This weekend most congregations outside of Israel will read a very special haftarah: the story of Elijah asking God to take his life. Because of the intricacies of the Jewish calendar, this haftarah is only read during leap years that begin on a Thursday (the last five were 1981, 1984, 2005, 2008, and 2011). It won’t be featured in another service outside Israel until 2035, so make sure you make it to synagogue this week—this story has everything: murder, mayhem, despair, a lot of oxen, and God finding just the right way to speak to Elijah in his time of need.
A Jewish suicide organization called Elijah’s Journey is using this haftarah to spark conversations in Jewish communities around North America about suicide prevention and mental illness. How can we support people who are suffering silently around us? Elijah’s Journey has a source sheet for the haftarah that you can bring to your synagogue or your Shabbat table to spearhead an open conversation about depression and suicide prevention. Who knows—doing it might even save someone’s life.