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The fourth of the seven prophecies of comfort from Yeshayahu, this step in the process of Redemption involves the return of prophecy.

Linear annotated translation of the Haftarah of Shoftim

The Haftarah mentions two forms of prophecy, both of which can be found in Parshat Shoftim: Seeing Eye to Eye

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Shoftim – Seeing Eye to Eye

As the fourth of the series of seven Haftarot of Consolation, the Haftarah of Shoftim talks about the return of prophecy. In the Tanach, prophecy is described in two ways: as speech, and as sight. The first of these is defined in Parshat Shoftim:

נָבִיא אָקִים לָהֶם מִקֶּרֶב אֲחֵיהֶם כָּמוֹךָ וְנָתַתִּי דְבָרַי בְּפִיו וְדִבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶם אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּנּוּ:
I will establish for them a prophet from among their brothers like yourself, and I will place My words in his mouth, and he will speak to them, all that I command him. (Devarim 18:18)

The job of a prophet is to receive a message from G-d, and to pass it on to the Jewish People. The Haftarah describes it thus:

וָאָשִׂים דְּבָרַי בְּפִיךָ וּבְצֵל יָדִי כִּסִּיתִיךָ לִנְטֹעַ שָׁמַיִם וְלִיסֹד אָרֶץ וְלֵאמֹר לְצִיּוֹן עַמִּי אָתָּה
I will put My words in your mouth, I will shade you with My hand, while I stretch out the sky and form the earth, and say to Tzion: You are My people.
(Yeshayahu 51:16)

The full manifestation of being G-d’s People is the ability to communicate with Him directly. We receive His undiluted message, and we know precisely what He wants us to do.
But there is a level that is even higher than that. Prophets are also described as צופה, “lookout” – one who sees into the distance. This level is also mentioned in the Haftarah:

קוֹל צֹפַיִךְ נָשְׂאוּ קוֹל יַחְדָּו יְרַנֵּנוּ כִּי עַיִן בְּעַיִן יִרְאוּ בְּשׁוּב ה’ צִיּוֹן:
Your lookouts will raise their voices, together they will sing; for they will see eye to eye, as Hashem returns to Tzion. (Yeshayahu 52:8)

The Midrash sees this level of prophecy as being even greater than that of Moshe Rabbeinu:

אמר הקב”ה בעה”ז על שהיו רואין את כבודי היו כלין שנאמר (שמות לג) כי לא יראני האדם וחי – אבל לעתיד לבוא כשאחזיר שכינתי לציון אני נגלה בכבודי על כל ישראל והן רואין אותי וחיים לעולם שנאמר (ישעיה נב) כי עין בעין יראו בשוב ה’ ציון
G-d said: In this world, if people see My glory, they can’t survive it, as it says, “For no man can see Me and live” (Shemot 33), but in the Future, when I bring My Presence back to Tzion, I will appear in My glory to all of Israel, and they will see Me and live forever, as it says, “for they will see eye to eye, as Hashem returns to Tzion”. (Midrash Tanchuma Bamidbar 17)

This Midrash refers to the time after the sin of the Golden Calf, after G-d had already forgiven the Jewish People. Moshe Rabbeinu asked G-d to show him His glory. G-d refused, saying,

(כ) וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא תוּכַל לִרְאֹת אֶת פָּנָי כִּי לֹא יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם וָחָי:
He said, “You will not be able to see My “face”, for no man can see Me and still live.” (Shemot 33:20)

The Midrash says that while Moshe Rabbeinu could not see G-d, in the future, at the time of the Redemption, the Jewish People will have no problem perceiving G-d’s full glory and His full Presence. The proof of this is the verse from our Haftarah, “they will see eye to eye”.
What was it that Moshe couldn’t see, that we will be able to see? This term, “eye to eye” is not very common in the Tanach, appearing only three times. In two of those times, the Haftarah and one other, it refers to prophecy. The third time appears in Parshat Shoftim:

וְדָרְשׁוּ הַשֹּׁפְטִים הֵיטֵב וְהִנֵּה עֵד שֶׁקֶר הָעֵד שֶׁקֶר עָנָה בְאָחִיו:וְלֹא תָחוֹס עֵינֶךָ נֶפֶשׁ בְּנֶפֶשׁ עַיִן בְּעַיִן שֵׁן בְּשֵׁן יָד בְּיָד רֶגֶל בְּרָגֶל:
And the judges will analyze it carefully, and find that it is false witness; he witnessed falsely against his brother. Do not spare him; life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, arm for arm, leg for leg. (Devarim 19: 18-19)

These verses are talking about a case when people lie to the court to get a particular person punished for crimes that he did not commit. The law is that whatever they had planned for their victim must be done to them.

Now we know, based on a similar phrase of “eye for an eye” elsewhere in the Torah, that “for” refers to monetary compensation, the way one buys merchandize “for” money. However, the fact that the Torah says it so starkly has a purpose. It tells us that in the ideal world, in the world of pure Truth, what the person deserves is literally an “eye for an eye”. From the prophetic perspective, a person who planned to use the system of justice to cause harm to another person, deserves to have that identical harm boomerang back to him in every respect. Unfortunately, in the real world, it is not practical to do so with perfect precision, and it is more likely to cause injustice than otherwise. Thus money serves as a representation, the closest approximation of justice and truth.
Moshe Rabbeinu asked if He could see G-d’s “face”, that is, the pure justice and meaning in how He runs the world. G-d answered him that in the real world, or more precisely, the world that we currently know as real, this is not possible. The disconnect between the prophetic eye and the physical eye is too great. They cannot be aligned.

The Haftarah tells us that the future world will be different. G-d’s Presence will be so strong and His relationship with the Jewish People will be so pure and unobstructed, that the physical eye and the prophetic eye will align perfectly. There will be no disconnect between them, no warping in the lens of pure truth and justice. When we shall see, “eye to eye”, the Return to Tzion, we will also be able to see, “eye to eye”, G-d’s justice and meaning in His world.

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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

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Filed under Connections, Sefer Devarim, Sheva de'Nechemta, Shoftim


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