At the end of the Haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol, the Pasuk says, “Hinei Anochi Sholei’ach Lachem Et Eliyah Hanavi…” “Behold I am sending Eliyah the Prophet to you” (Malachi 3:23). The name Eliyah, which normally is spelled Eliyahu, is missing the final Vav.
The Midrash comments that the name Eliyahu is spelled without a Vav only five times. In addition, Yaakov’s name is spelled five times with an extra Vav. What is the connection between Yaakov and Eliyahu? The Midrash answers that Eliyahu gave the letter Vav to Yaakov as a Mashkon (collateral) to make sure that Eliyahu would in fact come to herald the coming of Mashiach.
This still leaves us with two questions: why was only the Vav used, and why only five times is it missing? One reason offered for the use of the letter Vav is that in Gematriah (the system which assigns a numerical value to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet), Vav is equal to six. This hints to the tradition that Eliyahu is supposed to come in the sixth millennium. A simpler explanation is that Vav is the only letter that can be added to Yaakov’s name without changing its pronunciation.
Now the only question left to answer is why is it only changed five times. A simple explanation for this is that Eliyahu made his promise to come on the five books of the Torah. The Midrash offers another explanation. The five changes hint that Eliyahu will come down to Earth five times to announce the coming of Mashiach.
The beginning of the Pasuk says, “Hinei Anochi Sholeiach” (send), not “Eshlach” (I will send). From here we can learn that Eliyahu is already on his way to fulfilling his promise that he made on a Mashkon of the letter Vav and on the five books of the Torah. May it be in the merit of our Sedarim that we can allow Eliyahu to finish the fulfillment of his promise and bring Mashiach, Bimheirah VeYameinu, Amen.