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Book of Hosea

Chapter 1
WHY START THE TWELVE "MINOR" PROPHETS NOW?

According to an ancient tradition, the order of the NEVI'IM ("prophets") as written


in the scroll of the TaNaCh was: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
Isaiah and "the Twelve" (="minor" prophets). The Talmud asks why Isaiah is placed
AFTER Jeremiah and Ezekiel, since he lived several generations earlier. It answers
that since the book of Kings ends with the destruction of the Temple, it is fitting to
read Jeremiah directly after it since his main theme is destruction. Ezekiel begins
with destruction and ends with comfort, while Isaiah is all comfort, and thus
destruction comes next to destruction and comfort next to comfort (Bava Basra
14b).

The Twelve "minor" prophets are not minor in the sense that they were any less in
spiritual stature than the "major" prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel but only
because their surviving written prophecies are much shorter. These twelve short
prophetic works are accounted as one book and written together in a single scroll
so that they should not get lost, which would be easy if each was on a separate
small scroll.

The first of The Twelve is Hosea. The Talmud (ibid.) explains that the book of Hosea
ought to have been written before that of his contemporary Isaiah because Hosea
started prophesying first. However, since, for the reason given above, Hosea's
prophecy was included in the same scroll as Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, who
came well after Isaiah at the end of the period of the prophets at the time of the
building of the Second Temple, the entire book of the twelve "minor" prophets is
placed after Isaiah in the traditional order of the books of the Bible. [The Talmud
states that it was Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and the Men of the Great Assembly
who wrote the twelve "minor" prophets in one scroll when they saw that Holy Spirit
was departing from the world: they wrote down their own prophecies and included
with them those of the earlier "minor" prophets in order to ensure they would not
get lost. Bava Basra 15a, Rashi ad loc.]

Despite the fact that in the traditional order Ezekiel comes after Kings, we have
followed a different order in our Bible study, because after completing Kings II we
went directly to Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, which are contained in KESUVIM
(=writings), the third component of TaNaKh. The reason for doing so was to study
the HISTORY of Israel consecutively, since Daniel picks up the narrative of the exile
to Babylon exactly where the last two chapters of Kings II leave off. (When people
follow Kings II with Isaiah or Ezekiel etc. they normally reach Daniel etc. only very
much later and easily become confused about the history and chronology.)

Having completed our study of the biblical books that are mainly devoted to
historical narrative (with the exception of II Chronicles, which retells for a
somewhat different purpose the history of Israel until the exile in Babylon), we
should now have an overall grasp of the historical framework within which to gain
deeper understanding of the prophets. They were addressing the people of their
time in the historical conditions in which they were caught up – and thus make
constant references to the national and international realities of their times. At the
same time, their prophecies are the Word of God as addressed to all the
generations to come, and they are as relevant today as they were when they were
first spoken. Through clearer understanding of the historical context in which they
prophesied, we can better know how their message applies to us in the world we
live in today. Since history is cyclical, the spiritual roots of the situation we face
today lie deeply embedded in the situation addressed by the prophets.

The reason for studying The Twelve "minor" prophets before approaching the
lengthy books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel is that the study of The Twelve
serves as an excellent introduction to the language and methods of the prophets,
which are very different from most of the historical narratives we have studied until
now.

WHO WAS HOSEA?

Verse 1 of our present chapter tells us that Hosea ben Be'eri prophesied in the days
of Uziah, Yotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and Yerav'am ben Yo'ash
king of Israel (see Kings II chs 14-20). Uziah came to the throne 223 years before
the destruction of the First Temple. It was in the time of Hezekiah, who died 110
years before the destruction, that the Ten Tribes were taken into exile in the year
3205 (555 B.C.E.).

Hosea's father Be'eri is Be'erah mentioned in I Chronicles 5:6 as prince of the tribe
of Reuven, and he was also a prophet (Isaiah 8:19-20). From verse 2 of our
present chapter the rabbis learned that Hosea was the first of four great prophets
who prophesied in the same period. The other three were Amos, Isaiah, and Michah.
Hosea received Torah from Zechariah son of Yehoyada the High Priest, who
received it from Elisha. Hosea was the greatest of the four prophets of his time, and
he taught Amos, who in turn taught Isaiah, who taught Michah (Rambam,
Introduction to Mishneh Torah). Hosea prophesied for ninety years (Pesachim 87a).
"Said the Holy One blessed be He to Reuven: You were the first to repent. By your
life, your son's son will stand up and be the first to open up with Teshuvah, as it is
written, Return, Israel to the Lord your God" (Hosea 14:2, Bereishis Rabbah 84:18).
Hosea's reproofs were primarily directed against the Ten Tribes under the
leadership of Ephraim. The gravesite of Hosea is said to be in a burial cave in the
old cemetery of Safed in the Galilee, which can be visited until today. However
some authorities dispute this identification, stating that the grave in question is that
of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hananiya. Some believe the grave of the prophet Hosea to
be east of the River Jordan.

"GO TAKE FOR YOURSELF A WIFE OF HARLOTRY AND CHILDREN OF


HARLOTRY" (v 2)

Z'NOOS (="harlotry"), a recurrent theme in Hosea, is a metaphor for faithlessness


to God – forsaking one's true "husband" and going after other "lovers"=idols (cf.
Numbers 15:39, recited twice daily in the third paragraph of Shema). In Hosea's
time the Children of Israel reached the lowest level both in relation to God and in
their behavior to one another. The rabbis stated that God hinted to Hosea that he
should pray for the people, but he replied that God should change them for another
people (an early example of "replacement theology"). "The Holy One blessed be He
said, What can I do with this elder. I'll tell him to take a harlot who will bear
children who may nor may not be his, and I'll tell him to send them away. If he
agrees, I too will send Israel away. So it was: Hosea married Gomer bas Divlayim,
a known harlot, who bore him children who were given names alluding to their
future fate, but when God asked Hosea to divorce and send them away, Hosea
began asking for mercy so that they could stay with him. The Holy One blessed be
He said to Hosea: This wife is not loyal to you and the children are not definitely
yours but you still want them. How then can you tell me to send away Israel , the
children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, one of the possessions I have acquired in the
world? Hosea immediately understood that he had erred in what he said and
begged for mercy on Israel " (Pesachim 87a).

Some of the rabbis took Hosea's marriage with this harlot as having happened
literally (Pesachim 87a), while others saw it as essentially a prophetic allegory (see
Targum Yonasan and RaDaK on v 2).

The prophecy in the present chapter deals with:

vv 1-3: Hosea's marriage with the harlot.

vv 4-5: The birth of the son Yizra'el (="God will scatter") and the prophecy of the
punishment that would be visited on the house of Yehu ben Nimshi, who had shed
the blood of the house of Ahab (="the blood of Yizra'el", the location where they
were killed, II Kings ch 9) but who later practiced idolatry himself.

vv. 6-7: Birth of the daughter Lo-Ruhamah (="not shown love"), a prophecy of the
punishment of Israel and comfort to Judah .

vv. 8-9: Birth of the son Lo-Ami (="not My people"), a metaphor of God's
abandonment of Israel .

Chapter 2
This chapter of consolation follows directly after the first chapter dealing with
punishment as if to indicate that after God told him to marry a harlot etc. Hosea
realized he had sinned in having earlier said that God should divorce the unfaithful
nation (Pesachim 87b; Rashi on v 1). "What connection is there between chapters 1
and 2? It can be compared to a king who was angry with his wife and summoned
the scribe to write her a GET (=bill of divorce), but by the time the scribe arrived,
the king was reconciled with his wife. He said, How can I send this scribe away
wondering why I summoned him? The king told the scribe to write a new KESUBAH
(marriage contract) double the value of the first" (Sifrei quoted by Rashi on v 1).

Vv. 1-3: Prophecy of consolation and redemption, opposite of the harsh prophecy of
the previous chapter. Verse 2 prophecies the reunification of Judah and Israel, who
will appoint over themselves "one head" (=Mashiach) and come up from "the land"
(=exile). "…for great is the day of Yizre'el, i.e. the day of their ingathering from
having been "sown" (ZARA) and "scattered" by God. Thus Hosea, who lived even
before the exile of the Ten Tribes, was looking at the entire sweep of history that
will culminate in the healing of the split between Judah and the Ten Tribes and their
reconciliation under King Messiah.

"Say to your brothers, My people and to your sisters, Shown love" (v 3). Metzudas
David and RaDaK (in the name of Rav Sa'adia Gaon) interpret: "You, the children of
Judah and Benjamin, say of your brothers, the children of the Ten Tribes, that they
are My People just like you… and likewise say Shown-Love of the women of the Ten
Tribes". In this verse Jews thus have a clear directive to reach out to the returning
members of the Ten Tribes and help them return to their Israelite roots.
Vv. 4-7: God reproves Israel as a "harlot" for having replaced him with idols. He
threatens that this will lead to her returning to her condition of nakedness as it was
prior to the redemption from Egypt (v 5).

"For their mother has played the harlot. She who conceived them has acted
shamefully" (v 7): "Their very sages and teachers are ashamed before the people
because they say to them 'Don't steal' while they themselves steal, and they preach,
'Don't lend upon interest' while they do precisely that" (Rashi ad loc.

"For she said, I will go after those who love me"(v 7). RaDak (ad loc.) explains that
on one level "those who love me" are Egypt and Ashur, with whom Israel tried to
make a covenant [just as today Israel thinks U.S. and the European Union etc. are
her "friends"], while on another level they refer to the sun, moon and constellations
which they worshipped idolatrously.

Vv. 8-15: Specifies the penalty for abandoning God. V 13 is explained by the rabbis
as alluding to the destruction of the Temple, turning the month of Av into a time of
mourning (Taanis 29b).

Vv. 16-20: God's attempt to bring the Assembly of Israel back to him. "I will allure
her and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her" (v 16): Targum
explains that in the future redemption God will do wonders and miracles just as He
did in the wilderness. (Those of us who feel we are living in a kind of wilderness
today can also constantly see and feel His miracles as He draws us to him!)

Vv. 21-22: God strikes a renewed, eternal Covenant with Israel. When men wind
the leather RETZUA-strap of the arm TEFILIN as a "wedding ring" around the
fingers and hand to form the letters SHIN-DALET-YUD, it is customary to recite
these verses.

Vv. 23-25: Prophecy of consolation and restoration of the nation to its previous
status. "And I shall sow her for me in the land…" (v 25). Just as one sows a small
measure of seed and harvests a very great measure, so through God's "sowing" the
Children of Israel in their lands of exile, they will bring back very many converts
(Pesachim 87b).

This whole chapter, which tells how Israel are numberless as the sand of the sea, is
read as the Haftara to parshas Bamidbar, which is read in May-June just before the
festival of Shavuos, and which speaks of the counting of the Children of Israel by
Moses in the wilderness .

Chapter 3
"Having completed his words of comfort, he now returns to words of reproof to the
people of his generation. This is the way of the prophets – to intermingle reproof
and comfort" (RaDaK on v 1).

V 1: Having previously commanded Hosea to marry an adulterous woman, God now


commands Hosea to love such a woman in spite of her disloyalty. This adulterous
woman is a prophetic metaphor for the people of Israel , whom God loves – albeit
seemingly from afar – despite their disloyalty. How now is God to show His love to
His people? In the coming verses the prophet takes a "long view" from the
beginning of Israel's nationhood until the very "end of days" (v 5), revealing that
God's love will take the form of the lengthy suffering of exile, which will eventually
bring the people back in search of what they have lost.
V 2: The PSHAT (literal meaning) appears to be that the prophet acquired his wife
as commanded through giving her KIDDUSHIN gifts of 15 silver coins and a
sizeable quantity of barley. As explained by Rashi based on Midrash, all this alludes
to God's acquisition of the people of Israel as His "wife" through the redemption
from Egypt on the FIFTEENTH of Nissan, and through giving them the redemptive
commandments of (1) each individual's silver half-shekel contribution to the
Temple and (2) the barley Omer offering brought on 16 th Nissan. Rashi himself as
well as numerous other midrashim also darshen this verse in many ways "…that the
Torah be made great and glorious".

V. 3: God's Covenant with His people was that the relationship should be "for many
days" ON CONDITION that the "wife" is loyal, and then He will be loyal to her. This
verse alludes to the first two of the Ten Commandments: "I am…" and "you shall
have no other gods…" (Exodus 20:2-3).

V 4: The people will remain in exile for "many days", waiting for redemption, and
God too will wait to be able to take them back as His people, but even in their exile
He will not chose another people. If there is no MELEKH (king) – if God appears not
to be with them in exile – at least there will not be any SAR (angel), i.e. even in
exile the will not worship an intermediary. If there is no ZEVAH (sacrifice in the
Temple), at least there will be no MATZEVA (idolatrous pillar altar). If there will be
no EPHOD (high priest's breastplate, URIM VE-THUMIM), at least there will be no
TERAPHIM (astrological divining instruments) (Metzudas David ad loc.).

V 5: After the days of exile, the Children of Israel will repent and seek out the three
things that they despised in the days of Rehaboam and Jeraboam: the kingship of
Heaven, the kingship of the House of David, and the Temple in Jerusalem. "And
they will seek out the Lord their God…" = the kingship of Heaven."And David their
king" = the kingship of the House of David. "And they will be filled with fear
towards God and to his goodness…" This refers to the Temple (Rashi ad loc. In the
name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai).

