June 17, 2024
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The Final Prophetic Words

Shabbat HaGadol
Parshat Metzora

After studying today’s haftarah one realizes that there seems to be very little connection to the fact that it is the final Shabbat before the chag of Pesach, although that is the only reason why the rabbis chose to establish this special prophetic reading, rather than choosing one that connects to the parsha. As opposed to the previous parashot that are ordained by Tanna’im in the Mishnah, this Shabbat carries with it no obligation to read a special maftir nor is the prophetic reading even mentioned in the Talmud. (In fact, the earliest source we have for reading this haftarah dates back to the 12th century.)

It seems quite clear that the rabbis wished to connect this Shabbat with the Yemot HaMashiach, the final redemption, a theme that runs throughout the holiday of Pesach. The haftarah selection from the navi Malachi is particularly fitting as Malachi was the final prophet and these are his final words. In effect, therefore, what we read are the last prophetic words, a message from Hashem relayed to the nation through the navi. Were we to begin the selection from the first verse of the chapter we would understand that the prophet speaks of the day when Hashem will send His messenger to harbinger God’s arrival to judge the people, to purify and refine them in preparation for the Messianic era.

The prophet continues by showing the people how faithFUL God was to them and how faithLESS they were to God. He points out that the very survival of the nation was proof of Hashem’s love, and he cries out for the people to return to Hashem. After promising God’s reward of economic success and a “rebirth” of the land’s productivity, the prophet focuses upon the failure of the nation to worship God faithfully. It is this theme that connects to the message of Pesach and the exodus from Egypt. After all, it was Moshe Rabbeinu’s demand that the people be freed in order to worship their God that bought them their freedom, and yet, moans the prophet, the nation had forgotten that.

As the Book of Malachi closes, the people are given a haunting message, one that we realize in hindsight was a formula for their survival in the soon-to-be exile: “Zichru Torat Moshe avdi…” “Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant, and the laws and statutes I commanded him.” If we do so we can look forward to the final verses of haftarah, the book and the era of prophecy: “Behold I shall send you the prophet Eliyah before the arrival of the great and awesome day of Hashem.”

May we all merit to see that day when the Mashiach arrives in the very near future.


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

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