Monthly Archives: May 2014


The Haftarah of Naso is the story of the birth of Shimshon, from the book of Judges.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Naso

Usually, we say that the reason this Haftarah was chosen for Parshat Naso is that Shimshon was a Nazir, and the laws of Nazir appear in Naso. This is undeniable; however, there is also a connection to the related topic of Sotah:

Naso – How It Could have Ended

As to why and how Nazir and Sotah are linked, that is for a different time. Likewise for the use of the word “פלא” in the laws of Nazir and in the Haftarah.

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Naso – How it could have ended

The Haftarah tells the story of Shimshon’s birth. Shimshon’s mother, Mrs. Manoach, was barren until she was visited by an angel. This is how she tells her husband what happened:

וַתֹּאמֶר לְאִישָׁהּ לֵאמֹר אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים בָּא אֵלַי וּמַרְאֵהוּ כְּמַרְאֵה מַלְאַךְ הָאֱלֹהִים נוֹרָא מְאֹד וְלֹא שְׁאִלְתִּיהוּ אֵי מִזֶּה הוּא וְאֶת שְׁמוֹ לֹא הִגִּיד לִי: וַיֹּאמֶר לִי הִנָּךְ הָרָה וְיֹלַדְתְּ בֵּן
She spoke to her husband, saying: “A Man of G-d came to me, he looked like an angel of G-d, very frightening, and I did not ask him where he comes from, and he did not tell me his name. He said to me, ‘You are going to be pregnant and give birth to a son… (Shoftim 13:6-7)

If the story were told by a neighborhood “yenta”, it might have looked like this:

“You know that Mrs. Manoach, the one who’s barren, nebech? Guess what, she’s pregnant! But did you hear her story? She was out in the field, and an angel came to her. Yeah, sure, an “angel”… Poor Manoach. He’s so clueless.”

In the ancient world, there were many fables of women “visited” by divine beings, and the supernatural children that they bore. If Manoach had doubted his wife’s fidelity, nobody would have held it against him.

Parshat Naso offers a solution for a husband whose wife has been compromised and there is no way to know what happened: the Sotah ritual. Her husband can take her to the Temple, where she is made to drink a potion that kills her if she is guilty, or blesses her with fertility if she is innocent. It is an ordeal, in every sense of the word, but at least it provides closure. It is a way for him to prove to himself and to society that she was in fact innocent, a way to stop the rumors and the pitying looks, a way to repair their relationship.

But Manoach did not take his wife to the Sotah ritual. Their relationship did not need to be repaired.

In the conditions for the ritual, we find the following:

וְעָבַר עָלָיו רוּחַ קִנְאָה וְקִנֵּא אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְהִוא נִטְמָאָה אוֹ עָבַר עָלָיו רוּחַ קִנְאָה וְקִנֵּא אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְהִיא לֹא נִטְמָאָה
And he was seized by jealousy, and was jealous over his wife, and she had become impure; or, he was seized by jealousy and was jealous over his wife, and she did not become impure. (Bamidbar 5:14)

It is not enough for the woman to have appeared to stray. The husband must also be seized by jealousy. If he is not, then the ritual is not necessary.

What was Manoach’s reaction to hearing that “a man of G-d came to” his wife? He begs G-d to send him again, to hear what else he has to say. What was Manoach’s reaction when he shows up again, not to him as requested, but again to his wife, out alone in the field? Does he question her, or blame her, or wonder what the Man of G-d wants with her? None of that. When she runs in and tells him, “He is here again, the man that came to me the other day” –

וַיָּקָם וַיֵּלֶךְ מָנוֹחַ אַחֲרֵי אִשְׁתּוֹ
Manoach got up and went after his wife (Shoftim 13:11)

Manoach is nothing like the husband in the Sotah ritual. Not only is he not consumed by jealousy, but the thought does not even cross his mind. She is his wife; he goes where she leads.

