Parashat Ki Tissa: Haftarah

Haftarah הַפְטָרָה

King Ahav and Queen Izevel were two of Israel’s worst rulers ever. They encouraged people to worship idols, and they treated God’s prophets with cruelty.
Their arch-nemesis was אֵלִיָּהוּ הַנָּבִיא (Eliyahu ha-Navi, the prophet Elijah). Our haftarah tells the story of what happened when Eliyahu challenged Ahav and his prophets to a face-off to prove who is the true God.
The opponents: 850 prophets of Ba’al and Asherah (two forms of idolatry) vs. Eliyahu ha-Navi
The location: Har Ha-Carmel
The challenge: Each side sets up an animal as a sacrifice, without lighting a fire on it. When a fire miraculously comes from above and consumes one of these sacrifices, everyone will know which side is the winner.
The prophets of Ba’al go first, crying out, “O Ba’al, answer us!” (Melakhim Alef 18:26). They shout and dance, but there’s no answer.
Then it’s Eliyahu’s turn. To prove how confident he is, he has them pour water all over his sacrifice, and then he calls out to the God of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov saying, “עֲנֵנִי ה’ עֲנֵנִי וְיֵדְעוּ הָעָם הַזֶּה כִּי אַתָּה ה’ הָאֱלֹקִים (Answer me, Hashem, answer me, and let this whole nation know that You are the Hashem the God)!”
After that, fire descends from above and consumes Eliyahu’s sacrifice, along with the wood, stones, earth, and water around it! Everyone there cries out: ה’ הוּא הָאֱלֹקִים ה’ הוּא הָאֱלֹקִים (Hashem is the God, Hashem is the God) (18:39).
What’s the connection to Ki Tissa?
The scene at Har Ha-Carmel is similar to the חֵטְא הָעֵגֶל (heit ha-eigel, the sin of the golden calf). In both events, groups of people betray God and then a leader—Eliyahu or Moshe—shows them the right path to God.
By linking our parashah to this haftarah, our Rabbis seem to be warning us that the heit ha-eigel was not a one-time event. People are always tempted by other gods, or other things to worship. It’s our responsibility to prevent all forms of idolatry and to be strong in our commitment to God alone.