This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
הַפְטָרָה שֶׁל פַּרָֺשַת כִּי תִשָּׂא
Although is plenty of Mishkan related material in Parshas Ki Sisa, it is abundantly clear that the center of attention in the Sidrah is tragedy of the Cheit HaEigel (Sin of the [Golden] Calf) [Shemos 32], so the Haftarah for this Sidrah, like that of Tetzaveh, is not taken from the “Mishkan Series” sections of Navi which discusses the building of the first Beis HaMikdash [Melachim Aleph 5-8] (“The Mishkan Series” will resume with Parshas Vayak’heil).
The Haftarah for Ki Sisa which is taken from the story of Eliyahu HaNavi at Har HaCarmel [Melachim Aleph 18] is not a bad choice at all. The scene in which Eliyahu challenges and denounces the Israelite worshippers of Ba’al (the false “rain” god) matches the story of the Golden Calf quite well as both stories feature a prophet standing up on behalf of the G-d in the face His insult.
But, could we do better? Again, the Eliyahu HaNavi piece is great and undoubtedly has its relevance here; however, if we truly want to highlight the terrible “mistake” of the Golden Calf, we could actually find a seemingly closer parallel sin even earlier in Sefer Melachim, in the story of the wicked king of Israel, Yarav’am Ben Nevat who built, not one, but two Golden Calves, and astonishingly drew a portion of the B’nei Yisrael, once again, away from G-d [Melachim Aleph 12-13]. If the first Golden Calf story was difficult to understand, this one is twice as much, especially considering the fact that by the second time around, we’d think that the nation would have learned. As fascinating of a discussion as that would be, it’s not our Haftarah (and in fact, this reading is not featured in any Haftarah), and so, it’s not our discussion for today (though, I would be happy to talk about that story in a separate context if you’re curious to hear more).
There is nothing conceptually wrong with the Navi containing more than one “sequel” to the Golden Calf story, but the question is why THIS actual Golden Calf story from Yarav’am’s time should take even second place to the story of Eliyahu HaNavi which involved no actual Golden Calves at all?
Obviously, the answer has to be that although the Golden Calf is significant focal point in our Sidrah, it is only symptomatic of a greater flaw in the nation which is highlighted in the parallel story of Eliyahu HaNavi, the apparent Golden Calf sequel of choice.
Yes, Yarav’am’s story featured Golden Calves, and yes, like the Eirev Rav (“mixed multitudes”) of our Sidrah, Yarav’am caused the nation to stray. But, looking at that story more closely, it is clear that the Yarav’am story is more largely a story about Yarav’am himself, his failure and corruption, his impact on the people. The story of our Sidrah, however, is not about the Golden Calf and those who secretly instigated it. It’s about the people who were able to fall for it and tragically stray after it. There’s a reason why virtually the entire nation could be blamed and even punished for the sins perpetrated by a relative few. Simply put, there was a national flaw. What was that flaw? It lies in our parallel stories, that of Cheit HaEigel and Eliyahu HaNavi at Har HaCarmel.
Before we get there, it is noteworthy that tight relationship between the way Eliyahu HaNavi and Moshe Rabbeinu react to the idolatrous tragedies of their respective eras sinks deeply enough that Jewish liturgists have intertwined the themes and text of Eliyahu HaNavi into the services of Yom Kippur (e.g. “Hashem Hu HaElokim”-“Hashem, He is G-d” [18:39]) whose origins lie in the story of the Golden Calf, as Yom Kippur was the day when the nation was atoned for that sin and granted the second set of Luchos (tablets) which Moshe shattered at the sight of the Eigel. (Indeed, alongside the parallels between Moshe Rabbeinu and Eliyahu HaNavi are a bunch of stark points of contrast which are much worth discussing, also at a different point in time.)
For our purposes though, the flaw of the nation that allowed the Cheit HaEigel to happen not only once, but basically two more times over (between the times of Yarav’am Ben Nevat and Eliyahu HaNavi) is highlighted perfectly by Moshe Rabbeinu’s short words in our Sidrah and is complimented excellently by Eliyahu HaNavi’s harsh elaboration in our Haftarah. What are we talking about?
After returning to the scene of the crime, shattering the Luchos and being filled in by his brother Aharon who was left in charge, Moshe Rabbeinu turns to the people and declares the following words which we really cannot meditate on enough: “Mi LaHashem Eilai”-“Whoever is for Hashem, come to me” [Shemos 32:26].
What exactly was Moshe trying to do here? Was he just trying to figure out which people sinned and who did not? “If you were among the calf-worshippers, wait on that side over there; we’ll kill you in a moment. Everyone else who is still innocent and has free hands, come over here. Someone has to kill the others and I just cannot do it alone.”
Clearly, Moshe intended to convey something much deeper and more fundamental. “Mi LaHashem Eilai” was not just an announcement, but it is actually a bone-chilling question that resounds in every given moment of our lives. “Who is for Hashem?” And not just “pro” the “concept” of Hashem, not just “theoretically agreeable” to Hashem, but entirely “for” Hashem, devoted to Hashem and His Will. Who out there can say that they have that? Even under the greatest shadow of doubt, and even with the most noble of intentions, if you could resort to a molten image which G-d told you that you may not, you are NOT “for Hashem.” If you are “for Hashem,” says Moshe, you would submit yourself to the will of G-d even if it means taking a sword and killing your own brother, which Moshe ultimately commands the Tribe of Levi to do.
Along comes a new generation with all of the same old problems. The new fad is Ba’al. But, like the generation of the Midbar who experienced the Exodus, the B’nei Yisrael here also have somewhat genuine feelings for G-d. There existed, in that era as well, a religious, Torah-passionate fervor. There just also happened to be a false deity who was about as equally popular. And so, Eliyahu lays down the “Korban Showdown” in which he will offer a Korban (offering) to Hashem and the representatives of Ba’al will offer one to Ba’al; whoever’s offering gets consumed in a heavenly fire, Hashem’s or Ba’al’s, will win. But before he makes that challenge, Eliyahu offers a more fundamental challenge to the nation, the greatest commentary to “Mi LaHashem Eilai”:
“Ad Masi Atem Pos’chim Al Shtei HaSe’ifim?! Im Hashem HaElokim Lechu Acharav V’Im HaBa’al Lechu Acharav!”- “How long will you straddle between two clauses?! If Hashem is G-d, go after Him, and if Ba’al is, go after him” [Melachim Aleph 18:21]. Notice how Eliyahu gives them the option of following Ba’al, so long as they will follow Ba’al exclusively and not fool themselves into thinking that they can serve both G-d and Ba’al. “LaHashem” means that there is NO “in-between”! There can only be undivided devotion. Anything else is NOT Ratzon Hashem and is therefore not “LaHashem.” Hashem takes part in no love-triangles! You cannot straddle both sides of the fence! You have to pick one.
The Navi tells us immediately after [Ibid.], “V’Lo Anu HaAm Oso Davar”-”And the people did not answer him.” And who could? There is no answer. You just have to think about it and constantly introspect, reevaluate and ask ourselves if indeed, we stand “LaHashem,” or are we straddling between the G-d and the modern Golden Calves and Ba’alim in our lives.
If we are intellectually honest with ourselves and want to develop a truly genuine and undivided devotion to Hashem, then like the B’nei Yisrael in the times of Eliyahu HaNavi, we will be not only inspired to declare, but to live a life of “Hashem Hu HaElokim”-“Hashem, He is G-d” [18:39]. We will be entirely “LaHashem.”
May we all be Zocheh to truly devote ourselves undividedly to Hashem and thereby serve Him to the best of our abilities, and Hashem should accept our genuine service favorably and deem us truly worthy of the Geulah and the coming of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos Parah!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