So that we don’t miss this point, the Haftarah’s twenty-four verses use the phrase, אִשְׁתּוֹ “his wife”, seven times. Instead of saying, “he said to her,” it says, “Manoach said to his wife.” Instead of saying, “she answered,” it says, “his wife answered.” Similarly, in the Parsha of Sotah, the phrase, “his wife”, is repeated four times. Additionally, both sets of text use the somewhat rare term, אִישָׁהּ “her man”, three times in close proximity. This linguistic mechanism is meant to highlight that what is at stake here is the idea of “man and wife”.

The relationship known as “man and wife” goes back to Creation. Whereas the betrayal of this relationship, adultery, is one of the cardinal sins listed in the Torah, the Parsha takes it one step further, and tells us that jealousy alone might be equally destructive. It also offers a way to resolve it. The Haftarah takes it one step further than that, and tells us that jealousy is not the only possible reaction to such circumstances.

If Mr. and Mrs. Manoach had not thought of each other as “man and wife”, if he had not believed in her, if his faith in her had been affected by slander and sinister glances, than he might have taken her to be a Sotah.

If the husband of the Sotah had been more like Manoach, and had trusted his wife and stood by her even when things looked bad, then he would not have had to put her through the ordeal.

It could have ended differently.

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Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל


Filed under Connections, Naso, Sefer Bamidbar


The Haftarah of Bamidbar is the second chapter of Hoshea. It is not for the faint of heart, and has embarrassed thousands of poor Bar Mitzvah boys, including my son, Yair Eitan.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Bamidbar

The connection is clear, and is handled by the Midrashim directly. All we have to do is understand what the Midrashim are telling us.

Bamidbar – Uncountable

This doesn’t have anything to do with the Haftarah, but you might be interested in the aforementioned Bar Mitzvah boy’s Drasha on Bamidbar in which he tries to explain the rounding method used in the Torah for the population figures. Here is the text in English


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Bamidbar – Immeasurable

Parshat Bamidbar is the first Parsha in the fourth book of the Chumash. In addition to being called Sefer Bamidbar, it is also called Sefer HaPekudim, the Book of Numbers. The reason for this name is that Bamidbar contains two long census counts of the Jewish People, one at the beginning of the book, in Parshat Bamidbar, and one near the end.

The Haftarah of Bamidbar, from the prophet Hoshea, also begins with numbers:

וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּחוֹל הַיָּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִמַּד וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר
The number of children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured and cannot be numbered (Hoshea 2:1)

There are several Midrashim that use this verse in the Haftarah to expound upon Parshat Bamidbar. They ask the following question:

א”ר שמלאי מהו הדבר הזה מי שהוא אומר שיש להם מספר הוא חוזר ואומר להם שאין?
R’ Smalai says: What is this, that the same One who says that they are countable, goes back and says that they are not countable?

If they cannot be measured and cannot be numbered, then what is this “number” that Hoshea refers to?

Moreover, if they cannot be measured and cannot be numbered, then what is the purpose of the Book of Numbers?

To answer this question, the Midrash brings another case where this apparent paradox occurs. Back at the beginning of Jewish history, G-d said to Avraham:

…וַיֹּאמֶר הַבֶּט נָא הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וּסְפֹר הַכּוֹכָבִים אִם תּוּכַל לִסְפֹּר אֹתָם וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ כֹּה יִהְיֶה זַרְעֶךָ:
…He said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars. Can you count them?” He said, “Thus will be your descendants.” (Breishit 15:5)

The Midrash asks the same question regarding Avraham:

מה הדבר הזה וספור הכוכבים אם תוכל לספור מי שאמר וספור חוזר ואומר אם תוכל לספור
What is this, “count the stars, can you count them?” The One who said, “count” goes back and says, “can you count them?”

Which is it, then, are the Jewish People countable, or not?

