825 date from the writings of Pompeius Trogus (1st century BC). The 814 date is more generally accepted, and so earlier historians calculated the start of Hiram's reign as occurring in 814 + 155 = 969 BC. See the Pygmalion article for the proposal of J. M. Peñuela that 825 BC was the date Dido left Tyre, but she did not start construction of Carthage until 11 years later, in 814 BC.
In 1951, an inscription was published that showed that Shalmaneser III of Assyria received tribute, in 841 BCE, from a certain Baa'li-maanzer of Tyre. The name Baa'li-maanzer was interpreted by eminent philologists  as referring to Baal-Eser II /Balazeros, grandfather of Pygmalion.  According to Josephus/Manetho, it was during Pygmalion's seventh year that Dido fled from Tyre. Consequently, the dates of Pygmalion have always been computed based on the date calculated for Dido's flight, which was assumed to take place in the same that she founded Carthage. But when 814 was taken as Pygmalion's seventh year, the dates for his father and grandfather, as based on the best texts of Josephus/Manetho, were not compatible with his grandfather being on the throne in 841 BC and giving tribute to Shalmaneser in that year. For this reason, several scholars reexamined the 825 date for Dido's flight (Pygmalion's seventh year) and found that 825 BC was consistent with the Assyrian inscription.
Measuring the 155 years from 825 BCE gave a new date for the first year of Hiram: 825 + 155 = 980 BCE. 980 BCE also proved an excellent match with another date, one calculated from the Scriptural texts related to the reign of Solomon. Based on the widely accepted date of 931/930 BCE for the division of the kingdom after the end of Solomon's 40-year reign, Solomon's fourth year, when construction of the Temple began (1 Kings 6:1) can be calculated as starting in Tishrei (roughly October) of 968 BCE.  Josephus, citing both Tyrian court records and the writings of Menander, says that it was in Hiram's 12th year that he sent assistance to Solomon for building the Temple. With 980 as the starting date for Hiram, his twelfth year would be 969 or 968 BC, in excellent agreement with the Biblical date for this event.
The date for the start of Temple construction using the Tyrian data is derived "wholly independently" of the way that date is derived using the Scriptural data.  It is this consideration, plus the evidence of the tribute from Baa'li-maanzer/Baal-Eser II  to Shalmaneser III, that has led to the adoption of the chronologies for the Tyrian kings above. Hiram's first year is therefore accepted as 980 BC instead of the 969 BC that was favored before publication of the Shalmaneser inscription.
The alleged sarcophagus of Hiram is located "two hours" walk southeast of Tyre, a colossal limestone sarcophagus on a high pedestal", so-called Qabr Hiram. It is not to be confused with the famous Ahiram sarcophagus.
So what was Hiram's merit? He aided Solomon in building  the first Temple and praised God in doing so. While this was not an altruistic gesture, as he accepted Solomon's fees, and got trade routes, Hiram was not an enemy to the Hebrews.
 ( PART 2 CAN BE ACCESSED Rabbi Arthur Segal: RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: Nine entered Paradise while alive # 2: Jewish Renewal   )
Rabbi Arthur Segal
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Great portions of this essay were taken from Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Judaica, the Jewish Women's Archives, and a small portion from the teaching of Rabbi Buchwald.