April 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
April 21, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Vayetzei

As we closed last week’s parsha of Toledot, we read of Ya’akov Avinu’s departure from his parent’s home, following the request of his father to find a wife from his mother’s family — but, even more crucially, following the advice of his mother to escape the wrath of his brother, Eisav, who planned to kill him. This week’s parsha of Vayetzei picks up on that journey, opening with the words, “Vayetzei Ya’akov,” that Ya’akov left Be’er Sheva on his way to Charan. Our haftarah echoes the opening verse of the parsha with the words of Hoshea: “Vayivrach Yisrael sedeh Aram,” describing how Ya’akov fled to the field of Aram.

Although we might see nothing unusual with that statement, Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein reveals to us important insights that are uncovered in the prophetic words of Hoshea. To begin with, it is highly unusual to find a review of patriarchal stories in the books of the Nevi’im. Although we might find mention of the personalities of our Avot or Imahot, we almost never read of the events or episodes that our patriarchs experienced. The fact that the final chapters of sefer Hoshea (Hoshea 9-10; 12-13) does do that makes it quite unique — and why he does that, requires a look at our haftarah.

Rabbi Lichtenstein points out that the repetitive theme found in the haftarah is that of “ne’emanut,” faithfulness, fidelity, or — more precisely — a lack of faithfulness. The Navi condemns Israel — that is, the northern kingdom — for their rebellious ways, specifically, their ongoing idolatry and pagan worship. Hoshea underscores that infidelity by comparing Israel to a wayward wife, who leaves her husband to seek another partner. However — as Rabbi Lichtenstein suggests — there is yet another type of infidelity. It is not a search to attach to another who she regards as better, kinder or wealthier — one to whom she would be faithful. Rather, it was a search simply for “another”… and then “another.”

Yeshayahu — Rabbi Lichtenstein suggests — often fought against idolatry when Israel chose another “deity,” believing that the different “god” was more powerful and, therefore, should be worshiped. But Hoshea battled against an idolatry that led Israel from one “divinity” to another, causing the nation to constantly search for another … to save them from one threat or another. It was a faithlessness that denied their past and ignored all that Hashem had done for them in exchange for … anyone. It was pure disloyalty to God.

And this is how Hoshea gets to the story of Ya’akov. When closely analyzing the story, we will realize that Ya’akov was the model of “ne’emanut.” He loved Rachel and remained faithful to her, even when it meant working for seven more years to win her hand. He is deceived by Lavan, cheated and misled — but never leaves him, remaining faithful to his pledge. In both situations, the sacrifice was great. Who would wait faithfully for seven years in order to marry his betrothed? Who would remain in the house of one who had cheated him, and would remain faithful to a promise made to such a deceitful person — all the while longing to return home to see his elderly parents?

Faithfulness requires sacrifice, and the long history of our people has proven that we have internalized the lesson that Hoshea taught so long ago. Over our many years, we have — and continue — to make that sacrifice. Sacrifice for the God of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the land of Israel. It is a sacrifice and a faithfulness that no other people has ever shown.

We have the right to read this haftarah of rebuke with pride and not with shame. We have learned what Hoshea’s generation did not. We have learned to sacrifice because … we are a faithful nation.


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel of Fort Lee, and now lives in Israel.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles