I have mentioned that every verse, every word, even every letter of the Torah is prophecy. I have also presented the evaluations of the Haftarah on many parshas showing how Hashem is telling us through the prophet the way the prophecy will be fulfilled.
We are now in a series of three parshas that tell the story of Jacob and his brother Esau, from birth through the time of conflict between the brothers. It is not the end of their story, but it does seem to cover the details of the present exile of Edom (Jacob being the Jewish people and Edom being the descendants of Esau, better known as Xtians, who have been trying to kill us for thousands of years).
The details of the story of the two brothers is extensive and not my purpose here. We must only know that Esau hated his brother Jacob and wanted to kill him. This is the parallel of our history for the past two thousand years of the exile of Edom. We are told that when Jacob studied Torah, Esau couldn’t touch his brother. Unfortunately, the Jewish people went into just about every country and made the same mistake. If we studied Torah, the non-Jews were powerless to hurt us, but we assimilated into the societies of these countries against Hashem’s will, and forgot our Torah. This resulted in Esau trying to kill us, and, chas v’shalom, succeeding in many places (the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Pogroms, the Holocaust, etc). We strayed from Torah, we strayed from Hashem’s very clear instructions, and we suffered.
Now the good news (I see everything as good news since it is all from Hashem). These parshas and especially the prophesies in their Haftarahs are very much hinting to the end of the Exile, followed, of course, by the worldwide redemption.
Let us get specific:
Parshas Toldot that we read last Shabbos has the prophesy of the last prophet, Malachi. The book of Malachi starts with this Haftarah and ends with the prophecy of the coming of the Star of Healing for the righteous, and the wiping out of the wicked (I have talked about that many times). The prophet Malachi ends with the famous announcement of the coming of the prophet Elijah just before the great day of awe of Hashem. Malachi, by the way, is Hebrew for “my messenger,” the perfect name for the last prophet.
To give more detail about the Haftarah, I use the commentary from the Artscroll Chumash:
Haftaras Toldos – Malachi 1:1 – 2:7
The Parshah depicts perhaps the major turning point in the spiritual history of the world - the choice of Jacob over Esau to receive the Torah and bear the Patriarchal legacy. But the choice was not automatic. Esau was the firstborn and, however one understands Isaac's motives, he wished to confer the blessings upon Esau. Only Hashem's will, as set in motion by Rebecca, secured the blessings for Jacob.We can see that the prophecy tells us who the players are in this exile, but it also clearly tells us why it has taken so long. We have not turned to Hashem and performed His will with completely devoted service. Like our prayers, we give it lip-service and take shortcuts. A very strong lesson for those who like to ask: why are we waiting so long for Moshiach? Until we do sincere Teshuvah, we are not ready.
The Haftarah says at the outset that Hashem's choice of Jacob was a sign of His love for Jacob and His hatred for Esau. Because of this hatred, the prophet states that Edom, the nation that stems from Esau, will not prosper eternally; that it is doomed to destruction, as indeed the evil that is incarnated in Edom will ultimately be destroyed. It will take time. The Roman Empire brought about the current exile and most of the powers of Edom. Like most prophecies, we do not know when this one will be fulfilled; we know only that it will.
But this is not enough. Israel cannot achieve its destiny merely because of Esau's downfall. A chosen people must deserve its chosenness. Thus the prophet chastises Israel severely for the hypocrisy of those who think that they, who are encouraged and abetted by their self-serving priests, can turn their service of Hashem into an insincere practice. How dare they offer their old, crippled, and ill animals as offerings to Hashem, while retaining the best for themselves? Would they dare do the same for their human rulers?
In closing, the prophet exhorts the Kohanim to live up to their calling. They must be the teachers and models. Only if they live up to their responsibility can they pull the people up with them. The same responsibility applies to all leaders - they have the duty to teach and lead by example.
