The Loving 'Still, Small Voice
Is Louder Than Zealot's Rage
descended from heaven consuming
Elijah's bullock. It is the moment of
Elijah's greatest triumph.
What happens in the very next chap-
ter is most instructive. Elijah is dis-
traught at the lack of religious response
the morning after. He now asks the
oses sees the Israelites in
Almighty to take his soul. God sends
the midst of their sinful
him back to Mount Horeb. There, the
orgy around the golden
Almighty passes before him, sends a
calf, barely 40 days after
powerful, mountain-breaking and rock-
the Sinai Revelation, and commits an
smattering wind and teaches him: "Not
act that can only be justified in light of
in the wind is God, not in rushing
the prophet's zealous passion
thunder is God, not in fire is
for God and His laws: He
God — but in the still, small
smashes the two tablets of
voice of love, kindness and
God's Divine words.
human sensitivity — there is
Our sages seem to justify
God to be found (I Kings
his action, and certainly
Moses' act is understandable.
The Almighty is teaching
But is it ideal, an action from
that leaders can hope to influ-
which we must learn?
ence not by majestic miracles
The haftorah tells us of a
but by silent sensitivity, by
second leader, Elijah the
prophet, who in many ways is
similar to Moses. Both are
nor Elijah seems to
zealots: Moses having killed
able to assimilate
Special to the
the Egyptian taskmaster and
Moses breaks the
smashed the tablets, Elijah rag-
tablets and strikes the rock,
ing against the wicked Israeli
while Elijah brings down fire
monarchy and the Jewish idolaters.
from heaven to consume Israeli generals .
Elijah was chased by King Ahab and
and their men (II Kings 1).
Queen Jezebel who wished to kill him;
There is, however, one difference.
and Moses was on Pharaoh's "wanted"
Jewish lore, as expressed in the Talmud
list, the prophet's life so much in danger
and the Midrash, emphasizes Malakhis'
that he had to flee to Midian.
final words that Elijah will herald God's
Moses felt he had to break the com-
great and awesome period of redemp-
mandments in order to establish them
tion when "the hearts of the parents will
and so he smashed the tablets of stone;
turn to the children and the hearts of
Elijah felt he had to nullify the prohibi-
the children to the parents."
tion against building a "high altar" in
For our sages, this means that Elijah
order to demonstrate the superiority of
did accept God's words, that the great
God over Baal. Moses split the Red Sea;
prophet is at every seder celebration and
Elijah split the Jordan River. Moses suf-
at each circumcision rite and that he
fered the indignity of Korach's rebellion
understands his ministry to be binding
without receiving the backing of his
familial generations with love and
people, and Elijah hears from Queen
Jezebel that "at this time tomorrow I
And not only will Elijah, and not
shall have your soul."
Moses, herald the Messiah; Elijah and
Elijah, out of deep frustration with
not Moses will answer all questions,
Israel's backsliding, performs a daring
decide on all ritual and ethical ques-
experiment to attempt to establish God's
tions, during the period of redemption.
rule by transgressing God's law against
Apparently, the Messiah as well as
building an altar outside of the Holy
the Torah can only be based on the
Temple: He makes an altar on Mount
still small voice of loving-kindness and
Carmel, sets up the 450 prophets of
Israel with a bullock on one side, stands
himself next to a bullock on the other
side and challenges the other prophets
to see whose prayers would be answered!
The prophets of Baal cried out, all to
In what ways have the people
no avail. Elijah prayed, and a Divine fire
Israel been influenced by silent
sensitivity and loving outreach,
Shlomo Riskin is head of Israel's Ohr
as opposed to majestic miracles?
Torah Stone Institutions and chief rabbi
Shabbat Ki Tisa:
I Kings 18:1-39.
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