July 19, 2024
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Parshat Vaera

The navi Yechezkel, whose prophecy makes up our haftarah this week, served the Jewish community in Bavel both before and after the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash. A younger contemporary of the prophet Yirmiyahu, Yechezkel also condemns Israel for her sins and emphasizes that the fall of the Judean kingdom was no more than proper punishment for Israel’s faithlessness toward Hashem. However, most essential in his message to the people is that they must realize that God is not singling out Israel alone. God is just and He will also wreak retribution on the sinful neighbors that surround His nation for their immoral behavior and their oppression of the Jewish nation. The pesukim that precede the haftarah are words of condemnation of the surrounding nations, Ammon and Moav, Tzidon and Tzor, Edom and Pleshet, and a warning of the punishments that will befall them as well.

The bulk of the haftarah, however, and its connection to our parsha, is a powerful attack against their southern neighbor, Egypt. Interestingly, the prophecy does not dwell upon Egypt’s sinfulness and immorality, nor upon her perfidy as an ally, i.e., her refusal to come to aid Israel when the Babylonians invaded, although it is mentioned in Yechezkel’s characterization of Egypt as a “mishenet kaneh,” a reed-like support for Israel that collapsed when Israel “leaned” upon her for help. Instead, the navi’s words focus almost exclusively on the punishments that Egypt will suffer, included their humiliating defeat by the Babylonian hordes and the subsequent desolation of her land. The focus on these “plagues” that would befall them forms a fitting connection to the parsha that focuses, almost exclusively, upon the first seven plagues that Hashem brought upon Egypt in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu.

And although the impending arrival of these punishments make up the bulk of the haftarah, the opening words of this selection are especially enlightening for our generation. Logically, this selection should have opened with the first verse of the 29th perek, which begins to detail the coming punishments that Egypt would suffer. And yet, Chazal saw fit to start our haftarah with the final two pesukim of the 28th perek, verses that have nothing to do with the theme of the haftarah nor are they pesukim condemning Israel for her sins that led to Churban HaBayit, the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the subsequent exile. Quite the opposite. These introductory remarks speak of the future. A time when “b’kabtzi et beit Yisrael,” God promises He would gather Israel back to their land. As opposed to most of the prophet’s messages that end with comforting words, Chazal chose to introduce this nevu’ah with comfort and consolation. And how interesting the message is! In describing the return of Israel to Eretz Yisrael, the navi indicates that the return will come in stages: First, the people will be gathered in to the land, then they will build in the land and build up the land, then they will live securely and, finally, Hashem will execute judgment on all her enemies.

The geula process is not an overnight event; it is, indeed, a process. A gradual process. And we, blessed to live at a time when that process is in full swing, are the first generation to witness the fulfillment of the navi’s words. What remains for us, therefore, is to recognize in the unfolding of events a fulfillment of the words of our prophets and the fruition of Hashem’s eternal promises.


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

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