I’ve got problem with the haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol – Malachi 3:4-24. In previous musings on this haftarah I’ve held it up as an example of G”d’s infinite patience and forgiveness. I talked about how the charges that G”d levels at the Jewish people and could easily be made today. I’ve also talked, in more than one musing, about how the haftarah’s focus on a future redemption might only serve to increase our present apathy – that we need to focus on the here and now, do as the ha lakhma anya suggests and open our doors to those who are hungry in the here and now. They should not have to wait for Elijah and the coming messianic age.
הָא לַחְמָא עַנְיָא דִּי אֲכָֽלוּ אַבְהָתָֽנָא בְּאַרְעָא דְמִצְרָֽיִם. כָּל דִּכְפִין יֵיתֵי וְיֵכוֹל, כָּל דִּצְרִיךְ יֵיתֵי וְיִפְסַח.
Ha lakhma anya di achalu avhatana b'ara d'mitzrayim. Kol dichfin yeitei v'yeichol, kol ditzrich yeitei v'yifsach.
This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat, let all who are in need come and partake of our Paschal offering.
I’ve spoken of how family gatherings around Pesach can be stressful, and we ought perhaps not wait for Eliyahu to come and turn the hearts of parents and children to each other – and make it happen ourselves.
This week, as I was reviewing the haftarah, I had a sudden, strong feeling about it that I’ve not never quite felt before. I’ve tried to make a note for myself to describe what I was feeling, and wrote this:
The price of the triumph of the righteous over the wicked is a G"d who destroys evil. But G"d will turn the hearts of parents to children and children to parents so that we won't have to be wiped out. The evil won’t be around to witness that largesse, will they? Hmmmmm.
I’m not happy with the price for the triumph of righteousness. It’s too high. It’s the ten plagues and needless suffering of the Egyptians when G”d hardened Pharaoh’s heart all over again. Why does the price of the triumph of righteousness always seem to require the death and suffering of the the wicked and evil? Where is the forgiveness here? Where is the chance for repentance?
G”d will remember those who have been righteous and faithful. The rest of you – well, it’s not pretty. You’ll be burnt to ashes. You won’t be around to have your hearts and the hearts of your children reconciled.
Where is the line, G”d? How is it determined just how righteous and just how wicked someone has been? Is it truly possible that there are more than a mere handful of those who have always been truly righteous all of the time?
I’m not buying it. Wedding out and destroying the wicked is the lazy way out. Not to mention, G”d, if people are really saying things like:
אֲמַרְתֶּ֕ם שָׁ֖וְא עֲבֹ֣ד אֱלֹהִ֑ים וּמַה־בֶּ֗צַע כִּ֤י שָׁמַ֙רְנוּ֙ מִשְׁמַרְתּ֔וֹ וְכִ֤י הָלַ֙כְנוּ֙ קְדֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית מִפְּנֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת׃
You have said, “It is useless to serve God. What have we gained by keeping His charge and walking in abject awe of the LORD of Hosts?
maybe, just maybe, G”d you need to examine your end of things, and consider what You might have done to bring about this sorry state of circumstances. If people are practicing sorcery, committing adultery, swearing falsely, cheating laborers of their hire, and are subverting the cause of the widow, orphan, and stranger, it seems like a major systemic breakdown. You’re going to blame that entirely on humanity? You setup the system. Do You bear no responsibility?
How many people are committing all these offenses simultaneously? Might not one who is failing to tithe properly still be fulfilling their obligation to the poor, widow,and orphan? Might no less be true for the adulterer, the sorcerer, the cheater, the liar? Are those who are doing this evil things only doing evil? Are they evil 24/7? What if they’re evil only 24/6?
Abraham maybe didn’t go far enough with his asking G”d if the innocent would be swept away with the wicked. Maybe he needed to ask: will you sweep away even the least transgressor?
I’ll admit that maybe my viewpoint is naïve and simplistic.It might also change next year, or tomorrow. I’ll also agree that humanity is indeed responsible for trying to do the right things, and to do things right (those are not the same, by the way, but that’s a discussion for another time.) No matter your personal understanding of G”d and Judaism, it is certainly a basic understanding that instructions were given to the Jewish people on how to do the right thing. To some extent Torah touches upon how to do things right, but only through rabbinic Judaism (or, if you accept the concept, oral torah) do we have a clearer understanding of how to do many of the things Torah asks us to do.
All that being said, right here and right now I can’t get past my my dissatisfaction with the price of the triumph of righteousness. G”d says:
שׁ֤וּבוּ אֵלַי֙ וְאָשׁ֣וּבָה אֲלֵיכֶ֔ם
Turn back to Me, and I will turn back to you
Hey G”d, why don’t You go first?
©2018 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings on this parasha/haftarah:
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5777 - Payback: An Excerpt From the Diary of Moses (Updated)
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5775 - Two Way Street (Revised)
Tzav/Shabbat Zachor 5774 - Does G"d Need a Shrink?
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5773 - The Doorway to Return
Tzav/Shabbat Hagadol 5772 - Not Passive
Tzav (Purim) 5771 - A Purim Ditty
Tzav 5769 - Payback: An Excerpt From the Diary of Moses
Tzav 5768 - Jeremiah's solution (Updated from 5761)
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5767-Redux 5762-Irrelevant Relavancies
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5766 - Dysfunction Junction
Tzav 5765 (updated 5760)-Of IHOPs, Ordination and Shabbat
Tzav/Shabbat HaGadol 5764-Two Way Street
Tzav 5763 - Zot Torahteinu?
Tzav 5761/5759-Jeremiah's Solution