OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Hashem Hu Ha'Elokim! Hashem Hu Ha'Elokim!
This chapter tells of one of the most significant events in Jewish history: the "showdown" between G-d and the Baal on Mt. Carmel. (It wasn't much of a showdown since one of the parties - the Baal - never actually showed up. But that's because he doesn't exist.)
Let's start at the beginning:
The drought lasted three years and G-d told Elijah to go to Ahab and end it. The head of Ahab's household was the righteous Obadaiah, a convert from Edom (see Sanhedrin 39b). When Jezebel was wiping out all the prophets, Obadaiah hid 100 of them in caves and supported them with his own money. As a reward, he became a prophet, one of the twelve "minor prophets" whose books make up the volume called Trei Asar. Elijah approached Obadiah and said, "Tell Ahab that I'm here." Obadiah balked. "Oh, no. Ahab has been looking for you everywhere. I'm going to go get him, G-d will whisk you away to safety, and Ahab will kill me." Elijah replied, "Don't worry, I'll still be here when you get back." So Obadiah went and got Ahab.
When Ahab saw Elijah, he blamed the prophet for causing the drought. Elijah replied, "It's not my fault, it's yours." He told Ahab to get the 450 prophets of Baal as well as the 400 prophets of the asheira tree worshippers.
Elijah, the people, and the prophets of Baal gathered on Mt. Carmel. (The asheira prophets were no shows.) Elijah said, "Either G-d is the L-rd or Baal is - it's time to pick one!" He proposed the following contest. There were two bulls. The Baal worshippers would prepare one and he would prepare the other. Whichever one would be consumed by a fire from Heaven must be an offering to the one true Ruler. Everyone thought this was a good idea and the priests of Baal got to go first. They prepared their sacrifice and prayed, danced and cut themselves for hours, but there was no reply, because nobody was listening. Elijah mocked them. "Shout louder! Maybe Baal is sleeping, or perhaps he's in the bathroom!" Eventually the prophets of Baal had to give up.
Then it was Elijah's turn. He had a huge trench dug around his altar. He then had water poured over his sacrifice until it filled the trench. (Keep in mind that this was during a drought and water was very precious!) A fire came down from G-d and consumed the sacrifice and licked up all the water in the trench. The people cried out "Hashem Hu Ha'Elokim! G-d is the L-rd!" (We say this seven times at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur service - this is where it comes from.) Elijah told the people to seize the prophets of Baal and the people executed them.
Fasting is a traditional way of praying for rain. Elijah told Ahab, "Go and eat because rain is coming." Elijah prayed and sent his attendant out to check the horizon for clouds. Nothing. He checked seven times; on the seventh, he saw a small cloud, like a man's fist. Elijah told Ahab to hit the road so the rain wouldn't affect his journey. The skies darkened and rain came down. Ahab headed for home and Elijah accompanied him, out of respect for the king.
A short Insight into I Kings, Chapter 18Before Eliyahu arrives with the news of his prophecy that rain would begin, the verse tells us that Achav summoned Ovadya who “feared G-d m'ode (exceedingly).”
In what way does the Navi mean to praise Ovadya for fearing G-d greatly?
The Mishptzos Zahav understands that on the surface the Navi is telling us what a feat this was for someone in charge of the wicked King Achav's household. Without question, Ovadya was constantly in a state of danger because of his careful guarding of the Torah and mitzvos in such proximity to the wicked King. Nonetheless, the Navi emphasizes that Ovadya did not fear the King. He only feared G-d.
A second possibility is that perhaps, “m'od” is supposed to be an illusion to the fact that he served Hashem with all of his wealth. As we say in Shema every day, “You should love Hashem … with all m'odecha” - your wealth. After all, we know that the Medresh Tanchuma (Mishpatim) tells us that Ovadya was wealthy. He spent all of his wealth providing for the one hundred prophets who were hiding from Achav. After exhausting his own funds, Ovadya even borrowed money on interest to sustain them while they were hidden.
A third possibility is based on the gemora in Sanhedrin (39b) which states, “R' Yitzchak said, [Achav said to Ovadya ], 'Concerning Yaakov [Lavan said], “I have learned by divination that Hashem has blessed me on account of you.” Concerning Yosef its written, “Hashem blessed the Egyptian's household on account of Yosef.” [Nevertheless}, the household of this Achav has not been blessed.” Maybe you are not G-d fearing.”
“A heavenly voice rang out and said, “And Ovadyahu feared Hashem m'ode; but the house of Achav is not fit for blessing.”