The Midrash explains the metaphor of comparing Israel to the stars:

להודיעך שהראה אותו תחלה במספר אחד ואח”כ שנים ואח”כ שלשה ואח”כ שנים עשר ואח”כ ע’ ואח”כ הראה לו מזלות שאין להם מספר. ולמה הראה אותו כך? סימן הראה אותו שהוא מרבה אותן כך בעולם, הראה אותו אחד שמתחלה הוא היה יחיד …חזר והראה אותו שנים אברהם ויצחק חזר והראה אותו שלשה אברהם יצחק ויעקב וחזר והראה אותו שנים עשר שבטים ואח”כ ע’ כנגד ע’ נפש שירדו למצרים ואח”כ הראה אותו מזלות שאין להם מספר שישראל עתידין לפרות ולרבות באחרונה שאין להם מספר…ואף להושע שהראהו במספר ושלא במספר שתחלתן היו במספר וחזרו ורבו שלא במספר לכך נאמר אשר לא ימד ולא יספר וגו’,

The purpose was to tell you that He first showed him one star, then two, then three, then twelve, then seventy, and then He showed him constellations that cannot be counted.

And why did He show it to him in this manner? To convey to him that this is the manner in which He increases their numbers in the world.
At first, there was just one person (Avraham), then two (Avraham and Yitzchak), then three (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov), then the twelve tribes, then the seventy people who went down to Egypt. Finally, He showed him constellations that cannot be counted, as the Jewish People multiplied greatly until ultimately they would not be countable. So, too, Hoshea – G-d showed them to his as countable, and then uncountable; at first they were countable, and then later they multiplied greater, and were not countable, as it says, “that cannot be measured and cannot be counted.”

Jewish History unfolded gradually, like stars appearing in the evening sky. At first, only a few are visible, and then more and more until all of a sudden, the sky is full of stars. At first, it was only the forefathers, then the seventy people who went down to Egypt, and then, in Bamidbar, there were 600,000. The counting of the Jewish People in Bamidbar is necessary to show that G-d’s promise to Avraham has come to pass. The Jewish People, who started out as a few individuals, are now a nation of hundreds of thousands.

But this is not yet the stage of “uncountable”. The Midrash which asks the question on the Haftarah explains the distinction between 600,000 and “uncountable”:

אלא בזמן שאין עושין רצונו של מקום יש להם מספר שאין חסרים ממנין ששים רבוא והיה מספר ובזמן שהם עושין רצונו של מקום אין להם מספר
When they don’t do G-d’s will, they are countable, and they are no less than 600,000; but when they do G-d’s will, they are uncountable.

600,000 is a minimum. At Bamidbar, the Jewish People reached the critical mass at which they can be called a nation, and can begin fulfilling their mission. This is why they are counted now, just as they are about to leave Sinai and head for the Land of Israel . The Midrash asserts that even if the Jewish People fail at their mission, G-d will not allow their population to dip lower than the 600,000 national minimum. But, when we succeed at our mission, not only do our numbers go up, we become “uncountable.”

Our mission originates with Avraham as well. Back in Breishit, G-d tells us why Avraham was chosen, why he was the first star to appear in the sky. He says:

כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת בָּנָיו וְאֶת בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ ה’ לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט…
For I know him; that he will command his children, and his family after him; they will keep the way of Hashem, to do righteousness and justice (Breishit 18:19)

The “way of Hashem”, the mission, that Avraham will teach his descendants is “to do righteousness and justice.” “Justice” is when laws are enforced in an even-handed and fair manner. “Righteousness” is when justice is not purely blind, but is tempered with goodness. It is a difficult balance, yet G-d trusted Avraham not only to achieve it, but to pass it on to his descendants.
When the Jewish People, the descendants of Avraham, do G-d’s will, and act with justice and righteousness, they become more than a collection of individuals. Their influence extends far beyond their own sphere, and it is not in direct proportion to their numbers. In this way, they become “uncountable.”

The Haftarah, which began by saying that the Jewish People cannot be measured and cannot be counted, ends by saying that their relationship with G-d will be expressed through justice and righteousness:

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי לְעוֹלָם
וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט
וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים:
וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בֶּאֱמוּנָה
וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת ה’:
I will betroth you to Me forever,
I will betroth You to Me, through righteousness and justice,
through kindness and mercy.
I will betroth you to Me through faithfulness,
and you will know Hashem (Hoshea 2:21-22).

The Jewish People are counted in the Book of Numbers at the beginning of our mission to do G-d’s will. Over the millenia, we have sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed. We have been countable, in numbers not much greater than our baseline, and yet we have influenced the world in ways that cannot be quantified. As long as we continue to follow Avraham’s example of walking in the ways of G-d with righteousness and justice, our contribution to humanity will be immeasurable.

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Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל


Filed under Bamidbar, Connections, Sefer Bamidbar

Bechukotai – Faith and Trust

The Parshot of Behar and Bechukotai form a contract between G-d and the Jewish People regarding the Land of Israel. Behar describes the commandments that form the conditions of the lease, and Parshat Bechukotai describes what happens if the contract is upheld, and then – at great length and in gory detail – what happens if the contract is broken. The latter section is called the “Tochacha”, the Rebuke, and it is so frightening that there is a tradition to read it quickly and quietly, and to give that Aliya to the rabbi because nobody else would want it.

We might have imagined that the Haftarah of Bechukotai would be an equally gory description of the calamities that befall the Jewish People. Instead, it talks about how G-d is the source of all power, and how pointless it is to place one’s hope and trust in anyone else:

כֹּה אָמַר ה’ אָרוּר הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בָּאָדָם וְשָׂם בָּשָׂר זְרֹעוֹ וּמִן ה’ יָסוּר לִבּוֹ: וְהָיָה כְּעַרְעָר בָּעֲרָבָה וְלֹא יִרְאֶה כִּי יָבוֹא טוֹב וְשָׁכַן חֲרֵרִים בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶרֶץ מְלֵחָה וְלֹא תֵשֵׁב:
So said Hashem: cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, and relies on the muscle of his arm, and from Hashem turns away his heart. He shall be like a weed in the Aravah, and he will not see when the good comes, he will live in the parched desert, a salt land that cannot be settled. (Yirmeyahu 17:5,6)

The objective of this Haftarah is not to provide additional examples of sin and its punishment, but rather to point out the kind of thinking that causes the sin in the first place.

In the Tochacha, when G-d talks about all the terrible things that will happen to the Jewish People if they reject Him and His Torah, He makes it clear that what really bothers Him is not so much the actions, but rather the attitude behind them:

וְאִם בְּזֹאת לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ לִי וַהֲלַכְתֶּם עִמִּי בְּקֶרִי: (כח) וְהָלַכְתִּי עִמָּכֶם בַּחֲמַת קֶרִי וְיִסַּרְתִּי אֶתְכֶם אַף אָנִי שֶׁבַע עַל חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם:
And if even then you don’t listen to Me, and act toward Me as if you don’t care, I will treat you as if I don’t care, with a vengeance, and punish you Myself sevenfold for your sins. (VaYikra 26:27)

According to the Tochacha, what G-d cannot abide is when our relationship with Him is not one of commitment, but of convenience. We like to be thought of as G-d’s People, we like to dress the part and do the rituals. But there are situations – usually related to financial prosperity – when we act as if G-d is not part of the picture at all. When it comes to making a living, there is a tendency to pretend that it is all up to us, our connections, and our ingenuity. This is in direct conflict with the beliefs that we profess to have about G-d’s omnipotence, and makes it look like those beliefs are only lip service.

The Chazon Ish wrote a book called “Emunah ve’Bitachon”, where he explains the difference between Emunah (belief), and Bitachon (faith). Belief is theological and intellectual; it is the definition of G-d and His attributes. Faith is a state of mind that directly affects one’s actions. Ideally, Emunah and Bitachon are aligned. For instance, we believe that G-d runs the world and can provide us with all our needs – that is “Emunah”. As a result, we have “Bitachon”, faith, that G-d will in fact do that. We still make the necessary effort to provide for ourselves, but if we truly believe that G-d is the source of all blessing, then we will restrict our actions to those that He would approve of.
Conversely, when a person does not have Bitachon, if he does not trust G-d to provide for him, he will instead rely on human beings or on his own cleverness. As the Haftarah points out, this is not a strategy that is likely to succeed. People might be helpful, but they have their own agenda. And our own talents and efforts are necessary, but hardly sufficient.