Chapter 4
This chapter begins a new prophecy of reproof that specifies in more detail the
component transgressions which together constitute Israel's infidelity to her
"husband", God.

V 1: God's "controversy" or argument against the inhabitants of the land is because


all three columns are flawed. There is no TRUTH (=TIFERES, the center column).
There is no KINDNESS (=CHESSED, the right arm of love) and there is no
KNOWLEDGE OF ELOKIM (no awareness of God's power of DIN, Judgment and
Strength=GEVURAH, the left arm of might). The three columns are supposed to be
manifested in the LAND (=MALCHUS, the receiving "vessel"), and the land is flawed
because they are not.

V 2: The catalog of false oaths, deception, murder, theft, immorality and adultery
until "blood leads to blood" and one terrible bloody strike follows another aptly
typifies certain areas of present-day Israeli society just as it typified the society in
the day of the prophet.

V 3: Characterization of the mourning of the land under the devastations of exile,


which affects the entire ecology of animals, birds and even the fish of the sea.
V 4: But the people do not want to hear the reproof, telling the true prophets not to
argue with them, while the people themselves argue against their own priests,
whose role is to teach them Torah.

Vv 5-10: Running away from the reproof of the true prophets, the people will
stumble together with their false prophets. The people have fallen to a state that is
the opposite of DA'AS (=true knowledge of God), and just as they have forgotten
the Torah, so God will "forget" their children (since at Sinai the people brought in
their own children as guarantors of the Covenant) producing generations of
assimilated Israelites. They will eat without being satisfied and fornicate but not
increase their population.

V 11: The root cause of the national malady lies in ZENOOS, "immorality"/disloyalty
to God and the preoccupation with "wine" – immediate gratification and the flight
into fantasy.

Vv 12-13: "My people ask counsel of a piece of wood, and their staff declares to
them" (v 12) – they seek out idols and follow what their false prophets say. Instead
of going up to the Temple, which was intended to be the single focus of worship of
the One God, the people are scattered, all in their own private cults. The fathers'
disloyalty to God leads to immorality among their daughters and daughters-in-law.

V 14 is darshened in Talmud Sotah as teaching that the plague of immorality will be


so widespread that the Bitter Waters that came to test whether a man's wife had
been disloyal would no longer be effective because the men folk themselves were
also immoral.

Vv 15-16: Admonition to Judah not to join with Israel or learn from their path. [It is
very tempting for the Torah observant to want to imitate those who have thrown
off the yoke when they see them living it up and apparently enjoying themselves
hugely.] For Israel is like a headstrong cow that has been fattened up and now
kicks, whereas God will in exile pasture them like a lamb, whose diet is more
skimpy (Rashi).

V 17: "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone". On PSHAT level the prophet is
saying that the Ten Tribes are so given over to idolatry that further reproof is
pointless. The Midrash learns from this verse: "Great is peace, because even if they
worship idols, if there is peace among them He cannot (as if) do anything to them.
But when they are divided among themselves, what does it say? 'Their heart is
divided, now they shall be found guilty'" (Hosea 10:2; Bereishis Rabbah 38).

V 18: The people's drunken mentality is far from God. It is their kings who initiated
this path of sin. But just as a strong wind sweeps a weak bird far from where it
wants to be, the wind of exile will sweep the people away until they become
ashamed of their idolatrous sacrifices.

Chapter 5
In studying Hosea (and the whole Bible) it is valuable to pay attention to the
original Hebrew parshahs (chapters or sections) as written in the parchment scroll
as opposed to the sometimes arbitrary chapter breaks that are conventionally used
in the majority of printed Bibles.

In many printed Hebrew Bibles (but not in the written scroll), the parshah breaks
are indicated by an enlarged Peh indicating PARSHAH PETHUHAH, an "open
parshah", or an enlarged Samach indicated PARSHAH SETHUMAH, a "closed
parshah". A Parshah Pethuhah is a more decisive break from what went before than
a Parshah Sethumah, as suggested by the manner in which they are respectively
written in the scroll. In the case of the parshah Pethuhah, the space that separates
it from the preceding section is wider and more obvious than in the case of a
Parshah Sethumah.

A Parshah Pethuhah is the equivalent of a chapter in itself – a section of the text


that has own theme and purpose. A Parshah Sethumah is less separate from the
Parshah that precedes it – it is more like a section break within a chapter.

Today's text, Hosea Chapters 5-6, makes up one whole prophecy. Ch 5 v 1 marks
the start of a new Parshah Pethuhah that runs until the end of Ch 5 v 7. Ch 5 Verse
8, "Blast the shofar…" begins a Parshah Sethumah which runs continuously in the
parchment scroll until the end of Ch 6 v 11. Thus the chapter break after 5:15 is
arbitrary, and while it highlights the call for repentance in 6:1, it actually disrupts
the continuity of the prophecy as a whole and its meaning. The real break in the
prophecy is where the Parshah Sethumah starts at 5:8: this creates a pause in the
prophecy before it continues further amplifying on the theme with which it started.
Verses 5:1-7 are Introductory; verse 5:8-6:11 are elaboration.

V 1. This is a prophecy addressed to the heart of Judah no less than it is to the Ten
Tribes, "Israel". RaDak explains (ad loc.) that the address to the Cohanim-priests
and the House of Israel is directed in particular to Judah, who is here included in
the generic Israel. The priests here are the true priests of God, who served in His
Temple in Jerusalem in the territory of Judah.

However the "house of the king" is understood as a specific reference to the kings
of Israel, the northern kingdom, who after the split with Judah in the time of
Rehav'am posted border police to forcibly prevent their people from going up to the
Temple in Jerusalem – these are the "trap in Mitzpah, and a snare spread upon
Tabor" (Rashi). Judah and Ephraim are involved together in the consequences of
this.

Vv 2ff: Ephraim's "original sin" of rebelling against the authority of the kingship of
David is the harlotry that has defiled the whole of people of Israel, including Judah
– but they find it impossible to abandon their ways and return to God – "and they
do not know HaShem": the essential flaw is in DA'AS, mind, ideas, knowledge,
consciousness.

V 5: Israel, Ephraim and Judah are all named here together – being interconnected,
the stumbling of one leads to the fall of the other.

V 6: "With their flocks and their oxen they will go to search out HaShem but they
will not find Him" – they have mistaken rote performance of ritual for true
repentance: this is because of their flawed Da'as. They do not know God and
therefore they do not know what He really wants.

Verse 7 is a general summary of the introductory part of the prophecy (vv 1-7):
"They have betrayed God…" Their intermarriage with the nations, literally and
ideologically, has spawned the "strange children" as a result of which the month of
Av – the destruction of the Temple – will consume their whole share. This is a
prophecy analyzing and explaining why destruction is on the way.
Now comes a BREAK, indicated by an enlarged Samach in the Hebrew printed text,
marking the start of a new Parshah Sethumah – in our case an amplification of the
introductory section, running continuously until the end of Ch 6.

Verse 8: The shofar blast is a warning of coming war and trouble, but all the
locations mentioned in the verse are in the territory of Benjamin, except for BEITH
AVEN (lit. "house of corruption"), which is in that of Ephraim. Targum allusively
relates Giv'ah to the request of the people to have a king – Saul – and Ramah (the
town of Samuel) to their rejection of Samuel's appeal to them not to take a king
but to serve only God. The original taking on of a temporal king is thus traced as
the root of the later rebellion against Judah by Ephraim and the Ten Tribes, leading
to the establishment of the idolatrous cult in Beith Aven, which is now drawing even
Benjamin – who remained loyal to Judah – after it, thus corrupting everything.

Vv 9-10: If Ephraim is facing devastation as the punishment for this, Judah is


chasing up behind. Hosea was foretelling the future that awaited both of them, with
the exile of the Ten Tribes (Ephraim) and the destruction of the Temple (Judah).

Vv 11-12: "Ephraim is oppressed… because he willingly went after the dictate", i.e.
the "dictates" and new commandments of the prophets of Baal. This is the cause of
the canker-worm eating away at Ephraim and the rot in the house of Judah.

V 13: The closing eras of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were marked by the
efforts of their kings to buy allies in the hope of saving themselves from their
enemies. The temporary alliance of Hoshea ben Elah with Assyria and Ahaz king of
Judah's bribery of Tiglath Pilesser to help him against Aram and Israel are said to
be alluded to here (Rashi ad loc.).

V 14: All their ploys will not succeed.

V 15: "I will go and return to My place…" This is the exile of the Shechinah from the
world (Talmud Rosh Hashanah 31a). This exile will continue "until they realize their
guilt and search out My face [God's presence], in their trouble they will seek Me."

The following verse, Chapter 6 v 1, is a direct continuation, telling us what they say
when they seek out God:

Chapter 6
V 1: "Go and let us return to HaShem…" The prophet is placing words of repentance
in the mouths of the people, encouraging them with the faith that just as God has
the power to chastise, so He has the power to heal.

V 2: Hosea takes a very long view of the history of Israel, encouraging the people
with the prophecy that "after two days He will revive us, on the third day He will
raise us up" – "He will strengthen us after the two punishments that have befallen
us, the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and raise us up with the
building of the Third Temple" (Rashi ad loc.).

V 3: "And let us KNOW, let us PURSUE to KNOW (DA'AS) HaShem…" The remedy
lies in DA'AS.

But the heart of the penitent can be fickle – how the YETZER RA ("evil inclination")
fights in the heart of one struggling to separate from a bad past and live a better
future. The people's kindness is "like a morning cloud and like dew that departs
early" (v 4).

V 5 "Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them with the
words of my mouth". This refers both to the death of many people in the coming
disasters and also to the slaying of true prophets, such as Zechariah son of
Yehoyada the High Priest, Uriah and Isaiah, because the people did not want to
hear their message.

V 6: This verse contains the essential message of Hosea and all the prophets: "I
want your kindness and not your sacrifices; I want your KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
rather than your burnt offerings".

V 7: "And they, like ADAM, violated the Covenant". This verse is the source of the
teaching that Adam "pulled back his foreskin" – denying the Covenant (Sanhedrin
38b). The nation thus repeats Adam's original sin.

Vv 8-11 characterize the strongholds of sinners in Gil'ad (Menashe) and Shechem


(Ephraim): These verses allude to the three cardinal sins of idolatry, murder and
adultery. The plague afflicts not only Ephraim but also Judah, whose backslidings
were to pull them into exile just as God was ready to restore the whole nation.

Chapter 7
As in the case of the two previous chapters, Hosea chapters 7-8 make up a single
prophetic discourse made up of two parts: a Parshah Pethuhah ("open section") =
Ch 7 vv 1-12, followed by a Parshah Sethumah ("closed section") = Ch 7 vv 13-16
with Ch 8 vv 1-14. The break between ch 7 v 16 and ch 8 v 1 is thus "artificial" and
interrupts the continuity of the prophecy.

The first part of the prophecy, Ch 7 vv 1-12, analyses the wickedness of the people,
which is bound up with the wickedness of their kings and rulers, comparing their
plotting of evil to a baker leaving his dough to rise (vv 4 and 6). Underlying the
reproof is the idea that this is blatant ingratitude for God's redemption of Israel
from Egypt, when their dough did not have time to rise before they hurriedly left
(see Targum Yonasan on v 4). As a result Ephraim will be a crude cake baked on
the coals and eaten up immediately – consumed by the nations of their exile: no
matter where they turn they will be trapped in God's "net".

The second part of the prophecy, from 7:13 to 8:14, amplifies on the sins that are
leading Israel into exile with Judah to follow. The essential rebellion is against God's
Covenant – His Torah (8:1). The people's choice to be governed by a temporal king
led them to make themselves gods of silver and gold, the calves of Jerabo'am, an
intermediary intended to "manipulate" God. Yet they will find that all their projects
and endeavors will be frustrated – they will sow to the wind and produce no flour
for real bread (8:7). Their turning to the nations for help will merely hasten their
exile (8:10), and because they have become strangers to God's Torah (8:12), they
will return to Egypt, the place of their original exile (8:13).

Ch 7 v 1: "When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was
uncovered". God wants to save and heal them, but at the very time of redemption
their sins rise to the fore. Whenever there is an arousal of holiness, there is a
corresponding arousal of impure forces. From this verse, the rabbis darshened that
God does not strike Israel unless He first creates the medicine to heal them
(Megillah 13b).
V 2: The people do not believe that God knows and remembers our deeds.

V 3: Their very kings and rulers are delighted at the people's evil and lies – the
people encourage their rulers in evil and vice versa.

V 4: The people are heated up with lust for adultery like a stoked oven, while the
"baker" rests, allowing his dough to rise and his immoral plans to come to fruition.
As mentioned earlier, Targum Yonasan on this verse contrasts the people's plotting
in this way with God's goodness to them in Egypt when He saved them before their
dough had time to rise.

V 5: The rulers are "drunk" and the king is in league with scoffers and scorners.
From this verse the Talmud derives the teaching that scoffers do not enter into the
presence of the Shechinah (Sotah 42a).

V 6-7: Further elaboration of the image of baking bread as a metaphor for the
plotting of sin and immorality that is causing national disaster. Rashi on v 7 brings
a midrash from Yerushalmi Avodah Zara 1:1 telling that on the day that Israel
chose Yerav'am (Jerabo'am) as king and asked him to make an idol, all the princes
were drunk. He told them to come back the next day when they would be sober,
giving them time to think about it all night like the baker leaving the dough to rise.
When they came back the next morning, he told them he feared the Sanhedrin, but
the people said they would kill them – "and they have devoured their judges".

