Culture, Identity, Religion

A Still, Small Voice for Suicide Prevention: Elijah's Journey

by Gabe Kretzmer Seed
Gabe Kretzmer Seed is a rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and graduate fellow at Elijah’s Journey.
I’ve had the honor of serving as the inaugural graduate fellow for Elijah’s Journey, a wonderful organization which helps to serve as a voice regarding suicide awareness and prevention in the Jewish community.  This Shabbat we will read the haftarah (prophetic portion) from which the organization gets its name.  Though read rarely, due to quirks in the Jewish calendar related to 17th of Tammuz fast day, it is considered the “regular” addition to Parashat Pinchas.
There, in I Kings 18:46-19:20, Elijah has just performed a miracle and proved God’s power over the prophets of Baal. Yet he is pursued by the evil, idolatrous Queen Jezebel, and dejected, asks God to take his life. God instructs Elijah to eat and drink and take a 40 day journey in order to re-assess the situation. Elijah eventually hears God’s voice in a still, small voice, and decides to continue his calling and mission. Elijah’s desire to stop living, lonely period of reconsideration, and reception of a line of hope from a barely audible source, can strike a strong chord with those who have considered ending their lives.  In the United States alone, over one million contemplate suicide each year and over 40,000 do take their own lives. We can all walk in God’s ways and serve as a listening ear and source of encouragement for those around of us who may feel down, dejected or unsupported.

In addition to a number of  study sessions taking place in Manhattan and Washington DC (which are listed in more detail at, we have created a source sheet featuring this haftarah text with a number of commentaries and personal reflections and formatted ‘Mikraot Gedolot style’ with the text of the haftarah in Hebrew and English in the center.  You can find it in PDF format here.  Please feel free to share it!

3 thoughts on “A Still, Small Voice for Suicide Prevention: Elijah's Journey

  1. Gabe Kretzmer Seed explains why this haftarah is so rarely read (and in fact, won’t be read again in the Diaspora for 21 years):
    Three special haftarot, known as “Shlosha D’puranuta” (the three haftaraot of admonition) and foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, are assigned to the Shabbatot following the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and preceding the fast of Tisha B’av. While these Hafarot are assigned to the portions of Matot, Mas’ei and Devarim, when Matot and Mas’ei are combined, which happens more often than not, the first of these three special Haftarot, taken from Jeremiah 1:1-2:3, is pushed back to Pinhas, bumping out Haftarat Pinhas (Elijah’s journey). The reason why Elijah’s journey is read slightly more often in Israel (and other communities which do not observe a second day of Yom Tov) is that in years when the second day of Shavuot falls on Shabbat, Israeli communities move ahead with the Shabbat cycle, moving a week ahead of Diaspora communities which are still reading the portion for Yom Tov. The Diaspora communities ‘catch up’ by reading Matot and Mas’ei together; in that case, on the week before the catch-up, which is the Shabbat following 17 Tammuz, Israeli communities will be reading Matot (and read Pinhas with its assigned haftarah the previous week) and Diaspora communities will still be reading Pinhas, will all reading the first hafrarah of admonition from Jeremiah.

  2. Two corrections to the calendrical comment:
    1) This amazing haftarah will indeed be read again in the Diaspora several times in the next 21 years (in 2016, 2019, and 2022), because (as noted further down) there are communities outside of Israel that observe 1 day of yom tov. (I expect the number of such communities to grow over the next 21 years.)
    2) The discrepancy between the two calendars isn’t due to years when the 2nd day of Shavuot is on Shabbat; in those years, everyone combines Matot-Mas’ei, and the two calendars get back in sync by combining or separating Chukat-Balak. Rather, the Matot-Mas’ei discrepancy occurs in leap years when the 8th day of Pesach falls on Shabbat. (In non-leap years when the 8th day of Pesach is on Shabbat, the “catch-up” occurs earlier, with Behar-Bechukotai, and then everyone combines Matot-Mas’ei.)

  3. BZ—Addressing comments in reverse:
    2) Correct
    1) On our document we note that it will the mark last reading of the Haftarah for “MOST communities outside of Israel for 21 Years”. So in addition to those communities who hold 1-Day Yom Tov (and who also continue to read on the Israel cycle) that may read it in 2016, 2019 and 2022, I believe it will also include those who follow the Minhag of the Saadiah Gaon who I’m told held that it should be every year. I have no idea how many communities fall into the 2nd Category but I knew of at least one Rav personally (Zichrono Livracha) who paskened that way.

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