What’s worse, the attitude that the source of one’s success is anywhere other than G-d can warp one’s moral judgment. When given a choice between doing something to please a patron, or pleasing G-d, one might choose the former. The Chazon Ish suggests that it is lack of Bitachon that causes otherwise religious Jews to get involved in fraudulent schemes.

The Haftarah has a description of this situation and its eventual outcome:

קֹרֵא דָגַר וְלֹא יָלָד עֹשֶׂה עֹשֶׁר וְלֹא בְמִשְׁפָּט בַּחֲצִי יָמָיו יַעַזְבֶנּוּ וּבְאַחֲרִיתוֹ יִהְיֶה נָבָל
Like a partridge that broods over young it did not hatch, he makes wealth but not by law;
in the midst of his days it will leave him, and in the end, he shall be despised.
(Yirmeyahu 17:11)

A person who “makes wealth but not by law” is not only committing fraud. He is revealing that he does not actually believe that G-d runs the world. He does not believe that G-d sees what he is doing, and he does not believe that there will be payback for his actions. In the words of the Tochacha, “he acts towards G-d as if he doesn’t care.” As both the Tochacha and the Haftarah tells us, G-d will not let him get away with this. His bank account might be temporarily padded, but ultimately, he will live to see it emptied and his family ashamed to bear his name.
In addition to giving examples of dismissal and dissonance, the Haftarah also gives an example of true commitment and Bitachon:

בָּרוּךְ הַגֶּבֶר אֲשֶׁר יִבְטַח בַּה’ וְהָיָה ה’ מִבְטַחוֹ: וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל מַיִם וְעַל יוּבַל יְשַׁלַּח שָׁרָשָׁיו וְלֹא יִרְאֶה כִּי יָבֹא חֹם וְהָיָה עָלֵהוּ רַעֲנָן וּבִשְׁנַת בַּצֹּרֶת לֹא יִדְאָג וְלֹא יָמִישׁ מֵעֲשׂוֹת פֶּרִי:
Blessed is the man, who trusts in Hashem, and Hashem will be his shelter. He will be like a tree planted upon the water; toward the river, it sends its roots, and does not fear that the heat will come; its leaves will be verdant, in a drought year it will not worry, and will not stop yielding fruit. (Yirmeyahu 17:7,8)

If your actions are aligned with your beliefs, and if your relationship with G-d is one of faith and trust, then perhaps your bank account will not be the largest ever, but your life is guaranteed to be full of blessings.

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The song, Baruch Hagever

Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל

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Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Bechukotai

As one might expect, the Haftarah of Bechukotai is taken from a chapter of Yirmeyahu that talks about how G-d will exile the Jewish People for their lack of loyalty to him.

Of course, this is the case for most of the book of Yirmeyahu, as well as many other prophets. What makes it specifically appropriate for Bechukotai is the point that G-d is the source of all prosperity.

Baruch HaGever – Faith and Trust

Chazak Chazak Ve’Nitchazek!

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The Haftarah of Behar is from Yirmeyahu, and takes place in the last few months before Jerusalem is destroyed.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Behar

The connection is obvious, as it describes Yirmeyahu fulfilling a commandment listed in Parshat Behar. But the basis for that commandment and the basis for the prophecy of comfort wind up being the same.

