Perashat Ki Tisa – Golden Calf

Perashat Ki Tisa

This Perasha discusses the worship of the golden calf. Our Haftara corresponds to this story by discussing the showdown of Eliyahu Hanavi and the prophets of the false god Ba’al. Briefly: Ahab was the king of Israel. He married Isabel who was a princess from the city of Tyre. She had a special love for the pagan gods Ba’al and Asherah. She murdered many prophets of Israel. The Prophet Ovadiahu hid 100 prophets in two different caves. Eliyahu Hanavi gave a guarantee to Ahab that no rain would fall unless he says so. A while later when Ahab met with Eliyahu he asked if he was the one who was shaking up Israel by causing a drought. Eliyahu answered him by saying that Ahab and his fathers who left the path of G-d were the cause of the problem.

In a great public spectacle Eliyahu invited Ahab and the prophets of the Ba’al to the Carmel mountain (near what is today Haifa). Four hundred and fifty prophets of Ba’al and four hundred prophets of Ashera came. He challenged them to choose either G-d or the Ba’al.

Eliyahu took two cows for sacrifices. The cows were left on two different alters one for G-d and the other for Ba’al. The challenge was that the cow which was burnt by a heavenly fire would prove who was the true G-d. If the cow on the alter to Ba’al was burnt then he was the true G-d of Israel. The prophets of Ba’al called to Ba’al and cut themselves up from the morning until the afternoon and nothing happened. Eliyahu made a wise crack comment to them saying that maybe Ba’al was on a trip or maybe he was sleeping. Eliyahu then prayed to G-d not to let the people of Israel down. After this a fire came from heaven and consumed the sacrifice to G-d. The entire crowd screamed “G-d is the Lord, G-d is the Lord.” Eliyahu then took the false prophets and sliced off their heads.

After this great event Ahab went home and told his wife Isabel what had happened and how Eliyahu had slaughtered the prophets. Isabel promptly sent a messenger to Eliyahu saying that she would be sure to make him like one of the dead prophets. He then escaped to Mount Sinai where he was taken to heaven alive.

It should be asked: how can the Jews give up a wonderful ethical religion which was given by G-d who created the universe? This was done in exchange for a religion who’s priestesses are holy prostitutes, who’s gods war with each other, who’s worship has nothing to do with morals. Is it logical to abandon the beautiful ways of the Torah in exchange for a bunch of gods who subdued their father?

An answer has been given by Rabbi Yehudah Kiel in two of his books. He claims that Ahab’s marriage to Isabel and the associated treaty which was made between Israel and Tyre were solely for economic reasons. The Jews admired the mighty economic power of that small neighboring country. They figured that if they could be close to them some of the money would rub off.

It can well be assumed that they also admired the sick culture of Tyre I presented their religious practices to you negatively. I am very sure that the Jews of the time viewed the religion surrounding Ba’al as the height of culture. This is similar to how many Jews, both in Israel and in America, view rock stars who by and large are eccentric low lifes who do many sick things off stage.

For the sake of a fleeting economic dream the Jews in the time of Ahab gave up the wealthiest religion in the world which made rights for the poor and all the other Mitzvot a religious duty. They exchanged this for a religion who’s practices include the sacrifice of one’s children. Think about how many Americans have sacrificed their children to intermarriage. Most of these intermarriages are of children whose parents believe in “The American Dream.”