V 8: "Ephraim has mingled himself among the peoples". "Mingled" (YITHBOLAL) has
the connotation of mixing a batter or dough, and also that of assimilation. "Ephraim
is as a cake not turned" – "like a cake baked on the coals that is not even turned
over before being consumed" (Targum Yonasan; Rashi).

Vv 9-10: The essential flaw lies on the level of DA'AS, knowledge and awareness:
the people do not even realize that all their power has been eaten up by strangers
and that advanced old age has set in. They do not even try to return to God.

Vv 11-12: Ephraim flits around like a silly dove seeking help from Egypt to Ashur –
not realizing that wherever they go, God's net is spread for them.

There is now a pause after v 12 followed by a Parshah Sethumah starting at verse


13 and continuing until the end of Ch 8. This section further elaborates the sins of
Israel that are making the punitive exile inevitable:

Vv 13-15: God wants to redeem Israel, but their rebellion is making the coming
disaster inevitable. They do not cry out to God with all their hearts – they only
complain and they are only interested in securing supplies of grain and wine.

The Talmud (Bavli Avodah Zarah 4a) darshens from these verses: "I would have
redeemed them, but they have spoken lies against Me"(v 13) – "I said I would
redeem them through monetary loss in this world in order that they should merit
the world to come, but they have spoken lies against Me" [complaining of their
suffering without understanding its purpose]. "Though I have trained them and
strengthened their arms, yet do they devise mischief against Me" (v 15) – "I said I
shall chastise them with suffering in this world in order to strengthen their hand in
the world to come, but they account it as evil".

V 16: Their turning to the nations for help will not avail them – they will simply go
into exile and fall.
Chapter 8
V 1: This is a direct continuation of the prophecy in Ch 7, calling on the people
again to take the shofar to sound a warning about the coming war that will lead to
the destruction of the very Temple itself as a result of the fundamental flaw of
transgressing the Covenant and abandoning the Torah.

V 2: Even when the people cry out to God, it is insincere and He will not answer
them.

Vv 4-6: It was the choice by the people of kings who were not divinely ordained
that led them to make idols of silver and gold – the calves of Jerabo'am – a sin
from which the people cannot cleanse themselves. Their idol is merely man-made
and will be shattered to pieces.

V 7: The entire national enterprise of idolatry is compared to sowing to the wind –


it will produce no tangible flour to eat, and even if it does, the nations will consume
it. The metaphor of futile sowing connects with the metaphors in Ch 7 vv 4, 6 in
which the people's plotting of evil was compared to a baker leaving his dough to
rise.

Vv 8-10: The irony is that the more efforts Israel will make to run after the nations,
the nearer they will bring their own feared exile.

Vv 11-13: Ephraim's idolatry goes contrary to the many Torah teachings that God
taught them through His prophets – but in the eyes of the people they are strange
and irrelevant. Even their rituals of sacrifice in the Temple find no favor with God:
the decree is sealed and the people will return to exile in Egypt (as happened after
the destruction of the First Temple , when those who escaped captivity by the
Babylonians sought refuge in Egypt , where they died).

V 14: Israel has forgotten his Maker and is concerned only to build palaces, while
Judah has built a multitude of fortified cities – but all will be consumed by fire.

Chapter 9
Chapter 9 v 1 begins a new prophecy, the first section of which is contained in vv
1-9, followed, after a break, by a longer second section (PARSHAH SETHUMAH)
running continuously from ch 9 v 10 until ch 10 v 8. The conventional chapter
break at 10:1 is arbitrary, interrupts the continuity of the sense of the prophecy,
and does not correspond to the section breaks in the hand-written Hebrew scroll.

Section 1: Vv 1-9:

V 1: "Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy as other people…" The true joy of Israel is not
like that of other nations that did not receive the Torah and did not fall to God's lot
– but now that Israel has gone astray from God they have lost much good (Rashi).
Israel goes around like a harlot seeking sustenance and help from the nations
instead of depending on God.

V 2: As a punishment, their granaries and wine-vats will not sustain them.

V 3: Instead of dwelling in their own promised land, they will go into exile in Egypt
and Assyria.
V 4: Instead of offering pure sacrifices in God's Temple, they will eat impure food in
exile – for they eat only for their own gratification: this is not the way to bring
sacrifices to God.

V 5: What will you do on the day appointed for His vengeance – the day of God's
"feast", i.e. when He slaughters the people?

V 6: Prophecy of the exile that will ensue when destructive invaders enter the land.

V 7: After having been flawed with a lack of DA'AS (knowledge, Godly awareness),
the people will learn to know God's righteousness through the tribulations of exile,
which is the payment for their sins. Then they will see that the false prophets on
whom they relied for comfort were fools and madmen (Metzudas David).

V 8: Ephraim has his own "watcher", the false prophet who prophesied in the name
of their idol, who is nothing but a snare into whose trap the people will fall
(Metzudas David).

V 9: The sin of Ephraim was rooted in Giv'ah – alluding to the scandal of the
Concubine in Giv'ah (where the tribes of Israel initially failed in their campaign
against Benjamin owing to the presence of Michah's idol, Judges ch 19), or
alternatively this alludes to the people's request for a king made to Samuel at
Giv'ath Shaul (Rashi).

Section 2 of the prophecy: Chapter 9 v 10 – Chapter 10 v 8:

Ch 9 V 10: God originally chose Israel because they were like refreshing grapes in a
wilderness or the luscious first fruits of the fig tree – the founding fathers and the
generation of the Exodus were unique in the wilderness of the nations. However,
already during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the people sinned
with the Moabite women who caused them to become attached to their god, Baal
Pe'or (Numbers ch 25).

V 11-14: The prophet prefers that the people should flit away like a bird and stop
procreating: either they should have stillborn children, or abort their embryos, or
not even conceive, as this would be better than raising children only to see them
killed by their enemies, because Ephraim has become like the haughty Tyre

V 15: The prophet prays that their children should die young as the pain over the
death of a child is less than that over the death of an adult (Rashi).

"All their evil is in Gilgal…" The people sinned greatly with idolatrous altars in Gilgal
(which was in the territory of Ephraim) because the Sanctuary had originally been
in Gilgal and the later idolatrous prophets told the people that it was a propitious
place for sacrifice (Rashi).

Vv 16-17: Ephraim is smitten and dried at the roots, and cannot produce fruits –
future generations – because God has rejected them owing to their disobedience,
as a result they must go into exile. [Students of Hebrew may wish to consider
whether allusions to the founder of Islam are embedded in Hosea 9:6 and 16.]

Chapter 10
Verses 1-8 are the direct continuation of the parshah that began in ch 9 v 10.
V 1: Having earlier compared Israel to grapes in the wilderness ( 9:10 ) and having
prophesied the terrible fate awaiting their fruits – their children – Hosea now
complains that Israel is an empty vine – because their very fruitfulness and
prosperity caused them to sin.

V 2: "Their heart is divided…" i.e. from God: this is why they will be found guilty.

V 3: When the troubles of exile strike, they will realize that they have no king,
because the king in whom they trusted to go ahead of them and fight their battles
proved unable to help them (Rashi).

V 4: They talk indiscriminately, swearing falsely and striking covenants with the
nations, and just retribution will therefore sprout like bitter hemlock in a field
(Metzudas David).

V 5-7: The inhabitants of Shomron will succumb to panic over the idolatrous calves
of Beith-Aven (=Beith El, where Jeraboam set up his altar). This is a prophecy of
how the Assyrian king Phul was to take away with him the golden calves of Beith El
when he took the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Menasheh into exile (I Chronicles
5:26).

V 8: The ultimate retribution will be the destruction of the idolatrous altars of Israel,
causing them to ask the very mountains and hills to cover them in their shame.

A new prophecy starts at verse 9, which is the beginning of a PARSHAH PETHUHAH.


This prophecy runs until 13:11 with a pause at ch 12 v 1, which begins a new
PARSHAH SETHUMAH.

Ch 10 v 9: "More than in the days of Giv'ah have you sinned O Israel…" Rashi
explains this as a reference to the sin of the Concubine in Giv'ah (Judges ch 19ff),
where the presence of Michah's idol prevented the tribes of Israel from succeeding
against Benjamin. "…there they STOOD" – i.e. the people STAYED with the same
evil trait of idolatry (Rashi). We thus see Michah's idol to be the root of Ephraim's
fall.

V 10: "According to My desire, I constantly chastised them in the time between one
judge and another and I gave them over into the hands of their enemies" (Rashi).

V 11: "Ephraim is like a cow that has to be trained to work and draw the yoke and
plow, but she prefers to thresh the harvested crops in order to eat while doing so.
God taught them Torah and mitzvoth, but they want the reward without practicing"
(Metzudas David).

V 12: "Sow for yourselves with righteousness, reap according to kindness…".The


prophet yearns for the people to WORK so as to earn the promised goodness.
"Rabbi Elazar said: The practice of kindness [going beyond the letter of the law] is
greater than righteousness and charity [in strict accordance with the law and no
more], as it is written, Sow for yourselves with righteousness, reap according to
kindness. If a person sows, he may or may not eat, but when a person reaps, he
will definitely eat. The reward for charity is only according to the degree of kindness
with which it is practiced" (Succah 49b).

V 13: Despite the call of the Torah to good deeds, the people are like a stubborn
cow that has plowed nothing but wickedness, as a result of which they will eat the
fruits of their deception, having put their faith and trust in their own might – "MY
power and the strength of MY hand" (Deut. 8:17).

V 14-15: The coming doom is all the result of the idolatry of Beith El.

Chapter 11
The Bible editors who introduced the chapter system universally used in our printed
Bibles broke Hosea into chapters that are in most cases approximately equal in the
number of verses they contain. However, the conventional chapter system
frequently violates the traditional breaks of Parshah Pethuhah and Parshah
Sethumah as contained in the handwritten scrolls.

This is particularly confusing in studying Hosea chapters 11 and 12, because the
conventional chapter division implies that these are separate prophecies, which
they are not. They are in fact the latter part of the first section and the first part of
the second section of one long prophecy that began at Hosea 10:9, breaks with a
Parshah Sethumah at 12:1 and runs continuously without a break until 13:11. In
order to see this entire prophecy as one lengthy discourse falling into two parts, it
is best to study Hosea 10:9-13:11 as a continuous piece.

The entire prophecy is castigating Israel under the leadership of Ephraim for their
original demand at Giv'ah for a king like other nations (Hosea 10:9) – a sin that led
to the rebellion of the Ten Tribes against the House of David and to Jeraboam's
establishment of the cult of golden calves in Beith El and Dan. The prophecy might
in some ways be characterized as an expression of a "love-hate" parent-child
relationship in which all the love is from God while all the rebellion is from Ephraim,
who having waxed rich from His blessings proceeded to serve the work of his own
hands and trust in his own might. Through the overthrow of Ephraim's kings by the
very nations they had wooed like a harlot and through the harsh tribulations of
exile, God will teach them His righteousness. It is with the final overthrow of their
rebellious kings that the prophecy climaxes (13:10-11).

One of the underlying metaphors of the entire prophecy is of Ephraim as a calf that
was intended to learn to bear the yoke and plow the field of Torah and mitzvos, but
which rebelled. The metaphor is bound up with the fact that Joseph (father of
Ephraim, corresponding to the constellation of Shor, Taurus, the "Ox") was blessed
by Moses as a "first-born ox" (Deut. 33:17).

God's love for Israel as expressed in this prophecy is evoked through references to
the essence of the Torah – righteousness and kindness -- (10:11-12; 12:7), as a
yoke applied with kindness (11:4) and to God's merciful redemption of Israel from
Egypt by Moses (11:3; 12:14; 13:4-5). In the second section of the prophecy
which starts in ch 12 v 1, God's love for Israel is evoked in particular through telling
of God's mercies to Jacob (12: 4-5 and 12:13f.).

The prophecy repeatedly juxtaposes God's mercies and His calls for repentance
through His true prophets with the people's callous deceptions: the more they are
called to repent, the more they run to their idols (11:2). Yet in spite of their
rebellions, God's eternal love for Israel cannot allow Him to reject his first-born son
– for He is God and not a man (11:9) – and woven into the fabric of this prophecy
is how He will redeem Israel and enter the celestial city of Jerusalem only when the
Temple is rebuilt in the earthly Jerusalem (11:9-10).
The opening of chapter 11 v 1 must be understood as the direct continuation of the
passage at the end of the previous chapter (Hosea 10:9-15), the beginning of the
prophecy, recounting how Israel sinned from the days of Giv'ah and were
repeatedly chastised, and how although God sought to train the wayward calf in the
ways of righteousness and kindness, they rebelled and trusted in their strength and
might, causing their own coming doom through the destruction of Beith El and the
kingship of Israel (11:15).

Chapter 11 v 1 answers why all this is coming upon the people – "Because Israel is
a NAAR…" – lit. a "foolish youth", stripped (ME-NU'AR) of all goodness (Rashi ad
loc.) – YET EVEN SO, "I have loved him…" God has been calling Israel through his
prophets from the time He brought them up from Egypt .

V 2: As much as the prophets called to them, so the people went after their idols.

V 3: God wanted to train Ephraim, the Ox – he sent them Moses, who "took them
on his arms" (Numbers 11:12) – but the people did not know it was He that healed
them.

