Around a long, set table, the crowd of Chassidim held their breath, afraid to miss a word from Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel of Opatow, who sat at the table’s head, his face aflame with the words of Torah. Suddenly, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua’s face broke into a warm smile, which widened until it crinkled his kind eyes. When asked to share the source of his joy, Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua replied with a story.

Many years ago, there lived a G‑d-fearing,The couple always celebrated Passover as royalty wealthy couple. Given their prosperity, the couple had always celebrated Passover as royalty, and every year, their festive table was bedecked with the finest ornate plates, flanked by exquisite silverware and goblets. But the centerpiece of it all, gleaming on the table like a brilliant gem, was their cup of Elijah. The pious woman had it embellished with gold and silver out of reverence for the famous prophet, and guests struggled to tear their eyes away from it.

Over time, successive economic downturns diminished the couple’s wealth, and they had to resort to selling their possessions to buy food. By the time Passover Eve arrived, the couple had nothingnot even wine or matzah. The man, looking defeated, held up the adorned Elijah’s cup.

“Perhaps it’s time to sell it? We need food and other necessities for the holiday, and this is our last valuable.”

But the pious woman refused to hear any of it, determined not to let go of the cherished possession honoring the prophet who will herald the Redemption. Uncertain what to do next, the man decided to leave for the synagogue. Perhaps help would rain from Heaven.

It was around midday when a sudden knock on the door echoed through the bare household. The woman, who wasn’t expecting any visitors, opened to a wizened stranger peering at her with wide, pleading eyes.

“Is it possible to spend the holiday with you?” he said, giving his surroundings a glance. “I have nowhere to go for Passover. Nobody here knows me.”

The woman cleared her throat, forcing a smile. “We’d love to, but we have nothing ourselves. Our house is empty.”

Shaking his head, the stranger busied himself with his traveling bag, and moments later, pulled out a pouch, which clinked merrily. The woman felt the reassuring heft of coins as he lowered it into her hands.

“This is for the holiday,” the stranger said, smiling at the speechless woman. “Buy whatever you need. Your husband can find me in the synagogue; I’ll be praying.”

When the man returned home that evening, he found his wife quivering with excitement as delightful smells wafted from the kitchen. Before he could ask what had happened, she burst into a story about a strange guest. Without another word, the man hurried to fetch the stranger from the specified synagogue, but returned empty-handedthe stranger was nowhere to be seen.

That night, the Seder stretched into the late hours, permeated by indescribable joy. Following Grace After Meals, it was time to open the door for Elijah. The beautiful cup, unscathed and unsold, sat ready on the table, but the husband had succumbed to exhaustion and sat slumped in his chair, snoring softly.

Moments later, someone knocked on the door, and the woman hardly contained her gasptheir generous guest had returned.

“I’m so relieved to see you!” exclaimed the woman brightly, rushing over to where her husband was sleeping. “We looked for you all over. Let me wake my husband up, so he can thank you too . . .”

But as she began to rouse her husband, the stranger’s“I’m terribly sorry, but I’m in a hurry to go.” expression turned to alarm and his hand shot for the doorknob. “I’m terribly sorry, but I’m in a hurry to go.” And before the woman could stop him, the stranger was swallowed up by the night.

When the man awoke, his wife told him of their guest’s hasty call. He found the incident so bizzare, he had a hard time believing her, if not for the inexplicable bounty that covered their previously bare table.

Years passed, and the man exhaled his final breath and swiftly ascended to the Heavenly Court. Indeed, he was an individual who adhered to the Torah’s every command, and the supernal judges failed to find a single flaw. The gates of Heaven swung open. As the man approached them, he noticed a figure waiting for him, wearing a stern look. It was the strangerotherwise known as Elijah the Prophetwho visited him many Passover nights ago, and he now denied the man another step forward.

“You are undeserving of this reward,” Elijah said firmly. “You embarrassed me that night by attempting to sell my cup.”

The man tried explaining his motives, but Elijah was unimpressed. For two years, the man waited outside the gates, and was still standing there when his wife found her way to Heaven. Though the pious woman was given immediate permission to proceed to Heaven, she declared that she didn’t want to enter without her husband. Neither were going in.

Two more years stretched out until right now, concluded the rabbi, when the righteous men of the generation intervened, urging Heaven to show mercy.

This time, the couple was allowed in.