The Haftarah of VaYeitzei is from Hoshea, who is by far the hardest prophet to translate of them all. Not only does he twist syntax to his own poetic and stylistic needs, but he also uses phrases and idioms whose meanings have been lost.

For example, in our Haftarah it says, “הם אומרים זובחי אדם עגלים ישקו” (they say, “those who kill men, kiss calves”). Hoshea uses a popular expression that “people say”. What did that expression mean at the time? The calves that are being kissed, were those the golden calves that they worshiped? A metaphor similar to “politicians who kiss babies”? A reference to kindness to animals at the expense of humans? And what about “killing men”: literally, it says “sacrifice”, as in “sacrificing humans”. Perhaps it’s referring to actual human sacrifice? Or metaphorical human sacrifice to match the metaphorical calves?

Whatever it is, it’s not a compliment; regardless of the exact root of that expression, the gist of it is that the society is being accused of hypocrisy.

Being that in a translation one has to pick just one interpretation, the main approach for this week’s Haftarah is that of the Malbim, in case you want to see for yourself how to get from the original text to the translation.

Linear Annotated Translation of the Haftarah of VaYeitzei

In terms of the connection to the Parsha, this week I tried to weave it into the introduction, which includes a summary of the history of the Kingdom of Israel, highlighting their connection with Yaakov Avinu, who is the subject of this week’s Parsha. See also here: Man of Truth

Another thought: how does the arrogance of the Kingdom of Israel compare with Yaakov’s statement (at the beginning of next week’s Parsha, but referring to events of VaYeitzei) – קטונתי מכל החסדים ומכל האמת שעשית את עבדיך – “I am humbled by all the goodness and truth that You have done for Your servant”?

To make up for the very difficult Haftarah, here’s a beautiful song that uses this verse as its lyrics:

Shabbat Shalom



Filed under Sefer Breishit, VaYeitzei

2 Responses to VaYeitzei

  1. Kira

    I was asked a question on Shabbat – “Are idolatry and deceit connected, or are they two separate problems?” This is a really important question – as I discussed in, Lech Lecha, the Torah cares about idolatry not only because it itself is false, but because it causes a society that is manipulative and immoral.

    But here in this specific case, we have another dynamic as well. They worship Golden Calves, and convince themselves that they are doing the right thing. How much self-delusion does that take? What is the impact of this much cognitive dissonance on the society around them?

  2. Pingback: VaYeitzei – Man of Truth | Haftarot Unrolled

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