Because it is Shabbat Sh’kalim, the Haftarah, II Kings 11:17-12:17, relates to the second scroll reading from Ki Tissa – Exodus 30:11-16, which is about the half-shekel poll tax levied in Temple-times. And so we read in the Haftarah about how King Y’ho’ash ensured that the monies collected from the people to repair the Temple were actually given to the builders and craftsmen who did the work to ensure that it got done. The passage from Ki Tissa is about the theory; the Haftarah describes the reality of corrupt practice – even on the part of priests.
But even though the Haftarah relates specifically to the Torah reading for Sh’kalim, there is also an interesting connection between the Haftarah and the last part of the weekly portion. We read at II Kings 11: 17 that after the previous King, Y’hoyada, had dealt with the corruption in the Royal House that followed the death of King Yeihu: ‘Y’hoyada made a covenant between the Eternal One and the king and the people, that they should be the people of the Eternal One; between the king and also the people.’ And we read in Mishpatim, Exodus 24:7, that after Moses read them Seifer Ha-B’rit – ‘the Book of the Covenant’ the people responded: Kol asher-dibbeir Adonai, na’aseh v’nishma – ‘All that the Eternal has spoken, we will do and we will listen’ (Exodus 24:7).
A few verses earlier, the Torah states that ‘all the people answered with one voice and said: “All the words, which the Eternal has spoken we will do” ‘(Exodus 24:3 – see also 19:8). Na’aseh – ‘we will do’ – concise and to the point. So, what are the implications of v’nishma – ‘and we will listen’? Rashi’s grandson, Rabbi Sh’muel ben Meir, known as Rashbam (1085-1174) interpreted the addition of v’nishma to mean: ‘we will do what He has said and listen to what He will command in the future.’
So, having listened at Sinai, we will do – and then, we will continue to listen: As the Haftarah indicates, again and again, in later generations, the people failed to do what they were supposed to do – and they ceased to listen. But as the Torah reading about the half-shekel tax teaches, it’s not just a matter of what we do – and how we continue to listen. Each individual man aged twenty and over was obligated to pay the half-shekel tax. In every age, ‘the people’ is made up of individuals – but, in particular in modern societies, individuals, empowered by education and the democratic process, have the power to choose. And so the continuation of Jewish life rests in the hands of choosing Jews, who say, ‘I will listen and I will do – and I will continue to listen’.