Behar – In the Darkest Hour

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Behar – In the Darkest Hour

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In Parshat Behar, the Torah severely limits certain types of real estate transactions. A person may only sell his ancestral lands if he really cannot support himself and has no other option. If this does happen, the person who buys the land cannot have too much invested in it; he might be asked to sell it back to the owner or to the family; if that happens, he may not refuse. Even if nobody from the family is able to come up with the money to redeem the land, the seller will anyway have to give it up at the next Yovel, 50th Jubilee, when all lands revert to their original families.
The Torah explains why G-d limits the rights to buy and sell land freely:

וְהָאָרֶץ לֹא תִמָּכֵר לִצְמִתֻת כִּי לִי הָאָרֶץ כִּי גֵרִים וְתוֹשָׁבִים אַתֶּם עִמָּדִי:
The land shall not be sold forever, for the land is Mine, for you are tenants and residents with Me. (VaYikra 35:23)

The land belongs to G-d, and He can legislate and regulate the market however He pleases.
In the Haftarah, Yirmeyahu is asked to redeem land about to be sold by his cousin. Yirmeyahu does so, and makes sure that the sale is performed in accordance with every detail of Torah law, and is fully documented. This would not be in any way remarkable or worth recording in the Tanach, except for the fact that it took place only months before the capture of Yehudah by the Babylonians and the destruction of the Temple, while Yirmeyahu was himself in jail for the treason of prophesying about this destruction. This sale is a prophetic act and comes with an explicit message:

כִּי כֹה אָמַר ה’ צְבָא-וֹת אֱ-לֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עוֹד יִקָּנוּ בָתִּים וְשָׂדוֹת וּכְרָמִים בָּאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת:
For so said Hashem Tzva-ot the G-d of Israel: “Houses, fields, and vineyards will yet be bought in this land.” (Yirmeyahu 32:15)

This is a beautiful message, full of hope. Yes, the destruction is imminent and in the short term, the deed to this land that Yirmeyahu just purchased is entirely worthless. But one day, there will again be people buying and selling land, and life will go back to normal.
While this is clearly meant to bring comfort and hope, Yirmeyahu gets upset. He turns to G-d and says, roughly, “G-d. You run the world. You took the Jewish People out of Egypt and chose them to be Your people. You gave them this land, and now, because they have been an utter failure at Your mission, You are about to throw them off this land. They are already dying of starvation under siege, more will die in the sacking of the city, and the survivors will be taken into slavery and exile. And you want me to get excited about a real estate deal?!”
It would be as if someone were to go into the Warsaw Ghetto, as people are dying in the streets and the transports to the concentration camps have begun, and tell them, “Don’t worry, I bought land in Tel Aviv, one day it will be worth a lot of money.”
Yirmeyahu does not feel that this is comforting. Yirmeyahu also does not feel that the current situation reflects well on G-d’s influence on history. If He is the owner of the land, and the land is about to be conquered, how will He remain the owner? And of what? A desert? Malaria swamps? So when Yirmeyahu addresses G-d, he says:

הָאֵל הַגָּדוֹל הַגִּבּוֹר G-d who is great, and mighty; (Yirmeyahu 32:18)

He does not say, as Moshe did, “G-d who is great and mighty and awe-inspiring”. The Midrash (Yoma 69b) comments on this omission:

אתא ירמיה ואמר: נכרים מקרקרין בהיכלו, איה נוראותיו? לא אמר נורא.
Yirmeyahu came and said, “Foreigners are about to be prancing about in His palace, where is His awe?” He would not say “awe-inspiring”.

Sitting in jail in Jerusalem under siege, Yirmeyahu could not bring himself to say that G-d is all that awe-inspiring. The Babylonians surely are not showing any awe.
It wasn’t only Yirmeyahu who couldn’t bring himself to say that full sentence. A generation later, Daniel says:

אָנָּא אֲ-דֹנָי הָאֵל הַגָּדוֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא –
Oh, Hashem, G-d who is great and awe-inspiring (Daniel 9:4)

The Midrash explains Daniel’s phrasing:

אתא דניאל, אמר: נכרים משתעבדים בבניו, איה גבורותיו? לא אמר גבור.
Daniel came and said, “Foreigners have enslaved His children, where is His might?” He did not say “mighty”.

The Midrash continues by asking an important question about Yirmeyahu and Daniel:

ורבנן היכי עבדי הכי ועקרי תקנתא דתקין משה!?
But how could they have come and uprooted Moshe’s formulation ?!

If Moshe said, “G-d who is great and mighty and awe-inspiring”, then that must be the way to address G-d. How could Yirmeyahu and Daniel have changed that formula?

אמר רבי אלעזר: מתוך שיודעין בהקדוש ברוך הוא שאמתי הוא, לפיכך לא כיזבו בו.
R’ Elazar said, because they knew about Hashem that He is truthful, and therefore, they did not lie about Him.

Yirmeyahu and Daniel could not use Moshe’s formulation because it contradicted their experience of G-d in this world, and you don’t lie about G-d.

Yirmeyahu did not have personal experience of Geulah, of redemption. He knew, as a prophet, that G-d said that this exile would last only seventy years. He knew, as a prophet, that G-d said that one day life would go back to normal and mundane things such as real estate transactions would take place again. But it is one thing to know it in theory, and a completely other thing to know it from experience. Yirmeyahu’s experience in this Haftarah is of deepening darkness and impending destruction. He could not see the light of redemption, even though he was told that it would come. He did not find it comforting to hear, “Fields will yet be bought in this land”, when he would not live to see the field he just bought.
So how is it that we now say in our prayers, “G-d who is great, and mighty, and awe-inspiring”? Are we lying about G-d?

The Men of the Great Assembly, the rabbis who gathered together during the time of the Second Temple, after prophecy ended, found a way to have this phrase reflect their experience of G-d:

אתו אינהו ואמרו: אדרבה, זו היא גבורת גבורתו שכובש את יצרו, שנותן ארך אפים לרשעים. ואלו הן נוראותיו שאלמלא מוראו של הקדוש ברוך הוא היאך אומה אחת יכולה להתקיים בין האומות?
They came and said, “On the contrary! This is His might, that He overcomes His own wishes, by having patience for the evildoers. This is His awe, for if not for the fear of G-d, how could one nation survive among all the nations?”

The Men of the Great Assembly, having lived through the exile and the redemption, and having been a part of the first Return to Zion, saw things differently than Yirmeyahu and Daniel. They redefined G-d’s power to include situations whose effects are not immediately visible. G-d has power over all the nations, even if you can’t see it just yet. He protects the Jewish People, even if it looks like He has forgotten us completely. He is still the owner of the land, and He will not let it be given over to strangers indefinitely.

The Haftarah of Behar has indeed brought comfort for the Jewish People throughout the centuries.

We have waited for a long time to see these words come to pass, and now that they have, we must not forget how incredible it is that there is a vibrant and flourishing real estate market in the Land of Israel.

הִנֵּה אֲנִי ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵי כָּל בָּשָׂר הֲמִמֶּנִּי יִפָּלֵא כָּל דָּבָר
I am Hashem, the G-d of all mankind.
Is anything too incredible for Me? (Yirmeyahu 32:27)

Real Estate prices in Petach Tikvah - a town whose name means: "The beginning of hope"

Real Estate prices in Petach Tikvah – a town whose name means: “The beginning of hope”

Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל

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Filed under Behar, Connections, Sefer Vayikra


The Haftarah of Emor, from Yechezkel, describes the role of the Cohanim and the additional commandments that apply only to them.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Emor

The source in the Torah for those commandments is the Parsha, Parshat Emor.

It is so obvious what the connection between the Haftarah and the Parsha must be that it actually makes it difficult to say anything meaningful about it. True, one could discuss the differences in the details of the commandments in the Torah vs. those presented by the prophet Yechezkel, but interesting though that may be, it does not in fact shed any light on the Parsha itself.

But this does: Sanctity and Continuity

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Emor – Sanctity and Continuity

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Parshat Emor and the Haftarah of Emor both discuss the commandments and restrictions that apply to Cohanim, the hereditary priesthood of the Jewish People.
The Haftarah of Emor describes in detail the role that the Cohanim will have at the time of the Final Redemption. It reviews their service in the Temple and the additional restrictions that the Torah places on them both during their service and in their personal life. It describes their responsibilities to the Jewish People outside the Temple, such as teaching Torah and adjudicating Halachic issues, and it lists some of the responsibilities of the Jewish People to them, such as the gifts of Challah (first bread) and Bikurim (first fruit).