Then we get the lesson of this coming Shabbos. The Torah continues to tell of the conflict with Parshas Vayeitzei. The parshah starts with the famous story of Jacob’s ladder, where he dreamed of angels going up and down a ladder, the number of rungs representing the number of years of each of the exiles. The last exile, the present one from Edom the angels went up and up and were not even visible. This was the prophecy that this exile would last thousands of years. Once again the many prophetic details of the parshah will not be covered here.
The Haftarah covers another aspect of our long exile:
Haftaras Vayeitzei -- Hosea 11:7 – 14:10
The Sages teach that Hosea, the prophet of this Haftarah, was one of the greatest of the prophets. A contemporary of Isaiah, he too cried out vainly against the rapidly deteriorating Kingdom of Samaria, the Ten Tribes of Israel. Hosea remonstrates with the people, and contrasts Hashem’s mercies of the past with Israel's failure to recognize that everything they have is due to Hashem's kindness. And it is a kindness that remains strong, despite Israel's shortcomings. Hashem says poignantly that He will never desert Ephraim, the wayward leader of the Ten Tribes, despite His justifiable wrath. Like a spurned but still merciful Father, Hashem confesses that He will not make a permanent end of Ephraim, because He has pledged that Israel will remain His people and because Israel, innately good as it is, will eventually heed Hashem’s call to repent and resume its mission. When Hashem will roar like a lion that the End has come, even Ephraim's children will come rushing from the west to declare their renewed allegiance to Him.Another important event in this parshah is the fight that Jacob had with the angel of Esau. It continued to typify their relationship, but it ended with the angel giving Jacob the new name of Israel. From this we now have the Land of Israel, which goes back thousands of years and not to 1948 as the propaganda of the Muslim’s would have us believe.
The prophet contrasts the rebelliousness of Ephraim with the loyalty of Judah, but declares that Judah, too, will falter. And when that time comes, Judah will be punished as well. It will be a sad outcome for the people who descended from a Patriarch who defeated Esau's angel, as described in the parshah, but Hashem’s justice must be served. Thus Judah will join Ephraim in an exile that will recall the origins of the nation in Egypt.
The prophet continues his rebuke of the Kingdom of the Ten Tribes, which - led by Ephraim - had come to think that it was invincible, because of its wealth and power. It had forgotten its humble origins - that Jacob had once been a humble shepherd who had been reduced to tending sheep in order to earn the right to his bride, and that Ephraim had achieved its eminence as a leading tribe only because it spoke harshly against Solomon's successor, Rehoboam, who abused his holy calling. Thus it should have been clear to Ephraim that protection and success are gifts of Hashem, and are not acquired by strength, guile, or coincidence.
But Ephraim sinned through arrogance and idolatry, and therefore was condemned to defeat, exile and death. Hashem does not forget sins; He binds them up and stores them away, as it were, to punish the perpetrators when His wisdom decrees that they are no longer entitled to Divine forbearance. Israel's sins are all the more serious because the nation ignored its infinite debt to Hashem. Had He not brought them forth from Egypt and made them a nation?
Nevertheless, Hashem does not abandon Israel. The prophet's ghastly warning of retribution concludes with a loving call to repentance. It is the same passage which begins the Haftarah of Shabbos Shuvah, the Sabbath of the Ten Days of Repentance. True, Israel, as symbolized by Ephraim, has sinned grievously, but its essence remains good and pure. It is not hopelessly evil; it has stumbled into sin. The potential for repentance always remains, and Hashem is always ready to accept it and forgive.
A very important aspect of this Haftarah is the including of the ten lost tribes of Israel that are included in the present exile. That is why I continue to talk about the 2.5 billion people of this world who will be saved (Zechariah 13:8). It is not just the Jews of the world, approximately 14 million, but all those who don’t even know that they are descended from the nation of Israel and will be returning when the exile is completed.
That is enough for today. Tomorrow I will cover the last of the three parshas and Haftarahs and do my dot-connecting to show why this seems to indicate that these prophecies are being fulfilled now.