A major idea in Judaism, one that I particularly focus on in my (upcoming) book on the Shehecheyanu blessing and which is concretized in a variety of halachot, is that to be religious is not to dismiss the physical (as some of my former high school teachers would do by speaking about the physical and spiritual world as being two opposing forces). Instead, it is to acknowledge, to value and to harness the physical, because everything in this world is a creation of God and can be used as a tool in the service of God.
I mention this because in today’s daf (Pesachim 13a) we encounter a fascinating teaching, and one that we previously encountered in Eruvin 43b, that Eliyahu – who is a precursor to the arrival Moshiach – will not arrive on Erev Shabbat or Erev Yom Tov. And why? Because, as Rashi explains, since on Erev Shabbat or Erev Yom Tov the Jewish people are busily involved in the physical preparations for the upcoming Shabbat or Yom Tov, the arrival of Eliyahu would interrupt these preparations and thereby leave each family feeling uneasy that they don’t have what they need for Shabbat or Yom Tov.
Significantly, this theme is actually alluded to in the brachot that are recited following the reading of the Haftarah every Shabbat where we ask God to שמחנו ה’ אלקינו באליהו הנביא עבדך – ‘grant us joy, Lord our God, through Eliyahu the prophet your servant’, which can be explained to mean, ‘please God, make sure that Eliyahu arrives at a time when we can truly feel joyous about his arrival’. What this means is that even though we hope for spiritual redemption, tradition teaches that Eliyahu will not come at a time where we have to choose between spiritual redemption and physical sustenance.
Reflecting on this point, Rabbi Hayyim David Halevy (Mekor Hayyim HaShalem Vol. 3 pp. 153-4) explains that this should not be surprising, because aside from Eliyahu representing the imminent arrival of Moshiach, upon his arrival Eliyahu will also resolve a variety of physical queries and therefore his role is a combination of the physical and spiritual, and thus his arrival will show sensitivity to both as well.
Finally, in his Hilchot Melachim 12:2, Rambam speaks of the arrival of Eliyahu and he explains that when this occurs, ‘he will establish peace within the world as Malachi 3:24 states, “He will turn the hearts of the parents (lit. ‘fathers’) to the children”’ – and it is from here that we learn two important lessons. Firstly, peace occurs when people don’t feel they have to choose between things that matter to them. And secondly, that even the most long-awaited peace for which we all hope, will begin in the home.