V 4: In His mercy, He put upon them the yoke of Torah with loving tenderness.

V 5-6: He promised them they would not see their Egyptian enemies any more
(Exodus 14:13). But the result of Israel 's rebelliousness was that now Ashur is
their king – it was the Assyrians who took the Ten Tribes into exile, because they
refused to repent. Because of their own foolish counsel, their cities were to be
scourged with the sword and their "branches" (=the mighty warriors) consumed.

V 7: The people are in doubt about whether to repent. The prophets "call them TO
ABOVE (=EL AL), but none at all would raise himself". [Yes indeed, it is from this
verse that the Israeli national airline takes its name. And travelers look forward to
the days when the captains will start every flight with a call to all the passengers
and crew to join in lifting our hearts TO ABOVE, up to God, and offering Him our
prayers for the safety and success of all.]

Vv 8-9: Yet as the loving Father, God is wracked with pain, as it were, over how to
chastise His wayward son. "How shall I give you up, Ephraim? How shall I surrender
you, Israel? My heart is turned within Me. All my compassion is kindled. I will not
execute the fierceness of My anger, I will not turn to destroy Ephraim. For I am
God and not a man; the Holy One in the midst of you, and I will not come as an
enemy." The moving eloquence of these verses speaks for itself.

An alternative translation for the closing words of v 9, "I will not come as an
enemy", would be: "I will not come into (another) city" – i.e. I am the Holy One in
your midst and in spite of everything I will always dwell only in Jerusalem. A third
interpretation – on the level of allusion – is given in Taanis 5a: "I will not come into
the city…" "The Holy One blessed be He said, I will not come into the heavenly
Jerusalem until I come into the earthly Jerusalem, for the two are interconnected"
(cf. Psalms 122:3). In other words, the perfection of creation – when God as it
were enters and reigns in His celestial city – will come about only with the
rebuilding of the earthly Temple in Jerusalem.

Vv 10-11 prophesy the future awakening of Israel in response to God's call, and
how the exiles will come trembling [as Haredim?] from the west, from Egypt [the
exile in Islamic countries in the south] and Ashur [the exile in the Christian
countries in the north] and return to their homes. This promise of future
redemption concludes the first section of the prophecy.
* * * The Sefardic custom is to read Hosea 11:7-11 and 12:1-12 as the Haftara of
Parshas Vayeitzei, Gen. 28:!0-32:2 * * *

Chapter 12
The second section of the prophecy that started in Hosea 10:9 now begins with the
opening of a Parshah Sethumah:

V 1: Despite all of God's mercies as recounted in the first section of the prophecy,
"Ephraim compasses Me about with lies and the House of Israel with deceit…" Yet "
Judah still rules with God" – Judah is still ruled by the fear of God, their kings were
still faithful to God.

V 2: But Ephraim is running after the wind in his international alliances, which will
not save him on his day of doom.

V 3: "HaShem has also a controversy with Judah …" – God explains to Judah His
grievances against Ephraim so that they will not be surprised when He punishes
Jacob (=the people of Israel) for his ways (Rashi).

V 4: God's grievance is that Israel has rebelled in spite of all His mercies to Jacob
from the very time that he was in the womb, when God already gave him mastery
over Esau, after which He enabled him to prevail over the angel with whom he
struggled (Genesis 32:25ff).

V 5: This verse tells the story of Jacobs overcoming the angel, who wept and
begged Jacob to release him, promising that he would later testify at Beith El that
he and Esau agreed that Jacob deserved Isaac's blessings (Rashi; Hullin 92a).

V 6-7: God is eternally faithful – ready to bestow love on Ephraim now just as He
did upon Jacob, asking Israel only to return to God and to guard the essential path
of the Torah – kindness and Justice, always hoping in God.

V 8: But Ephraim is a merchant of deceit, a Canaanite! The Hebrew word KENA'AN


in this verse has the connotation of "merchant" but also is used reprovingly of
Israel , who are behaving like the Canaanites.

V 9: Ephraim trusts in his own wealth and power, even though he should realize
that they will not save him on the day when he is judged for his sins.

V 10: God reminds Ephraim that He is the God who brought them out of Egypt, and
despite their waywardness He will eventually bring them to dwell again in tents –
the tents of Torah study – just as in the time when Jacob was pure and simple,
dwelling in tents (Genesis 25:27; Rashi on Hosea 12:10).

V 11: God has repeatedly warned the people through His prophets. "…and I have
used similes by means of the prophets". These words are an important source text
for teachings about the methods of the prophets.

V 12: If destruction comes to Gil'ad (Reuven & Menasheh), it is only because of the
idolatry that has continued in Gilgal and all over the rest of their territories.

V 13-14: The prophet returns to the theme of God's mercies with Jacob, father of
Israel – as when he protected him in his flight from Esau to dwell with Laban, and
when He took the people out of Egypt under the leadership and guardianship of
Moses. This verse is the beginning of the Haftara of Parshas VAYEITZEI in Genesis
(read in November) speaking of Jacob's flight to Laban. The Haftara of VAYEITZEI
runs from Hosea 12:13 until 14:10.

V 15: Yet in spite of all God's mercies, Ephraim has provoked Him most bitterly,
and He will requite him for this.

The prophecy continues in Ch 13:1-11, which will be discussed in the next


commentary.

MAY GOD TURN OUR HEARTS TO HIM AND RESTORE US TO OUR LAND AND BUILD
HIS TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM QUICKLY IN OUR TIMES. AMEN.

* * * The sections in Hosea 12:13-15, 13:1-15 and 14:1-10 are read as the
Haftara of Parshas Vayeitzei, Gen. 28:!0-32:2 * * *

Chapter 13
Hosea Chapter 13 vv 1-11 are the concluding verses of the second section of the
lengthy prophecy that began in Hosea 10:9 – a prophecy tracing the sin of Israel to
their original request for a temporal king and culminating in 13:11 with foretelling
how God in His anger will take away their king.

In the central sections of this prophecy, contained in the previous two chapters, the
prophet repeatedly contrasted God's mercies throughout their history with Israel's
betrayal through idolatry. The last verse of the previous chapter (12:15) summed
up Ephraim's bitter provocations that will cause God to requite him.

Hosea 13:1 continues immediately with an historical allusion to Ephraim's


provocations. "When Ephraim spoke, there was trembling; he exalted himself in
Israel; but when he became guilty through the Baal, he died." This verse contrasts
the earlier status of Ephraim as leaders of the people for good (e.g. under Joshua)
with their later fall through idolatry. The commentators explain this verse as
alluding specifically to how Jeraboam originally caused trembling when he showed
zealousness for God in speaking out against Solomon (I Kings 11:26), but how
after becoming king himself, he ruined everything for Ephraim by making his idols
(Rashi, Metzudas David).

V 2: "And now they sin more and more…" In the generations after Jeraboam people
sinned more and more by making silver images of their idol to have always visible
in their very homes (Metzudas David). "They say, let those who sacrifice a man kiss
the calves." They considered Molech-worship (passing children through fire and
entrusting them to the idolatrous priests) as the highest form of service, and said
that whoever kissed their calf idols was considered as if he had carried it out. I
leave it to the reader to reflect on how Hosea's analysis of ancient idolatry relates
to the widespread contemporary idolatry of wealth and the way many parents bring
up their children to serve it.

V 3: It is because of this idolatry that Ephraim will be swept away.

V 4-6: Again the prophet recalls God's historical mercies to Israel in redeeming
them from Egypt and protecting them in the arid wilderness, only to see them
rebelling because of their very satisfaction from His blessings to the point where
they forgot Him.
Vv 7-8: Therefore God will track them and lie in wait for them as wild beasts track
their prey. None is more dangerous than a great bear embittered over the loss of
his young, who attacks whoever he meets and tears apart his victim's chest to get
to his heart – so God will tear open the closed heart of the people.

V 9: The people themselves are responsible for their own destruction, having
rebelled against their very Helper.

Vv 10-11: The prophecy now concludes by God mockingly asking the rebellious
people where on their day of doom are the kings and judges they had requested to
be their saviors. The people should have served God instead of relying on temporal
rulers, and their penalty would be to see God take away the very king they had put
their trust in.

The five verses in Hosea 13:12 -14:1 make up one Parshah Pesuhah, a separate
short prophecy relating thematically to the previous prophecy in that it sums up the
coming doom of Ephraim as punishment for his rebellion and ingratitude. The
conventional chapter break at 14:1 needlessly violates the continuity of this section.
This prophecy presents the picture at its worst – perhaps to shock those who hear
its message into truly opening their hearts ready for the beautiful climax of the
entire prophecy of Hosea which comes in the closing Parshah, Hosea 14:2-10,
"Return O Israel …"

Hosea 13:12: "The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is laid in store" – God
will remember every detail and not let him off (Rashi).

V 13: A time of travail will come in which Ephraim will not be able to stand.

V 14: God had repeatedly saved them from death and hell, but they showed no
gratitude, and therefore He will not relent.

V 15: "Though he be fertile (YAPHREE) among the reed grass (AHIM)…" YAPHREE is
a play on the root letters of EPHRAIM, meaning to be fruitful. Ephraim was a fruitful
leader among his brothers (=AHIM). PERE also has the connotation of gall-root
(Deut. 29:17) as well as wildness and excess (Gen. 16:12; Rashi on Hosea 13:15).
But an east wind (the most destructive of all the winds) will sweep them away.

Chapter 14
Chapter 14 verse 1 is the concluding verse of the short prophecy that began in
Hosea 13:12. The brutal and horrific destruction of the suckling babes and
expectant mothers of Shomron is the penalty for her rebellion.

This very harsh prophecy of doom concludes the reproofs of Hosea, who now
greatly softens his tone for his final, glorious prophecy, Chapter 14:2-10, a Parshah
Pesuhah consisting of his immortal call to Israel to return to God, teaching the
simple, cleansing pathway of repentance through confession and prayer, and
promising that God will certainly respond with unstinting love, reviving and
restoring Israel with the resurrection of the dead and the building of the Temple.
This prophecy is read as the first part of the Haftara of Shabbos Shuvah, the
"Shabbos of Repentance" between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (September-
early October).

V 2: "Return O Israel to the Lord your God for you have stumbled in your iniquity":
"Great is Teshuvah, repentance, for thereby even willful sins are transformed into
unwitting transgressions, because 'iniquity' is willful yet the verse calls it
'stumbling'… See how great is the power of Teshuvah, which reaches the very
Throne of Glory, as it says, 'Return unto the Lord your God'" (Yoma 86b).

V 3: "Take with you words…" These are the words of confession offered by the
penitent (Likutey Moharan I:4). "…and we will offer the words of our lips instead of
calves": prayer takes the place of animal sacrifice. When a person conquers his
material lusts and devotes his energies to prayer, this itself is the sacrifice of his
"animal" side. This is the ultimate repair of the root sin of the people – worship of
the animal.

V 4: The prophet puts words into the mouths of the penitent nation, who will reject
their earlier path of seeking succor in other nations and in military might and
instead turn to God, Who shows compassion to the orphan.

V 5- As soon as the people repent, God will show unstinting love and His anger will
depart.

V 6: Just as the dew never ceases, so God's love for Israel will never cease
(Metzudas David). They will flourish and grow strong as the mighty trees of
Lebanon.

V 7: "Their sons and daughters will multiply and their radiance will be like the
radiance of the oil of the Temple Menorah and their fragrance will be like the
fragrance of the Temple Incense " (Targum Yonasan).

V 8: "They will be gathered in from their exile and they will dwell in the shade of
their Mashiah and the dead will live and there will be abundant good on earth and
the memory of their good deeds will go forth unceasingly like the blasts of the
trumpet over the good old wine poured as libations in the Temple" (Targum
Yonasah).

V 9: "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols?" Immediately God
will answer and look down upon Ephraim providentially, reaching down to the level
of man just as the foliage of the cypress tree bows down gracefully to the earth
when a man takes hold of its branches, for it is from God that all the people's "fruit"
– their goodness -- derives (Rashi).

V 10: "Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is prudent let
him know them; for the ways of HaShem are right, and the just do walk in them,
but the transgressors shall stumble in them". The Torah is a double-edged sword,
but those who follow it innocently and sincerely will go ever forward to eternity.
Book of Joel
Chapter 1
Some identify the prophet Joel -- Yo'el son of Pethu-el – as the firstborn son of
Samuel the Prophet (cf. I Samuel 8:2), who did not initially go in his father's ways
but was said to have repented later and "persuaded God" (PETHU-EL) with his
prayers (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:5, Rashi on Joel 1:1). According to another opinion,
Joel prophesied in the time of Yehoram son of Ahab, during whose reign there were
seven years of famine (II Kings 8:1) – four of them said to have been caused by
the four species of locusts enumerated in Joel 1:4, while the last three were
marked by drought (Rashi ad loc. RaDaK). A third opinion is that of Midrash Seder
Olam ch 20, which states that Joel prophesied together with Nahum, and Habakkuk
towards the end of the First Temple period in the reign of the wicked king
Menasheh son of Hezekiah (Rashi, RaDaK).

Whenever he lived, Joel was granted eternal prophecy teaching lessons for all time.
His prophecy divides into two main parts: (1) Chapters 1-2: Warnings about a
coming terrible plague of locusts and calls for the people to repent. (2) Chapters 3-
4: Prophecies about the end of days, the ingathering of the exiles to Israel, the
attack of the nations of the world against Israel and their defeat in Emek
Yehoshaphat, the restoration of Zion and the time of Mashiah.

