If Elijah had a disability would he be welcomed at your Seder? During Passover we traditionally have a cup of wine at our Seder table for Elijah and we open the door to let him in. Could he get into your home or the place in which you celebrate the Passover holiday? If Elijah used a wheelchair or had other ambulation challenges could he get in? Would you invite him in if he looked different or sounded unusual when he spoke? Could he participate in the rituals of Passover if he could not read the Haggadah? (For people who do not read or read well there is now an adapted Haggadah.)
Tonight the New York Philharmonic begins the first of three "Elijah" performances. They should all be magnificent, on purely aesthetic grounds. But there's a deep theological divide embedded in this work too, and one that has profound implications for our understanding of how Jewish a composer -- if one at all -- Felix Mendelssohn was.
Was the German composer’s oratorio a nod toward his Jewish ancestry — or the full fruition of his Christian identity?
When the New York Philharmonic performs Felix Mendelssohn’s rarely heard “Elijah” (1846) oratorio this weekend, many will no doubt see it as proof that the composer always identified with his family’s Jewish faith.