Home Self-Guided Exploration “Why are You Here?” Asks the Still Small Voice
Sacred Text, Setting Intentions

“Why are You Here?” Asks the Still Small Voice

High Holy Days 2023

1 Kings 19:11-13

“Come out,” God called, “and stand on the mountain before the Divine.” And behold, God passed by. There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of God; but God was not in the wind. After the wind—an earthquake; but God was not in the earthquake.


After the earthquake—fire; but God was not in the fire. And after the fire—a soft sound of stillness.


And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle about his face and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then a voice addressed him: “Why are you here, Elijah?”


וַיֹּאמֶר צֵא וְעָמַדְתָּ בָהָר לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה עֹבֵר וְרוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה וְחָזָק מְפָרֵק הָרִים וּמְשַׁבֵּר סְלָעִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה לֹא בָרוּחַ יְהוָה וְאַחַר הָרוּחַ רַעַשׁ לֹא בָרַעַשׁ יְהוָה׃


וְאַחַר הָרַעַשׁ אֵשׁ לֹא בָאֵשׁ יְהוָה וְאַחַר הָאֵשׁ קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה׃


וַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ אֵלִיָּהוּ וַיָּלֶט פָּנָיו בְּאַדַּרְתּוֹ וַיֵּצֵא וַיַּעֲמֹד פֶּתַח הַמְּעָרָה וְהִנֵּה אֵלָיו קוֹל וַיֹּאמֶר מַה־לְּךָ פֹה אֵלִיָּהוּ

As Elijah stands before God, he bears witness to God’s awesome majesty as displayed through powerful feats of the natural world. But the text teaches that despite these grandiose moments being caused by the power of God, God’s true presence was not in the wind, the rock, the earthquake, or the fire. Instead, God speaks to Elijah in the stillness which follows, which many have interpreted as a voice coming from within the prophet himself.

The High Holy Days elicit a wide spectrum of energies throughout the Days of Awe, and great moments of physicality as we sing, pray, beat our chests, prostrate, and fast. These outward expressions of faith must be balanced by an internal recognition, a dedicated listening for the sacred sounds of stillness which speak to us as individuals. Only then might we hear a voice, challenging us to focus and reflect on the question “Why are you here?”