Vv 1-6: Prophecy of the coming terrible plague of locusts.

A particularly noteworthy aspect of Joel's prophecy is that it brings out the


ECOLOGICAL effects of sin and how these may be averted through REPENTANCE.

The coming plague of locusts prophesied by Joel in this and the following chapter is
described as one "the like of which has never ever been" (Joel 2:2) whereas in the
case of the plague of locusts brought by Moses against the Egyptians, the Torah
states that "before it there was no similar case of locusts like it and after it there
will be nothing like it" (Exodus 10:14). Rashi on the verse in Exodus states that the
plague in the days of Joel was even more serious than that of Moses, because there
were four species of locusts, while that of Moses was unique precisely because it
consisted of only one species.

A literal plague of locusts is a very terrible thing. One can also take Joel's
prophecies about the coming plague of locusts as a graphic metaphor for the
destructive effects of men's evil deeds upon the entire global environment – as if
vast armies of natural destroyers are invading and consuming the very food we
depend upon. In the light of repeated scientific warnings about the dangers of
global warming, the latest reports about a serious epidemic of Asian bird flu now
ravaging poultry in sophisticated Britain, etc. it is fitting to take Joel's prophecy as
yet another wake-up call to repentance in order to save the world we live in.

Vv 2-3: Joel's call is to the elders and all the inhabitants of the earth. HA-ARETZ in
this verse particularly refers to Eretz Israel , but it can also apply to the whole
earth. The call is one that must be told to all the future generations.
V 4: This verse enumerates the four species of locusts that would come one after
the other to devastate the land.

Vv 5ff: The people are in a drunken stupor – the only way to shock them is to
illustrate to them how they themselves will feel the plague – by seeing the vines
that provide them with their wine destroyed by the locusts.

V 9: "The meal offering and the drink offering is cut off from the House of God":
from here we see that Joel was addressing a nation with a functioning Sanctuary or
Temple. They had to understand that even if they were outwardly practicing the
Temple rituals, this was not enough. Without their inner repentance, they would
see the destruction of the entire ecology.

V 10: This is the opposite of the blessing in the second paragraph of Shema, "and
you shall gather in your grain, your wine and your oil" (Deut. 11:14).

Vv. 10-12: Including the reference to olive oil in verse 10, these verses enumerate
all the seven species of produce for which the Land of Israel is praised: Wheat,
Barley, the Vine, Fig and Pomegranate, Olive and Date (Deut. 8:8).

Vv 13ff are a call to the priests to lead the people in mourning and repentance over
the destructive plague through fasting and self-examination. "For near is the day of
HaShem, and as a destruction from the Almighty (SHOD MI-SHADAI) will it come"
(v 15). Whereas the divine attribute of YESOD (=SHADAI) is the source of blessing,
when the Yud departs because of sin, all that is left is SHOD, destruction.

Vv 16ff. The prophet calls to the people to open their eyes to the environmental
destruction and waste around them.

V 18: The very animals are sighing and perplexed at man's destruction of nature
through his evil deeds.

V 19: This is truly a cry of prayer to God over the destruction of the environment.

V 20: The very animals are panting to God over the destruction of water resources
and the fire that is ravaging the world.

Chapter 2
V 1: The blast of the Shofar is emblematic of the call of the prophet to the people
to repent before the evil comes.

Vv 2-9 are a horrifically graphic description of the coming plague of locusts, which
descend upon a land green like the Garden of Eden and leave it like a desolate
desert. They are like armies of horses and their riders, sounding like chariots as
they dance over the tops of the mountains like an entire nation of warriors ready
for war, bringing terror to all faces. Locusts are noted for their extraordinary
discipline and methodical destruction (v 8). They will climb into all the houses
through the windows like a thief (v 9).

Vv 10: These swarms of relentless warriors of God blot out the very light of the sun
and the moon and the stars. Ecological destruction affects the entire universe.

V 11: The people must understand that the plague is being sent only through the
word of God. "And HaShem utters His voice before His army, for His camp is very
great, for He Who executes His word is strong, for the day of HaShem is great and
very terrible, and who can abide it?" This verse introduces one of the most sublime
prophetic calls to repentance (Joel 2:11-27). It is read together with selections
from Hosea (14:2-10) and Michah (7:18-20) as the Haftara of Shabbos Shuvah, the
Sabbath of Repentance between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (September/early
October).

V 12: Since the plague is sent from God, it follows that in order to avert the coming
evil, the people must repent. "EVEN NOW, says HaShem, return to Me with all your
hearts…" (v 12).

V 13: "Tear your hearts and not your garments…" We are asked not merely to
make outward shows of mourning but to tear down our inner insensitivity and
break through the apathy in our hearts…

V 14: Repentance can cause God to turn around the harsh decree and convert it
into a blessing.

Vv 15ff. The whole people must be mobilized for a national campaign of repentance
that will bring in people of all ages, elders, children and even suckling babes, brides
and their grooms.

V 17: The words of the prayer of the Cohen-priests and Levites in this verse,
"Spare Your people, HaShem…" are incorporated into the additional Tahanun
supplications recited in the synagogue on Mondays and Thursdays.

Vv 18-27 are a prophecy of the comfort and great goodness that will come if the
people will repent. As soon as they do so, God will immediately show His
zealousness for the Land and have mercy on His people.

V 19: "And I will remove far off from you the northern one (HA-TZAPHONI)…" – this
is the evil inclination, which is hidden (TZAPHOON) in the heart (Rashi, Succah
52a).

V 23: "Be glad, you children of Zion, and rejoice in HaShem your God, for He has
given you the former rain in due measure, and He has brought down for you the
rain in the first month, the former rain and the latter rain…" The Talmud relates
that after the plague of locusts in the time of Joel, the entire period of the rainy
season passed in Israel with no rainfall whatever by the end of Adar. On the first of
Nissan (normally the time of the last rains of the year) came the very first rainfall.
Joel told the people to go out and sow their fields, but they said it would be better
to eat their last remaining measure of wheat and barley and live rather than sow it
and die. Joel told them nonetheless to sow, and they miraculously discovered
remaining seeds in the walls and ant holes, and went out and sowed on the second,
third and fourth of the month. The second rains fell on 5 Nissan and by 16 Nissan
the crops ripened sufficiently to make it possible to bring the Omer offering in the
Temple (Taanis 5a).

Vv 24-27 are a beautiful prophecy of how in time to come God will make up for all
that the predators have taken from us. "And you shall eat in plenty and be
satisfied" (v 26): in the future, man will no longer feel the gnawing urge to
OVERCONSUME, because he will be truly satisfied.
Chapter 3
Verse 1: "And it shall come to pass AFTER THIS…" – "This refers to the end of days.
The verse here says 'AFTER THIS' because the previous verse had said 'And you will
KNOW that I am amidst Israel …' (Joel 2:27). However as yet this is not complete
knowledge, because even so, you will still relapse and sin again. However, AFTER
THIS level of knowledge there will come a time when you will know Me with perfect
knowledge and you will no longer sin. This will be in the days of Mashiah, 'for the
earth will be full of the knowledge of God' (Isaiah 11:9)" (RaDaK on verse 1).

"I shall pour out My spirit over all flesh…" Metzudas David interprets "flesh" as
referring to the nations of the world, "for even the heathens will then recognize and
know that HaShem is God". However, RaDaK maintains that "all flesh" refers to
those Israelites who will be worthy to receive the holy spirit of knowledge and
understanding that God will then pour forth (compare Likutey Moharan I:22 on the
concept of "flesh"). The verse speaks of "all" flesh to indicate that those worthy will
include young and old (cf. Jeremiah 31:33). Even higher will be the levels of "your
sons and daughters, your elders… and your young men…" They will attain actual
prophecy, which will be granted to them through dreams (Numbers 12:6) (RaDaK
on v 1).

V 2: "And also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days…" Those who
will serve Israel in the Land of Israel will also be filled with the spirit of knowledge
and understanding (RaDaK).

V 3: "And I will put wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood and fire and
pillars of smoke…" "The sign of blood will be on earth because of the great amount
of killing there will be. The fire and pillars of smoke will be in the skies – these are
the flashes of light that will burn up as they fall and the fires will send up smoke.
These will be the sign of the plague upon the nations that come with Gog and
Magog against Jerusalem " (RaDaK). Do these flashes of burning light presage
nuclear war???

The words "wonders… blood and fire and pillars of smoke" in this verse are brought
in the Pesach Haggadah to prove that Deut. 26:8, speaking of how God brought us
out of Egypt with "wonders", alludes to the plague of blood.

V 4: "The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood…" Ibn Ezra
says the darkening of the heavenly lights will be a sign of terrible wars, and this
darkening of the lights will be just before the coming of the day of HaShem – this
will be the day of the plague on Gog and Magog and the nations that come up with
him. The moon will turn into "blood" in the sense that this will be its color when it is
partially eclipsed, while when the eclipse is complete it will be black. Rambam
interprets the darkness of the sun and blood of the moon and similar descriptions in
Joel 4:15 as metaphors for the troubles that will strike the nations at the time of
their downfall. According to Rambam's interpretation, the darkness could also refer
to the anguish Israel will suffer just prior to the downfall of Gog and Magog, who
will go up with many nations against Jerusalem and make war against the city, and
half the people will go out into exile (cf. Zechariah 14:6) – this will be the darkness
– while the day of the downfall of Gog and Magog will be "the great and awesome
day of God".

V 5: "And it shall be that everyone who will call on the Name of HaShem will be
saved…" "For then in the war of Gog and Magog it will be a time of great trouble for
Israel for a short time (cf. Isaiah 26:20) and then many of Israel will fall, but the
KEDOSHIM, the holy ones who truly fear God will be saved (cf. Isaiah 26:20,
Psalms 145:18). These are "the remnant whom HaShem shall call" (RaDaK on v 5)

In the Hebrew handwritten scroll there is no break between the end of Chapter 3
and the beginning of Chapter 4: it is one continuous prophecy until Chapter 4 verse
9, which begins a new Parshah Pethuhah.

Chapter 4
V 1: "All of this will take place in the days and at the time when I will bring back
the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem – these are the days of Mashiah. The verse
mentions Judah and Jerusalem because even though ALL ISRAEL will return,
Mashiah himself will be from the tribe of Judah and Jerusalem will be the capital of
the kingdom and that is where the war of Gog and Magog will take place" (RaDaK).

V 2: "And I shall gather all the nations and I shall take them down to the valley of
Yehoshaphat …." This refers to the Kidron Valley, which runs along the eastern wall
of Jerusalem separating the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives . It means "the
valley where God will judge". According to the Biblical prophecies, in the war of Gog
and Magog the two major coalitions of gentile nations under Esau and Ishmael will
join forces against the Jewish state in Israel, which will be overwhelmed and
conquered. Its last stronghold will be Jerusalem, which will also be conquered by
the gentiles. At that moment God will commence Judgment, saving Israel through
plague, rain, fire and stones sent against the gentile nations, whose bodies will fill
the Land of Israel taking seven months to bury, and only the gentiles who helped
Israel will be spared (cf. Ezekiel 38ff, Daniel 2, Zechariah 14) .

"…over My people and My inheritance Israel whom they scattered among the
nations and they divided My land". We today are witnesses not only to how Israel
has been and still is scattered among the nations, but also to how even after the
nations promised to give the Land back to the Jewish People (in the Balfour
Declaration 1917), they divided up the land into smaller and smaller strips in the
various armistice lines and partition plans that have been and are being debated up
until this very day… In the last few years we have all watched the "Separation Wall"
built up to divide the Land.

V 3: "And they have cast lots for my people and have given a boy for a harlot and
sold a girl for wine that they might drink…" How many secularized and assimilated
Jewish kids in Israel and throughout the Diaspora have been sold into mental and
ideological captivity and slavery in all but name?

V 4: "What are you to me Tyre and Sidon and all the provinces of Philistia …?" In
the light of this prophecy about the centrality of these towns of Lebanon and the
territories of the Palestinians in the end-of-days war against Israel, it is significant
that many of the missiles sent against Israel from Lebanon in the 2006 war came
from Tyre and Sidon , while the Palestinians are obviously today's frontline
protagonists against Israel .

Vv 5-6 speak of the material plunder taken from Israel by the nations, as well as
the plunder of their sons and daughters, who were kidnapped and sold to the
Greeks far from their own borders. It is significant that historically the single most
powerful ideological challenge to the Torah has come out of Greek culture, which
has had a decisive influence on the "western" culture that enslaves assimilated and
non-assimilated Jews alike until today.
Vv 7-8: "Behold I will arouse them from the place to which you have sold them…"
We are today witnessing the arousal of Jews and Israelites all over the world, and
we have seen the great influx of Jews into Israel particularly in the last 60 years.
This has been paralleled by enormous migrations of gentiles from country to
country, where many end up as migrant workers – de facto slaves – as prophesied
in Verse 8.

A new section (Parshah Pethuhah) begins at verse 9. Having already prophesied in


general terms how God will bring the nations to judgment in the Valley of
Yehoshaphat and having laid forth God's testimony against the nations for their
crimes against Israel through the ages, the prophet now depicts the war of Gog and
Magog in detail:

V 9: "Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare (KADSHU) war, stir up the mighty
men…" Whereas Joel in ch 2 v 15 called for blasting the Shofar in Zion, "Sanctify
(KADSHU) a fast", i.e. repentance on the part of Israel, he now uses the same word
KADSHU in a mocking call to the nations to prepare their "holy" war – Jihad? –
against Israel.

V 10: Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears…"
Ironically, this is the opposite of Isaiah's depiction of the age of Mashiah that will
follow the war of Gog and Magog, when the nations will beat their swords into
plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4). Today we indeed see
how mind-boggling sums are invested in weaponry while everywhere people are
impoverished and starving.

Vv 11-12: Summons of the nations to the Valley of Yehoshaphat for God's


judgment.

Vv 13ff: "Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe…" Just when the nations are at
their fattest and most prosperous, they will be ripe to be cut down.

Vv 15-16: This will be a moment of cosmic darkness – the sun, moon and stars will
be darkened – and precisely then HaShem will roar from out of Zion and give His
voice from Jerusalem … "And the heavens and earth will shake" – "First he will
exact punishment from the angels of the nations above, and afterwards from the
nations on earth" (Rashi).

V 17: The result of all this will be that we will each in our own individual way know
that HaShem is God, ruler over all – and at last Jerusalem will be cleansed from the
aliens passing through it.

V 18 begins a new Parshah Sethumah – i.e. there is a brief pause before we enter
the climactic conclusion of this prophecy in vv 18-21 depicting the wonderful
prosperity that will reign in the days of Mashiah after this war.

"And a spring shall go forth from the House of HaShem and water the valley of
Shittim ". This spring is described in detail in Ezekiel's prophecy of the Messianic
era (Ezekiel 47:1-12). The Midrash states that it waters the valley of Shittim to
atone for the sin of Pe'or, which took place when the people dwelled in Shittim
(Numbers 25:1; see Rashi on Joel 4:18).

V 19: The future destruction of Egypt and Edom are mentioned together in this
verse because just when King David almost completely destroyed Edom, Haddad
escaped to Egypt where he found favor in the eyes of Pharaoh, who allowed him to
stay until he was able to rise up against Solomon (I Kings 11:16ff; Rashi on Joel
4:19).

Vv 20-21: In the end Judah will endure forever and Jerusalem from generation to
generation. Even if God cleanses the nations of their other sins and evil, He will not
cleanse them of the blood of Judah. Metzudas David comments that Israel need not
fear that since the nations know they are going to be killed, they may make every
effort to take revenge against Israel thinking that they are in any case lost, because
God dwells in Zion and He will protect His people and the nations will have no
power.

God's indwelling presence will rest in Zion for ever – the conclusion of Joel's
prophecy is thus parallel to the conclusion of Ezekiel's prophecy, "And the name of
the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there" (Ezekiel 48:35; RaDaK on Joel
4:21).
Book of Amos
Chapter 1
The prophet Amos was a wealthy cattle farmer and cultivator of sycamore trees
(Amos 7:14). He came from the city of Tekoa in the territory of the tribe of Asher
(see RaDaK on Amos 7:10). He received Torah from the prophet Hosea and was an
older contemporary of the prophets Isaiah and Michah (Pesachim 87a).

Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah king of Judah and Yerav'am son of
Yo'ash king of Israel, both of whom succeeded in restoring the power and
prosperity of their respective kingdoms and subduing the rebellious neighboring
subject peoples. While Amos prophesied against the gentile nations as well, his
prophecies were mainly directed against Israel and the moral decline that had set in
as exemplified by the exploitation of the poor and weak by the wealthy and
powerful. Amos encountered fierce opposition, and was mocked by his
contemporaries as a stammerer (Vayikra Rabbah 1:2). His name, from the Hebrew
root AMAS meaning to carry a heavy load, has the connotation of being of heavy
tongue (cf. Rabbi Nachman's story of the Beggar who could not speak). However,
the rabbis enumerated Amos among eight "princes of men" together with Yishai
(Jesse), Saul, Samuel, Zephaniah, Tzedekiah, Elijah and Messiah.

Verse 1: Amos prophesied "two years before the earthquake". This "earthquake"
was the natural and/or moral earthquake that took place when King Uzziah of
Judah offered incense in the Temple Sanctuary (which was strictly forbidden for any
non-priest). This earthquake is mentioned in Isaiah 6:4 and Zechariah 14:5.

Verse 2: The "roar" of God is the prophetic message of reproof emanating from the
Holy of Holies, causing mourning in the "pastures of the shepherds" – these are the
doomed kings – and the destruction of their strongholds (Targum Yonasan, Rashi).

These two introductory verses are followed by a series of six short parallel
prophesies of doom against the six chief neighboring kingdoms of the time around
Israel, Damascus (=Aram, Syria), Gaza and the Philistines, Tyre, Edom, Ammon
and Moab, before the prophet turns his main focus to Judah and especially Israel.
Each of the following prophesies against the nations is a separate PARSHAH
PETHUHAH in itself.

Verse 3: "Thus says HaShem: For three transgressions of Damascus I will turn
away its punishment, but for the fourth I will not turn away its punishment". The
commentators explain that the principle underlying this verse and the parallel
verses later in this chapter and the next (Amos 1:6, 9, 11 & 13 and 2:1, 4 & 6) is
that expressed in Job 33:29: "Lo, God does all these things twice or three times
with a man, to bring back his soul from the pit…": God does not punish a person for
the first, second and third sin he commits but only for the fourth sin and those
afterwards (Rashi, RaDaK; cf. Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 3:5). While God does not
normally exact payment from the nations for their evil except if it is very severe, as
in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, He does take exception to the evil they
perpetrate against Israel (RaDaK).
RaDaK lists three major evils perpetrated by Damascus (= Aram ) against Israel –
in the time of Baasha king of Israel , in the time of Ahab and in the time of Yeho-
ahaz son of Yehu. The fourth sin was their attack on Judah in the reign of Ahaz (II
Kings 10:32), after which they were punished for all their past evil by being taken
into exile by Ashur.

Vv 4-5: Amos' prophecy of the punishment of Aram was delivered sixty-five years
before it took place.

Vv 6-8: The commentators explain the sin of Gaza and the Philistines in "carrying
away into exile a whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom" as referring to what
they did at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, when they handed
over to Titus and his armies (=Edom) the many Jews who were trying to flee from
them through Philistine territories (RaDaK).

Vv 9-10: The people of Tyre also handed escaping Jews over to the Romans at the
time of the destruction of the Second Temple, forgetting the "covenant of brothers"
that had existed between King Solomon and Hiram king of Tyre (I Kings 5:26;
Rashi, RaDaK).

Vv 11-12: Edom too "pursued his brother with the sword… and he kept his wrath
for ever": This refers to the pursuit by Esau (=Edom) of his brother Jacob, the
refusal of the Edomites to allow Moses and the Children of Israel to pass through
their territory on the way to Israel (Numbers 20:14ff) and to the destruction of the
Second Temple by the Romans. The town of Basra mentioned in v 12 cannot be
identified with Basra in Iraq , but was a town between Moab and Edom southeast of
the Dead Sea (see Rashi on v 12; cf. Genesis 36:33).

Vv 13-15: The Ammonite territories lay east of Gil'ad, the territory of the tribes of
Reuven, Gad and Menasheh east of the Jordan , into which the Ammonites
constantly sought to encroach in defiance of the Biblical curse against those who
encroach on their neighbor's boundaries (Deut. 27:17).

Chapter 2
The conventional chapter break here is somewhat arbitrary although it does fall at
the beginning of a new Parshah Pethuhah containing the prophecy against Moab .
But this must be taken together with the preceding prophecies of doom against the
other nations, all of which come as an introduction to Amos' prophecies against
Judah and Israel, as if to say: since God punishes the other nations, to whom He
did not reveal Himself, how much more must He chastise his chosen people Israel,
who are much nearer to Him (see RaDaK on Amos 3:2).

Vv 1-3: Moab's sin of "burning the bones of the king of Edom into lime" is explained
by the commentators as referring to the incident in II Kings 3:27 when the Moabite
king burned the firstborn son of the king of Edom, causing Edomite fury against
Judah (with whom Edom was forced to fight against Moab) from then on (RaDaK).

Vv 4-5: While the nations are punished for their evil and treacherous behavior
against Israel, Judah is taken to task for despising God's Torah – for every person
is judged according to his level, and the same applies to each nation. While the
kingdom of Israel were also guilty of despising the Torah, the people of Judah were
particularly criticized for this since the authoritative Torah scroll was kept in the
Temple, which was in their territory. From the fact that the "rediscovery" of the
Torah scroll by Hilkiah the High Priest in the reign of Josiah (II Kings 22:8) caused
such a great stir, we can infer the degree of previous neglect of the Torah (RaDaK).

Vv 6-16: A new Parshah Pethuhah opens at verse 6 detailing the sins of Israel :
"because they have sold the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of shoes…"
(v 6). While the Israelites were guilty of the three cardinal sins of idolatry, murder
and adultery, it was their corruption of justice that sealed their fate. The very
judges and leaders took bribes to pervert justice at the expense of the righteous,
poor and downtrodden, as detailed in vv 6-8.

In the same way as Hosea contrasted God's mercies to Israel with their disloyalty
and betrayal, Amos recounts how God gave them the land of the Canaanites and
blessed their children with prophetic spirit, expecting them to adhere to a higher
standard of behavior (vv 9-11). But the people gave the Nazirites (=their teachers,
Targum) wine to drink so that they would not be able to give legal rulings (cf. Lev.
10:9-11) and they told the true prophets to stop prophesying (cf. Amos 7:12).
Amos warns that these sins will completely undermine the strength of the nation
(vv 13-16).

Amos 2:6-16 and 3:1-8 are read as the Haftara of Parshas VAYEISHEV in Genesis,
read in November-December, narrating the sale of Joseph by his brothers,
corresponding to the sin of selling the righteous for silver (Amos 2:6).

Chapter 3
Chapter 3 vv 1-10 make up a single Parshah Pethuhah, a section in itself. In the
previous section Amos had castigated the people for ordering their prophets not to
prophesy. Now he tells them that the prophets are the true servants of God to
whom He reveals what is to come in advance, and that their prophecies of doom
will surely come about.

V 1: The prophet urges the people to HEAR, understand and internalize the word of
God that he will speak. Amos explicitly addresses the ENTIRE FAMILY of Israel – the
kingdom of Judah and the Ten Tribes.

V 2: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth". This text offers a
crucial insight into the deepest mystery of the world, why Israel suffers more than
all the other nations, as history clearly testifies until this very day. In the words of
RaDaK (ad loc.): "It is because I know and love you and have chosen you from all
the peoples that I will therefore punish you for all your sins, because you have seen
and known all My signs and wonders that I performed on your behalf, and you
know I have benefited you. Justice therefore demands that I punish you for your
sins. For when the servants who minister directly before the king disobey his
orders, he shows greater anger towards them than he does towards those who are
not so close to him. God pays little attention to the nations of the world regardless
of whether they do good or evil except when their wrongdoing is very serious as in
the case of the generation of the flood. But in the case of Israel , He punishes them
for all their sins precisely because they are close to Him."

Vv 3-6 contain a series of seven interrelated rhetorical questions leading to the


inevitable conclusion that the doom foretold by the prophets will come about.

1. "Can two walk together unless they be agreed?" (v 3): Before I punish you, I
make it known through My prophets in case it might bring you to repent. If I did
not make myself known to and "meet" the prophet and reveal My secret to him in
order to reprove you, how could he have fabricated his prophecies, for how could
he have known what I am going to do? Know that I have sent him (RaDaK).

2. "Will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?" (v 4) The holy spirit in the
mouth of the prophet is the "roar of the lion". Just as the lion only roars when he
has his prey, so the prophets only prophesy doom when the decree has been made.
The lion also alludes to Nebuchadnezzar (Rashi).

3. "Will a young lion cry out from his lair if he has taken nothing?" (v 4). The lion
does not roar before he has his prey in order not to give it a warning in time for it
to escape (RaDaK).

4. "Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth where there is no trap for it?" (v 5):
The enemy will not leave you alone and go away empty-handed (RaDaK).

5. "Does a snare spring up from the earth and have taken nothing at all?" (v 5).
How can it be that you sin yet your sins will not be a snare for you? (Rashi).

6. "Shall a shofar be sounded in the city and the people not be afraid?" When the
watchman warns the people of an onslaught of enemies, the people become filled
with fear. So you should have feared on hearing the warnings of the prophets.

7. "Shall evil befall a city and the Lord has not done it?" When the evil comes, you
will know that it has been sent by God as the penalty for not heeding His prophets.

Vv 9-10: The prophet calls on the Philistines and Egyptians to come to witness the
coming tumult in Shomron, capital of the Ten Tribes, as a result of their oppression
and robbery.

Verse 11 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah which continues until the end of the
present chapter (Amos 3:11-15). This is followed by two Parshah Sethumah's in ch.
4 vv 1-9 and vv 10-13. As discussed in previous commentaries, the break between
a Parshah Sethumah ("closed section") and the section that precedes it is less
absolute than in the case of a Parshah Pethuhah ("open section"). Thus Amos 3:11-
4:13 is a single long prophecy broken into three sections. The overall message –
following on from the previous section vindicating God's prophets – is that the
doom they are foretelling will definitely come upon the sinful people unless they
repent.

V 11: The enemies are poised all around the land, ready to bring down the arrogant
nation.

