Vayishlach - 5761
that is read on Shabbat Parshat Vayishlach is the entire Book of Ovadiah.
This "Sefer" is the shortest book in the entire "TANAKH,"
or Hebrew Bible, not to mention its being the shortest book in the "Trei
Asar," the twelve "Minor" Prophets. Those twelve books
are "minor" only in quantity, not in quality or significance
"L'dorot," for all generations.
Who was the
Ovadiah of our Haftarah?
some doubt about the identity of the prophet who received these prophesies
from HaShem and transmitted them to the People of Israel; that is, which
Ovadiah was it? According to CHAZAL,
the Rabbis of the Talmud, he was one and the same with the Ovadiah who
served, oddly enough, as a high official in the court of Achav and Izevel. Now this not-so-royal pair had a strong penchant for
idol-worship and, especially the foreign-born Queen Izevel (Jezebel),
harbored a murderous hatred for the Prophets of HaShem.
to the King and Queen, Ovadiah protected and supported one hundred prophets
who were hidden in a cave, exhausting all his resources in this effort.
This impoverished his own family, to the point where his widow was on
the verge of losing their two sons to a creditor, until she was helped
miraculously by the Prophet Elisha. But
that was the tale of another Haftarah; namely, that associated with Parshat
Vayera, taken from II "Melachim"/Kings Chapter 4, that we read
Haftarah, Ovadiah prophesies terrible punishment for the nation of Edom,
that was his national origin, before his conversion to Judaism. But, as we shall see, the reference may include all the
nations who persecuted Israel.
begins with one of the harshest expressions associated with prophecy;
namely, "Chazon," a dark vision of punishment. The Midrash
Yalkut Shimoni on the Book of Iyov
(Job) comments that HaShem,
as it were, criticized Eliphaz the son of Esav, Esav being the Father of
Edom, who was one of the so-called "friends" who came to comfort Iyov over
his great losses, "You 'comforted' Iyov falsely and began with the word
'Chazon,' implying falsely that Iyov had sinned. So will I bring from the ranks of your own People a Prophet
who will denounce and proclaim disastrous punishment against your People,
because of its sins."
occurrence of the word "Chazon" is at the beginning of the famous
prophecy that Yeshayahu
spoke to the Jewish People, and
which is recited on "Shabbat Chazon," the Shabbat before Tishah
B'Av, the day of the destruction of both of the Holy Temples, the
saddest day on the Hebrew Calendar.
Summary of the Haftarah with Selective Commentary
answers the implicit question, "Why was Ovadiah specifically chosen to
deliver the harsh condemning message to Edom, the descendants of Esav?"
He says that Ovadiah lived in close company with two wicked
individuals, King Achav and Queen Izevel, and yet did
not learn from their behavior! Esav,
on the other hand, lived in "close company" with two righteous
individuals, his parents, Yitzchak and Rivkah, and should
have learned from their behavior!
begins his commentary on this Chapter by stating that Esav/Edom is being
criticized here for the evil and non-brotherly behavior that they exhibited
at the time of the Destruction by Rome of the Second
Temple (see more on this in connection with Ovadiah 1:10).
makes the historical observation that the People of Edom no longer live in
the Land of Edom for, as the Talmud
says, the nations were blended and mixed one with the other by the
conquering Babylonians, but rather are dispersed among the Christian and
Moslem nations. But HaShem will
be able to find and punish them nonetheless at the "End of Days,"
when the Jewish People return to the Land of Israel.
"Behold, I have made you small
explains the meaning of this statement by HaShem, "Your parents,
Yitzchak and Rivkah, both considered you their eldest son.
But in My eyes, says HaShem, you are the youngest and the least
worthy. In a similar vein,
CHAZAL say that "You are primitive, because you have developed neither
a distinctive language nor a distinctive script.
quotes the Targum Yonatan who
interprets "small" as wicked; that is, "you are the most
wicked among the nations."
"You are greatly despised"
Yaakov, about whom the Torah records that when he left "Be'er Sheva,"
it made an impression there), "your departure and absence would make no
impression; you would be missed by no one."
"O Thou who dwells in the clefts of the
explains the term "chagvei ha-sela," that RASHI
interpreted as "clefts of the rock," as something different;
namely the "top" of the rock, specifically, the tower built upon
Ovadiah 1:5 - 1:6
"If thieves come to rob you,
they will only
take what they need; if trespassers come to steal from your vineyards
will leave at least the young grapes. How
was Esav cleaned out completely
compares the fate that awaits Esav, when he will be reduced to nothing, to
the fate of victims of ordinary infringement upon their property rights,
when the perpetrator takes some things, but leaves others. When HaShem punishes Esav, it will be the end of him.
