Let me tell you about the time I accidentally impersonated the prophet Elijah.
I suppose I ought to preface my story by noting — even at the risk of sounding like I’m saying, “Some of my best friends are Jewish” — that I hope I’m not offending anyone with this story. I have nothing but the utmost respect for people who practice any religion with sincerity, as well as those who practice no religion with the same conviction. I’m in a giving mood — so people who aren’t sure, I respect you too.
Anyway, when I was in college a friend invited me to a seder dinner at her house. I accepted, but the dinner was to take place on the night I got back to school after spending spring break with my family in San Francisco. I had a ride back to school with another friend, but traffic was worse than expected and we were very late.
When I arrived at the home of my friend who was hosting the seder, I walked up to the front door, a bottle of wine in each hand, and noticed the door was slightly ajar. I had never been to a seder before, so I had no idea that (at least in my friend’s seder tradition) this was to be expected.
I could hear people talking inside, so as I pushed the door open wide I said, “Hi, everybody, sorry I’m late!”
Much to my surprise, the dozen or so people sitting around the dining room table were already facing the door. They had just started the portion of the seder known as the Cup of Elijah the Prophet, and were looking to the door because they were talking about the tradition that Elijah visits each home on seder night. Everyone’s eyes widened as I walked through the doorway, and some people just sat there with their mouths open.
Finally, someone picked up his glass of wine, raised it up, and shouted, “Elijah!”
Everybody else shouted, “Elijah!” too, and burst out laughing. I had no idea what was going on.
My friend got up from the head of the table, still laughing so hard she could hardly stand, and showed me to my seat as she explained what I had done.
To this day, I have never had such good timing as that night I walked in the door so late.