Reading The Text: Haftarah Ki Tisa Part Ten

Feb 18th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Haftarah

“They took the bull that he gave them and prepared it, and called out in the name of the Baal all from the morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was neither sound nor response, and they danced by the altar that he made.”

Why does the verse say that the prophets of Baal took the bull that he, Elijah, gave them? Elijah had told them to bring the bulls. Why does it say that they danced by the altar that he, Elijah, made, I thought they built the altar!

The Midrash describes all sorts of great miracles happening at this moment. However on a textual level we can understand that at this point it was clear that Elijah was absolutely in charge. It was he who was managing each step of this confrontation. This is why the verse presents the story as if Elijah gave the bull to the prophets of Baal. This is why the verse allows us to believe that Elijah made the altar.

“And they danced by the altar,” the Hebrew is ‘Vayifasichu,’ which is the same Hebrew word that Elijah used when he sent his message out to the people, “how long will you dance, ‘Posichim,’ between two opinions?” This is the same word as the holiday of Pesach when God “danced” over the homes of the Jews.

Perhaps Elijah wanted these prophets of Baal to be dancing around their altar so that all would remember the message he had sent out with the King’s summons for the all the people to gather at Carmel. He wanted the prophets of Baal to dance so that the people would remember his question of “How long will you dance?”

He wanted to use the Hebrew word Pesach for the dancing so that the Jews would reconnect to that opening moment in the relationship between God and Israel when God lovingly danced over the homes of the Jews to protect them. God showed His individual attention to every single Jew, something they would never experience from Baal.

Author Info:
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