"For the violence done to your brother Yaakov,
shame shall cover you
There is a
dispute among the commentators as to what was the "violence"
referred to in this "Passuk"/Verse.
the Ib'n Ezra are of the opinion
that it refers to actions done and words said, and other actions not done by
Edom at the time of the Destruction of the First
Temple by the Babylonians,
as referred to by the dirge, "Remember, HaShem, to the Children of Edom
the Day of Yerushalayim, when they said 'Destroy, O destroy it to its
very foundations!' " And this song was sung in "Bavel,"
Babylonia, by the Jews in mourning over their Exile from Jerusalem.
Ib'n Ezra continues, "It is written 'Your sin is done with, O daughter
of Zion, He will not return to exile you again; your sin is remembered, O
daughter of Edom.' Nevuchadnezzar
did indeed conquer and destroy Edom, and Yechezkel prophesied that Israel
would return after being exiled to Babylon, but Edom would never
RADAK is of the opinion that the violence referred to occurred at the time of the Destruction of the Second Temple, when the People of Edom actually took an active role in the destruction, but they and much of that section of the world were under the rule of the Roman Empire and in that sense only, the role of Edom could be seen as indirect.
the day that you stood apart
asks on his own interpretation that the crime Esav/Edom is being accused of
relates to events that occurred during the destruction of the Second Temple, it would seem that the involvement of Edom in that
event was direct, not indirect! For
the wicked Titus himself who, according to the Talmud in Masechet Gittin
desecrated the Holy of Holies in a very despicable way, and who was the
commander of the Roman Legions who destroyed the Temple Mount and the City
of Jerusalem, was an Edomite! He
answers that since the central power of the Roman Empire was in Rome, and
not in Edom, the participation of that nation, now even more horrendous, can
still be called indirect.
the day of his estrangement
on the day of their destruction
on the day
of their suffering
Hebrew words for estrangement, destruction, and suffering
- nachro, avdam, tzarah - have almost the same Hebrew
letters as Nevuchadnezzar; - a possible support for RASHI
and the Ibn Ezra, who say that
Esav/Edom is being punished for lack of support for the Jews at the time of the destruction of the First Temple, when the
Destroyers were the Babylonians, led by Nevuchadnezzar.
should not have entered the gate of my people on the day of their tragedy nor observed his misfortune on the day of his tragedy
nor put forth your hand into his treasure on the day of his tragedy.
three-fold repetition of the word for tragedy Eidam, Eido,
Eido is like a drumbeat on a word that sounds like Edom.
should not have stood at the cross-roads to cut down the refugees
explains that the Edomites stood at the crossroads to tell the Babylonians
in which direction the fleeing Jews had run.
Ovadiah turns his attention away from Esav/Edom for a moment to prophecy a
similar fate for all nations who
have persecuted the Jewish People:
the Day of the L-rd is coming upon all the nations; as you did, so will be
done to you, your reward will come back upon you.
is invoked HaShems Midah (characteristic) of paying back measure
for measure; that is, reward for good and punishment for evil.
as you feasted on My Holy Mountain, all the nations who did so will drink
from the cup of poison; they will drink, and groan, and become as
again it seems that Ovadiah is using the effect of sound to achieve a
dramatic effect -
vsha-tu, vla-u, vha-yu klo ha-yu; a measured march down
the road to oblivion.
the House of Yaalov will be a fire, and the house of Yoseph will be a torch,
and the House of Esav will be stubble - and the fire will kindle them and
consume them, and there will be no remainder from the House of Esav, for the
L-rd has spoken.
we see Yaakov acting with his ben ze-kunim, the child of his old age,
his beloved son Yoseph, who magnified Yaakovs power in the world, acting
together at the end of days to finally bring an end to Esav and the
rule of evil in the world.
the Exiles of the Children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites,
even unto Tzarfat; and the Exiles of Yerushalayim, who are in Sepharad,
shall possess the cities of the south.
Tzarfat as France, and Sepharad as Spain.
a Midrash that the reference to Canaanim refers to nations who escaped from
the conquest of Yehoshua and fled to Ashkenaz, or Germany, and are
still called Canaanim. Perhaps
the reference is to Nazi Germany, which attempted the genocide of the Jewish
People, but were crushed in World War II, and the Jewish People emerged from
that conflict to return to Eretz Yisrael.
the saviors will rise up on the Mt. Of Zion, to judge the Mountain of Esav,
and the Kingdom will be HaShems.
RASHI explains that this verse teaches that the Kingdom of HaShem will not be complete until Amalek, a descendant of Esav, a nation that was and perhaps is the essence of evil, will be totally eradicated. With the destruction of Nazi Germany, perhaps that goal was accomplished. Or perhaps, as the RADAK said above, Esav/Edom is now intermixed among the Christian and the Islamic nations, and we still must fight against the ceaseless hatred of the Arab world.
But Ovadiah prophesies here that ultimately that goal will be accomplished, and HaShem will be King over all the earth.
major connection is:
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU