ELIJAH, CHAIR OF (Heb. כִּסֵּא שֶׁל אֵלִיָּהוּ, kisse shel Eliyyahu), a special chair placed at the right of the sandak (godfather) at the circumcision ceremony and left unoccupied. The chair is symbolically meant for Elijah the prophet, called "The Angel of Covenant" (Mal. 3:1; covenant = berit = circumcision). It is usually richly carved and ornamented with embroideries. The Shulhan Arukh (YD 265:11) prescribes the reservation of a special chair or seat for Elijah, and the mohel (circumciser) refers to it in the opening prayer preceding the circumcision: "This is the chair of Elijah, blessed be his memory." The chair is also mentioned in the special piyyut for circumcision when the rite is performed on a Sabbath. Midrashic literature links the custom to Elijah's plaint to God that "the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant" (I Kings 19:10, 14). According to the homiletic interpretations of this verse, Elijah had complained that the Jewish people had disregarded the commandment of circumcision and God is said to have replied: "Because of excessive
H. Schauss, The Lifetime of a Jew (1950), 34–37; Eisenstein, Dinim, 182.