According to Parshat Emor, the additional commandments are what imparts upon the Cohanim the additional level of sanctity required for service in the Mikdash (Sanctuary). Among the verses that are addressed to them, we find the following commandment addressed to the Jewish People as a whole:

וְקִדַּשְׁתּוֹ כִּי אֶת לֶחֶם אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא מַקְרִיב קָדֹשׁ יִהְיֶה לָּךְ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי ה’ מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם:
You will make him sacred, because he offers up the bread of your G-d; he shall be sacred to you, for sacred am I, Hashem, who makes you sacred. (VaYikra 21:8)

As we have learned in previous Parshot, such as Kedoshim, what makes someone sacred is that they act differently than the people around them. The Jewish People have a very long list of commandments; consequently, there is an expectation that the Jewish People will have a higher level of sanctity relative to other nations. Likewise, G-d gave the Cohanim additional commandments to differentiate them from the rest of Israel, with an even higher level of sanctity. But if it is G-d who makes them sacred, as per the end of the verse, what does it mean when the very same verse says, “you will make them sacred”? In what way are we, the Jewish People, able to make the Cohanim sacred?

Rashi, distilling several Midrashim into a handful of words, explains:

וקדשתו – על כרחו, שאם לא רצה לגרש, הלקהו ויסרהו עד שיגרש:
You make him sacred: by force. If he does not wish to divorce his (illegal) wife, punish him until he does so. (Rashi Vayikra 21:8)

One might think that if a Cohen married a divorcee, which is explicitly forbidden in the Torah, then he made a personal choice, and while he may have done something wrong, it does not affect Jewish society as a whole. However, the Torah says: “You must make him sacred”: the responsibility to observe the laws that are unique to Cohanim is theirs, but the responsibility to enforce them is ours.

The verse continues and says: “he shall be sacred to you”. That, too, is not a mere platitude, but is expressed through action. Rashi explains:

קדש יהיה לך – נהוג בו קדושה לפתוח ראשון בכל דבר ולברך ראשון בסעודה:
He shall be sacred to you: treat him as sacred, to speak first in every situation, and to be first to make the blessings at meals. (Rashi Vayikra 21:8)

Our responsibility to keep the Cohanim sacred is expressed through the preferred treatment that we show them. Therefore, the Cohen gets the first Aliya to the Torah, and he is the first to be asked to lead Birkat HaMazon after meals. This is not much to ask; we are not obligated to defer to them in politics or business or even Torah. But this little bit is enough to embed their special status in the culture and consciousness of the Jewish People.

One might have thought that once the Temple was destroyed and the primary role of the Cohanim, to bring the offerings to Hashem, was no longer a part of Jewish life, that the sanctity of the Cohanim would disappear as well. But this has not been the case. More than three thousand years after this commandment was given, the Cohanim are still distinct among the Jewish People. This remarkable persistence is due to the sanctity of the additional commandments that the Cohanim were given, and due to the deference that the Jewish People have continued to show them. As commanded, we have made them sacred.

Ultimately, we will reach the stage of redemption described in the Haftarah, where we once again have a Temple, and need Cohanim to serve there:

הֵמָּה יָבֹאוּ אֶל מִקְדָּשִׁי וְהֵמָּה יִקְרְבוּ אֶל שֻׁלְחָנִי לְשָׁרְתֵנִי וְשָׁמְרוּ אֶת מִשְׁמַרְתִּי:
They will enter into My sanctuary, and they will come near My table to serve Me, and they will keep My charge. (Yechezkel 44:116)

At that time, there will still be Cohanim, distinct and sacred among the Jewish People.

Copyright © Kira Sirote
In memory of my father, Peter Rozenberg, z”l
לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי פנחס בן נתן נטע ז”ל

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