V 12: When a lion snatches a lamb, the shepherd tries to retrieve at least a mere
couple of bones or a piece of ear, even though they are of no use whatever, in
order to prove to his master that the lamb was taken as prey and that he did not
steal it (Metzudas David). The metaphor comes to emphasize how absolute the
destruction of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes would be. Only the few members of
the Ten Tribes who attached themselves to the House of Judah would survive (see
Rashi).

Vv 13-15: The first section of this prophecy concludes with the warning that the
coming doom will destroy Jeraboam's idolatrous altar of Beith El together with the
opulence of Shomron, whose inhabitants were so wealthy that they had separate
winter and summer houses.
Chapter 4
The prophecy that began in Amos 3:11 now continues with a new section (Parshah
Sethumah), Amos 4:1-9. This is the middle section of this prophecy.

Verse 1: The "fat cows of Bashan that are on Mt Shomron" are literally the wives of
the oppressive lords of the kingdom as well as being a metaphor for the very lords
themselves, who evidently corrupted justice and robbed and exploited the poor and
weak in order to satisfy their demanding wives.

V 2: The fat cows and their daughters will be taken into exile in cramped,
undignified fishing boats.

V 3: The population will go out into exile through the many breaches in the city
walls. Targum Yonasan interprets Harmon as a reference to the "Mountains of
Darkness" beyond which the Ten Tribes were taken into exile.

Vv 4ff where the prophet tells the people to go to Beith El to transgress are like a
man telling a villain, "Keep on, keep on… until your measure is filled " (Rashi).

"…bring your offerings THE NEXT MORNING and your tithes AFTER THREE DAYS".
The prophet sarcastically mocks the idolaters for changing the Torah laws of
sacrifice for their own convenience [just as the "Reform" movement has done].
Thus the Torah says "the sacrifice shall NOT remain overnight until the morning"
(Ex. 34:25) while the animal tithe must be consumed within TWO days. The
idolaters would "Offer a thanksgiving sacrifice of LEAVEN", while the Torah
specifically forbids this (Lev. 2:14; Rashi on Amos 4:5).

Vv 6ff depict how God has already sent chastisements to the people in the form of
famine (v 6), drought (vv 7-8), crop failure and pests (v 9) yet they have not
repented. The refrain, "yet you have not returned to Me" is repeated three times in
this section (vv 6, 8 and 9).

The depiction of drought in verse 7 – with some suffering more than others – is
cited in Talmud Sanhedrin 97a as one of the signs of the period immediately prior
to the coming of Mashiah.

Verses 10-13 are a Parshah Sethumah which constitutes the third and closing
section of the prophecy that began at Amos 3:11. This section echoes the previous
section in repeating twice the refrain following the evocation of the steadily
intensifying punishments: "…yet you have not returned to Me says HaShem!" (vv
10 and 11).

V 12: "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" The coming evil can still be averted if
the people will repent. This verse is quoted as the Biblical source of the requirement
to prepare oneself for prayer – by cleansing the body of its waste products and
dressing respectfully (Berachos 23a, Shabbos 10a).

V 13: This verse is one of the sublime prophetic evocations of the greatness of God,
who not only creates the grandest aspects of the universe (mountains, winds) but
even knows the tiniest details of man's private conversations with his very wife –
when one dies, God lays out all his deeds and words before him (Chagigah 5b). "He
will turn the dawn of the Tzaddikim into radiant light and the light of the wicked
into gloomy darkness" (Rashi). "He treads on the high places of the earth" – he
brings down the haughty and arrogant (Rashi).
MAY GOD TURN OUR HEARTS TO HIM, RESTORE US TO OUR LAND AND BUILD THE
TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM QUICKLY IN OUR TIMES. AMEN.

Chapter 5
Amos Chapter 5 consists of two related prophecies: (1) vv 1-17 with a break after v
15 for a short concluding 2-verse Parshah Sethumah; this prophecy calls on Israel
to repent before doom befalls them and analyzes their wrongdoing, foretelling the
devastation and mourning that will come when God vents His anger; (2) Vv 18-27
warning that the day of doom will be worse than people imagine and calling on the
people to repent in order to avoid going into exile.

The prophecies of Amos were directed to the people of his time, and having through
our study of the historical portions of the Bible broadened our perspective on this
period prior to the exile of the Ten Tribes and the destruction of the First Temple,
we should be in a better position to understand the specific situation he was
addressing. Yet as eternal prophecy from God, Amos' words apply to all of us until
today. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov urges us to see ourselves and our own situation
within every Torah lesson we study. We are therefore also bound to look deep into
our own hearts and ask ourselves how Amos' prophecy can help us uncover our
personal flaws and see what we can do to correct them.

In seeking to relate the message of Amos and his fellow prophets to the socio-
political realities of the people of Israel today – both those in the land of Israel and
those in the Diaspora – it might be tempting to identify those who continue to put
Torah practice at the center of their lives with Judah, while the more assimilated
and distant from the Torah tradition might be identified with the Ten Tribes. Many
of the reproofs of Amos and his fellow prophets against the kingdom of Israel seem
highly relevant to the Israel of today as well as to Diaspora communities. Yet such
schemas must be employed only with the utmost caution since the God-created
reality in which we live is infinitely more subtle and complex than our minds can
comprehend.

V 1: The prophet calls upon the House of Israel – the entire people – to hear and
attend to his sorrowful lament.

V 2: The apparent simple meaning of this verse is that the virgin of Israel has fallen
and shall rise no more (LO THOSEEF KOOM). Israel was a "virgin" prior to falling
under the influence and control of foreign masters. RaDaK (ad loc.) explains that
this is a prophecy that the Ten Tribes would go into exile, as indeed they did in the
days of Hoshea ben Elah at the hand of the king of Assyria, and they still have not
returned because Judah alone returned to Jerusalem from Babylon but not the Ten
Tribes. However RaDaK is at pains to emphasize that the Ten Tribes are destined to
return in time to come, as prophesied by several prophets. RaDaK thus brings
examples from elsewhere of the same root LO YASAF used in the sense of someone
not adding any more to do something for a certain period of time, whereas in fact
they did indeed do it again later on (II Kings 6:23; ibid. 24:7 and Jer. 37:5). Thus
Israel may not have risen yet, but she will! This agrees with the rabbinic
interpretation of this verse in Talmud Berachos 4b: "She has fallen but she will not
continue to fall any more; Arise O virgin of Israel". This interpretation is consistent
with the rabbinic approach of uncovering the good that lies buried within apparently
negative phrases.

V 3: The prophet warns of the literal decimation of the cities and towns of Israel.
V 4: "For thus says HaShem to the House of Israel: Seek Me and you shall live".
These words are the foundation of the entire Torah – and are seen as such in the
Talmudic passage in Maccos 23b: "Six hundred and thirteen commandments were
given to Moses… David came and reduced them to eleven principles… Then Amos
came and reduced them all to one foundation, 'Seek Me and live'". The way to seek
out God is through constant study of His Torah in order to understand His will, and
through constant prayer to Him to help us fulfill it.

V 5: Beith El and Gilgal were the sites of idolatrous worship. There was no idolatry
in Be'er-Sheva, but once people had come up from the south and passed Be'er-
Sheva, they were on the road to Beith El (Rashi).

V 6: The prophet repeats his call to repent, warning of the doom that will befall the
people and their idols if they do not.

V 7: The main sin that is bringing on this doom is the corruption of justice and the
failure to practice charity and kindness. The people have overturned God's
intention.

V 8: The prophet now brings examples of how God turns things around from one
extreme to the other. The rabbis said that the stars of the Pleiades (the "tail" of
Aries) have a chilling effect while those of the constellation of Orion bring heat to
the world, and both are necessary for the growth of fruits. The people should have
learned from God to turn things around for the benefit of the world and not to
overturn justice (RaDaK).

V 9: In vengeance for the people's overturning justice, God will strengthen the
weak enemies and bring them against the mighty nation.

V 10: The people refuse to heed the words of the prophets.

Vv 11-12: The corruption of justice and oppression of the poor by the powerful and
wealthy will be punished with the loss of their fine mansions and charming orchards
and vineyards.

V 13: On the day of doom the wise person will be silent – he will not question God's
attribute of Justice because the people are guilty of all these sins (Rashi).

Vv 14-15: The prophet again calls on the people to repent in the hope that they will
listen, so that God will mitigate the harsh decree.

Vv 16-17 are a PARSHAH SETHUMAH concluding the previous prophecy, telling of


the terrible mourning that will reign in all the towns and streets and in the very
orchards when the evil decree strikes.

Verse 18 opens a new PARSHAH PETHUHAH – a new prophecy – which continues


until the end of the chapter v 27. "Woe to you that DESIRE the day of HaShem":

This is addressed to those who mocked the prophets' warnings of coming doom,
sarcastically saying "Let Him hurry and hasten His work" (Isaiah 5:19; Rashi).

Vv 19-20 warn that the coming doom will be far more terrible than these sinners
imagined.
Vv 21-23 condemn the people for the emptiness of their religious assemblies and
their sacrifices. Their ritual music does not please God.

V 24-5: The essentials that God wants are Justice and Charity. Mere sacrifice
without inner repentance is not what God asks.

V 26: The people are warned that they will carry their idols with them into exile.
"Kiyyun" mentioned in this verse is a reference to the cult of Shabbetai=Saturn,
which is called by this name in Arabic and Persian (RaDaK). It has indeed been
suggested that aspects of this cult were involved in Sabbeteanism, to which some
modern scholars trace the origins of the assimilation that has overtaken the Jewish
people in recent centuries.

V 27: "I will cause you to go into exile beyond Damascus". Until now, the kingdom
of Israel had suffered mainly from Aram with its capital in Damascus, but the
coming exile under Sennacherib was to take the Ten Tribes much further afield.

Chapter 6
Chapter 6 makes up one prophecy that starts with a PARSHAH PETHUHAH (vv 1-
10) followed by a PARSHAH SETHUMAH (vv 11-14).

V 1: "Those who are at ease in Zion" refers to Judah, while "those who trust in Mt
Shomron" are the Ten tribes. They were named "chief among the nations" – they
were intended to be separate from them – but instead they have assimilated.

V 2: The prophet asks the people to look at the great contemporary powers of the
day – Kalne=Babylon, Hamat=Antioch, and Gath was the most powerful of the
Philistine cities – and consider if their territories are really so superior to the land
God gave Israel that they feel they want to be like the foreign nations.

V 3: The people are simply bringing nearer the evil day when they will dwell in the
seat of violence – under Esau (Rashi; cf. Ovadiah 1:10).

V 4 depicts the affluence of the wicked people who have made comfort and the
satisfaction of appetite the center of their lives.

V 5: Just as today, there was a plethora of self-infatuated singers and musicians to


entertain the comfortable people.

V 6: Nobody felt pain over the destruction looming over the Ten Tribes under the
leadership of Ephraim (=Joseph).

Vv 7-10 depict the coming doom in chilling detail.

Vv 11-12 warn of the utter destruction that awaits the kingdom of Israel on account
of the corruption of justice.

V 13: "They who rejoice over nothing, saying, 'Have we not taken horns for
ourselves through our own strength?'" This seems to typify the aggressive
shopping-mall, entertainment-center-based culture of our times.
V 14: The enemies will afflict Israel all the way "from the entrance of Hamath" –
i.e. the extreme north east of Israel – "up to the river of the Aravah="the brook of
Egypt" in the extreme south west of Israel (Rashi) – i.e. across the entire Land.

Chapter 7

The last prophecies of Amos in the closing section of the book (Amos 9:11-15)
speak of the final redemption and restoration, but before that, from the beginning
of chapter 7 until 9:10, he recounts in a succession of short parshahs a progression
of five prophetic images of the coming doom.

Rambam (Maimonidies) writes of suh prophetic images as follows:

"The things that are made known to the prophet in a prophetic vision are made
known to him by means of a metaphor. During the actual vision, the meaning of
the metaphor is immediately inscribed in his heart and he knows what it signifies,
as in the case of the ladder seen by Jacob our father with the angels ascending and
descending: this was a metaphor for subjugation to the empires…. The same
applies in the case of the 'beasts' seen by Ezekiel, Jeremiah's 'seething pot' and
'almond rod', the scroll seen by Ezekiel and the Eiphah-measure seen by Zechariah.
Some of the prophets recount both the image and its meaning, while others only
tell the interpretation, or in some cases only the metaphor without the
interpretation as in certain passages in Ezekiel and Zechariah. And they all
prophesied through metaphors and riddles…" (Rambam Yesodey HaTorah 7:3).

1. Amos 7:1-3: Image of the plague of locusts.


"Thus HaShem God showed me… KO HEER'ANI ADNY YKVK" (the Hebrew NIKUD,
vocalization of YKVK in this verse is with the vowels of ELOKIM). In this verse, KO
signifies the lens or looking glass of Malchus – "like this, so" (introducing the
prophetic MASHAL or metaphor). HEER'ANI means "He showed me". The two
names of God in this verse are ADNY, signifying His attribute of Malchus, together
with YKVK (with the NIKUD of ELOKIM=Gevurah, might), signifying BINAH. The
junction of Malchus and Binah signifies that the decree has been made by the BEIS
DIN SHEL MAALAH, "the Heavenly Court", and is to be executed by the BEIS DIN
SHEL MATA, "the court below" (Shaarey Orah Gate 8).

