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    Too hard questions – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Is it true that some Talmudic problems were left for Elijah to solve?

    A. Talmudic debates were sometimes left open-ended. In such cases the text concluded with the word teyku. Coming from the root kum (“arise, stand”), this word denotes, “let it stand”. A less likely derivation is from tik, a file, and hence teyku suggests, “Leave it on file”.

    The popular interpretation is that teyku stands for Tishbi y’taretz kush’yot v’bbayyiot – “Elijah the Tishbite will resolve all problems and difficulties”.

    The thought of Elijah answering difficult problems raises interesting questions. Why is he called “the Tishbite” and not, as is normal practice, Eliyahu HaNavi – “Elijah the Prophet”?

    The answer is that he was not only a prophet but a sage. It will not be some prophetic message from heaven that will solve the problems of the ages but a sound, experienced intellectual mind. The one who brings us the answers will not so much be the Elijah who ascended bodily into heaven (II Kings 2:11), but the Elijah who came from the village of Tishbe in Gil’ad, north of the River Yabbok (I Kings 17:1), where he had experience in handling practical problems.

    The Mishnah (Eduyyot 8:7) quotes rabbis who said that Elijah’s role is not “to declare clean or unclean”, but, according to Rabbi Judah, “to bring agreement where there is matter for dispute”; according to the majority of the sages, “to bring peace in the world” (cf. Mal. 4:5).

    Elijah will thus pave the way for the Messiah by ensuring that no simmering conflicts remain and that there is harmony on earth as there is in heaven.

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