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What is Elijah's chair?


How will we know when we've made it, done our part to bring about the land of promise and time of peace, made the world a better place? When can we retire?

Elijah, the prophet of old, will let us know.

And so for centuries, at baby naming ceremonies

and Passover seder meals,

Jewish custom places an EMPTY CHAIR at the table...

just in case the prophet Elijah decides to show up.

Maybe this child is the one!

Maybe this festive meal will never need to end,

an eternal feast of freedom, the return to Eden.

I arrived a day later than other participants to this innaugural "Beyond Walls" Conference of the Kenyon Institute. When I went to college here more than 20 years ago, I never seemed to doubt my place. Even if running late for class, even if I wasn't registered for the class, I'd walk right in, make myself at home and claim the space.

This time around its different. I am different. Something in me had already decided to take my place at the table. I needed this, I knew. But which chair at the table of scholars, writers and communal leaders from around the country, which chair was meant for me? On Monday, when I first entered that space surrounded by nameless faces from unknown places, it mattered.

My arms clutched my bag, my jaw clinched my smile.

My fear minced my words.

Neither my mind nor my legs could decide were to sit.

"Shit. What am I doing here!"

Today, after three days, the faces have names,

and, by most measures, I am still among strangers.

My step still studders when I search for a seat around the table.

And, yet, the empty chairs around the table beckon, Thank God.

I am grateful for them, the empty ones and the embodied souls that fill the others.

I am better for them. I am better with them.

Thank you to those that set this table, and set up an empty chair for me...to fill.

And now, it is my turn. Around this virtual table,

at the birth of this web-log, or we-blog [a 'blog' of 'we'],

I have set up a chair for you, ...I'll call it Elijah's chair.

With it, I invite you to a place of honor at the table.

Perhaps together we can set a table worthy of Elijah,

worthy of the divinity and majesty that each of us embody.

So may it be.

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