Parasha Vayetzei

Allow me to deviate slightly.   For some time I have been stuck on the parsha for the week.   Last year I recall reading a commentary on the Haftarah for this week and made a mental note to myself to bring out one of its most salient points.

Several theories address the implementation of the Haftarah as we now know it.  The most prevalent explanation is that it came about in response to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanies, which preceded the Maccabean revolt; during that time Torah reading was prohibited.   Therefore, our forefathers read publicly from the Neviim or Prophets.   Ultimately, they were allowed to read from the Torah, but we continue with the Haftarah practice to this day.

The Haftarah is thematically linked to the parsha that precedes it.   Unlike the Shabbat reading, which is a continuous reading of Torah without omission, the Haftarah is only a portion from either the Former or Later Prophets.  One tidbit I derived in preparing this is that two of the prophetic books are read completely as Haftarot, the Book of Obadiah, which consists of only 21 verses, and the Book of Jonah, which is the Haftarah for Mincha on Yom Kippur.   All other Haftarot are only read in part.   Someday we could have a class on the nexus or connection of the various Haftarot to the particular parshiot.

The Haftarah for Parshat Vayeitzei is taken from the book of Hosea, one of the greatest prophets.  In both the Torah and Haftarah, we see Jacob fleeing his home and agreeing to work seven years for the hand of Rachel.  The essence of what I delight in and direct us to is the concept that even though the people have erred, God, like a spurned but still merciful father, reiterates the pledge that Israel will remain his people simply because it (Israel) is innately good and will ultimately repent.   Hosea continues to spread doom and gloom. We are told while God does not forget sins, he will not abandon his nation.

Hosea's frightening warning concludes with a loving call to repentance.  If I could say it more poignantly, I would.   The commentary notes, "Israel has sinned grievously, but its essence remains good; it has stumbled into sin.  The potential for repentance remains, and God is ready to forgive."  We really do have something to look forward to.  No matter what has transpired in this New Year, we can still overcome anything and need not despair.  I pray that we can all find the good in each other as we enter the joyous month of Kislev and the soon-approaching secular New Year together.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham