Shabbat Ki-Tissa 5784

The Thursday lunch-and-learn group started a new course last week–a look at the weekly haftarah. For the next year, I’ll use this space to share something that didn’t make it into our class discussion.

Eliyahu took an enormous gamble when he arranged a contest on Mount Carmel. He, the solitary remaining prophet of God, faced off against 850 prophets of Ba’al and Asherah. He tells the People of Israel to pick sides, rejecting their attempts at syncretism, at having it both ways. “How long will you keep hopping between two opinions?” (I Kings 18:21). So he invites the idolators to a winner-takes-all sacrificial match: whichever God accepts the sacrifice is the true God.

Sure, all’s well that ends well. Eliyahu couldn’t have been remotely surprised that all the dancing and screaming and gashing that the idolatrous prophets could muster didn’t work. It’s not that even that he set himself up for God to ignore him and leave him with egg on his face. It’s that the contest took place on Mount Carmel, on a temporary bamah. This isn’t Jerusalem, the Torah’s sole appropriate place for sacrifices. His entire critique was against randomly built altars. How, then was Eliyahu able to get away with this stunt?

On Shabbat morning, before the haftarah, I’ll share the rabbis’ radical answer to Eliyahu’s radical behavior.

Shabbat Shalom and Shalom al Yisrael,

Rabbi David Wise

Candle lighting: 5:28 PM
Torah Reading: Exodus 30:11-34:35
Haftarah: I Kings 18:1-39