The image of the locust as the destroyer who consumes everything is reminiscent
of the prophecy of Joel ch's 1-2. Amos stands up and pleads with God to revoke
this decree of absolute destruction and God repents.

2. Vv 4-6: Image of judgment by fire. This prophetic metaphor is introduced by the


same formula as in the previous metaphor: "Thus HaShem God showed me…" Once
again Amos stands and pleads with God to revoke the decree because the people
will be unable to survive, and God repents.

3. Vv 7-9: Image of the builder's plumb line – used to ensure that the wall is built
exactly perpendicular. This indicates the strict line of Judgment whereby nothing is
overlooked or forgiven (Rashi). The prophet sees ADNY – the attribute of Judgment
-- "standing" on the wall holding the plumb line. The rabbis interpreted this as a
sign that the Divine Presence was leaving the Temple stage by stage. They listed
ten separate "journeys" of the Shechinah – from the cover over the Ark of the
Covenant to the Keruvim (angelic figures), from there to the threshold of the
House, then out to the Temple courtyard, onto the altar, onto the roof, from the
roof to the wall (our verse is the proof-text for this "journey" to the wall), from
there out to the city, from there to the mountain, then on to the wilderness before
rising and sitting in her place…. (Rosh HaShanah 31a).
Verse 9 speaks of the destruction of the high places of "YIS-HAK" (=Isaac). What is
unusual in this verse is not so much that YIS-HAK is spelled with a letter SIN in
place of TZADE (cf. Jeremiah 33:26) but that almost uniquely in all the prophets,
Israel are here called the children of Isaac (cf. Amos 7:16) whereas usually they
are called only the children of Jacob/Israel since Abraham and Isaac both had other
sons who were not ancestors of Israel. RaDaK (ad loc.) suggests that Amos was
contrasting the behavior of Isaac – who was bound on the altar to do God's will –
with that of his descendants, who flouted His will with their high places.

Amos concludes the prophecy of the builder's plumb line by foretelling the
destruction of the HOUSE of Jeraboam II (son of Joash and the grandson of Jehu
ben Nimshi) by the sword.

Vv 10-17: Amatziah the idolatrous priest of Beith El denounces Amos to king


Jerabo'am II as a traitor for prophesying that he would be killed. Amatziah lied to
Jerabo'am, because Amos had not prophesied that Jerabo'am himself would fall by
the sword but that his HOUSE would fall – alluding to the killing of Jerabo'am's son
Zechariah by Shalem ben Yaveish. The rabbis praised Jerabo'am for not accepting
this slander (Pesachim 87b).

Amatziah contemptuously tells Amos to flee to Judah and collect bread from people
in reward for his prophecies.

Amos answers Amatziah, "I am no prophet neither am I a prophet's son…" (v 14).


Rashi ad loc. explains: "I am not one of your false prophets who takes a fee for
prophesying. I have no need for all this and I have never practiced this, because I
am wealthy with herds and property…" "I was a dresser (BOLEIS) of sycamore
trees…" (v 20). Rashi here says the correct Hebrew word should be BOLEISH
(searching like a BALASH, "detective", for the best trees to cut down) but that
Amos was a stutterer (see commentary on Amos 1). So was Moses, and so was
Rabbi Nachman's hero, the Beggar who could not speak – because his words were
so exalted that people in this world could not understand what he was saying.

Amos curses Amatziah – among other things, he will die on impure land – i.e. in
exile. From here the rabbis taught that all who are buried in the Land of Israel are
as if they were buried under the Temple Altar (Kesubos 111a).

Chapter 8
Chapter 8 opens with the fourth of Amos' prophetic images, the basket of summer
fruit (Amos 8:1-3). The figs and dates used to be put aside to dry in the hot
summer sun and are called KAYITZ. As in many cases in such prophetic images, the
interpretation is linguistically bound up with the metaphor: thus KAYITZ alludes to
the KEITZ=end. The happy songs of idolatry will be replaced with howling and
mourning, and the dead bodies will be so many that those dealing with them have
to hush each other in order to prevent everyone from breaking down in helpless
weeping.

Vv 4-8 are a separate PARSHAH PETHUHAH explaining that the root cause of the
coming doom is the injustices of the wealthy and powerful, who are heartlessly
squeezing the poor – hoping that food will be scarce, whether through the
intercalation of an extra month in the calendar causing a late Pesach Omer offering,
or after the end of the Sabbatical year, in order to jump up prices. "To decrease the
measure and increase the shekel and falsify the balances of deceit" (v 5) – i.e.
smaller quantities for higher prices, and deceit everywhere. This also typifies the
modern economy as far as the poor are concerned. This is why enemies will sweep
away the people like a massive flooding river that washes over the land sweeping
everything away.

Vv 9-10 are a separate PARSHAH PETHUHAH. "I will cause the sun to go down at
noon" (v 9). Rashi explains that the downfall would come suddenly at a time of
great peace, referring this prophecy to the killing of King Josiah by Pharaoh Necho
when the latter marched his armies through Israel on his way to Assyria. According
to this interpretation, this prophecy is directed at Judah just as much as at Israel.

"And I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation…" (v
10). This verse is the source of the law that Jewish mourning over the dead lasts
for seven days (SHIV'AH) as well as various other laws of mourning (Mo'ed Katan
15b).

Vv 11-16 are a separate PARSHAH PETHUHAH prophesying the terrible spiritual


famine that will strike. We see this in our days: even the spiritual seekers do not
know where to find reliable Torah teaching, while the overwhelming majority of the
population are not even aware of how starved they are for Torah. When the rabbis
went into the orchard of Yavneh and said that the day would come when the Torah
would be forgotten by Israel, they cited verse 11 in support – except that Rabbi
Shimon bar Yohai (author of the Zohar) said that the Torah would not be forgotten
in his merit! (Shabbos 138b).

Chapter 9
The closing chapter of Amos prophesies the destruction of the Temple, the exile of
Israel, the restoration of the House of David, the final redemption and the Messianic
era of prosperity and blessing.

Chapter 9 vv 1-12 make up a single Parshah Sethumah which continues the


prophecy that began in Chapter 8 v 11 speaking about the terrible spiritual famine
that was to come about because of the idolatry of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes.

Chapter 9 now opens with the fifth and last in the series of prophetic images of the
coming doom that started at the beginning of Chapter 7.

Verse 1: "I saw the Lord (ADNY) standing besides the ALTAR, and He said, Smite
the capital that the thresholds may shake…" As in the previous visions, the divine
name used here indicates that Amos saw the aspect of DIN, harsh judgment. In
chapter 7 vv 7-9 Amos described the builder's plumb line over the Temple wall –
indicating the departure of the Shechinah (Divine Presence) from the Temple
building, one of her ten "journeys" away from Israel heralding the coming exile.
The present vision was said by the rabbis to prophesy one of the earlier stages or
"journeys" of the Shechinah in this process – from the cherubs over the Ark of the
Covenant in the Holy of Holies onto the golden incense ALTAR that stood in the
Temple Sanctuary (Rashi ad loc., Talmud Rosh HaShanah 31a). The fact that in this
later prophecy Amos saw an earlier stage in the flight of the Shechinah from the
Temple, one that was to come sooner, underlines that the day of doom was
drawing closer.

Targum Yonasan explains that the blow to the capital – the lintel over the entrance
of the Temple – alludes to the death of King Josiah, while the subsequent shaking
of the thresholds alludes to the terror that gripped the leaders of the people as a
result: Josiah was the last righteous king of Judah and with his death at Meggido at
the hands of Pharaoh Necho, the kingdom's doom was sealed.
Vv 2-4 prophesy the terrible carnage and exile that would overtake the people.
Targum Yonasan explains the "serpent" that God would send to bite them (v 3) as a
metaphor for the nations fierce as a serpent that He would arouse against them.

Vv 5-6 are reminiscent of passages in some of the other prophets, notably Isaiah,
and also in the book of Job, majestically evoking the great might of God over the
entire universe in order to affirm that He has the power to bring about all that His
prophets foretell.

V 7: "Are you not as much mine as the children of the Kushiyim (=Africans)…?"
This verse until the end of the book (Amos 9:7-15) are read in the synagogue as
the Haftara of Parshas Aharey Moth (Leviticus 16:2-18:30) which warns Israel not
imitate the immorality of the Egyptians and Canaanites. However, by the time of
Amos the people had fallen into the immorality proscribed by the Torah, and in
response God says in this verse, "Why should I hold back from punishing you since
you do not return to Me? Are you not descended from the sons of Noah just like all
the other nations? Indeed you have become like the Kushiyim, of whom it says,
'Can the Kushi change his skin?' (Jer. 13:23) – so you too can improve" (Rashi).
Metzudas David explains that the Philistines and Arameans were both destined to
be exiled from their lands (Jeremiah 47:4; II Kings 16:9) yet God would not
redeem them, whereas He did redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt and thereby
acquired them as His – in which case they are duty bound to obey Him.

V 8 foretells the destruction of the KINGDOM of the Ten Tribes but emphatically
states that the PEOPLE – the House of Jacob – will never be destroyed.

Vv 9-10 foretell that the people of Israel will be "shaken about" among all the
nations just as corn is sifted in a sieve, the purpose being to allow the grit and
waste – the sinners – to fall through the sieve and die in order to leave the grain –
the righteous – purified and intact (Metzudas David).

V 11: "After all this will have come upon them, the day prepared for redemption will
arrive, and on that day I shall raise up the fallen tabernacle of David. This, as
explained by Targum Yonasan, refers to the kingship of the House of David"
(Rashi).

V 12: This verse prophesies that Israel – upon whom the Name of God is called –
shall in future possess the remnant of Edom and of all the nations.

Verses 13-15 are a final Parshah Pethuhah describing the great plenty with which
Israel will be blessed after the restoration.

V 13: There will be so much produce in the fields that the harvesters will still be at
work when it is time to start plowing for the next growing season, while the grapes
will be so plentiful that the wine pressers will still be at work when it is time to sow
next year's crops… Amos' blessing is even greater than the blessing in the Torah
(Leviticus 26:5) that "the threshing will continue until the grape harvest and the
grape harvest until the time of sowing" (RaDaK).

Vv 14-15 foretell the return of the exiled people of Israel to our land. "…and they
shall no longer be plucked up out of their land which I have given them says
HaShem your God". Here we have God's promise that there will be no further exile
from the Land of Israel!!!
Book of Obadiah
Chapter 1
The rabbis taught that Obadiah was a GER TZEDEK (righteous convert) from Edom
(Sanhedrin 39b) – he was a descendant of Eliphaz the Teimanite, the companion of
Job (Yalkut Shimoni) – and that he received Torah from Elijah the Prophet. Obadiah
prophesied in the time of Ahab king of Israel and Yehoshaphat king of Judah. He
lived in the kingdom of Israel under the rule of Ahab and Jezebel – he was Ahab's
chamberlain – yet he resisted their evil influence. The rabbis pointed out that
whereas Abraham was described only as "fearing God" (Genesis 22:12), Obadiah
was characterized as "fearing God VERY MUCH" (I Kings 18:3; Sanhedrin 39b).
Although prophesy normally rested only on those of Israelite lineage, Obadiah
attained prophesy in the merit of his self-sacrifice to save the true prophets whom
Jezebel sought to kill. He hid one hundred prophets in two caves and after using up
his own considerable wealth to feed them, he borrowed on interest from King
Yehoram, signing over his own children as collateral for the loan (II Kings 4:1).

Obadiah's prophecy relates mainly to the nation from which he came: Edom. "The
Holy One blessed be He said: Let one who dwelled between two villains (Ahab and
Jezebel) yet did not learn from their deeds come to prophesy against Esau, who
dwelled between two Tzaddikim (Isaac and Rebecca) and did not learn from their
deeds". Obadiah's prophecy ends with the great salvation of Israel at the end of
days and the revelation of God's glorious kingship over all the world.

The book of Obadiah is read as the Haftara of parshas VAYISHLAH speaking of


Jacob's encounter with Esau and the latter's descendants.

Verse 1: "So says the Lord (ADNY) God (YKVK with nikud of Elokim)…" As discussed
in the commentary on Amos, the juncture of these two divine names alluding
respectively to Malchus and Binah indicates that the destined fate of Edom is
agreed by the Beis Din shel Matah (Malchus) in conjunction with the Beis Din shel
Maalah (Binah). All the nations will eventually make war against Edom (Metzudas
David).

Regarding the identity of Edom, RaDaK (on Obadiah 1:1) writes: "The land of Edom
(south east of the Dead Sea) does not today belong to the children of Edom
because the nations were mixed up and the majority are either Christian or Moslem
and it is impossible to recognize which of them comes from Edom, Moab, Ammon or
the other ancient nations, because they all went into exile from their lands and
became mixed up with the other nations. But Rome was initially mostly made up of
Edomites. When the prophets speak of the destruction of Edom, they were referring
to what will happen at the end of days."

Verse 2: "I will make you small among the nations". Isaac and Rebecca both called
Esau their "big" son (Genesis 27:1 & 15) but God says, "Before Me he is small"
(Rashi). The rabbis taught that Edom is called "small" because they did not have
their own script or language (Avodah Zara 10a). This fits in with RaDaK's teaching
that the Edomites infiltrated other nations, presumably adopting their languages
and alphabet. Thus Haman – from the seed of Amalek, who was Esau's illegitimate
grandson – attained power in Persia [and his descendants appear to have gained
power in Iran today as well as over other groups that promote the killing of Jews].

Verse 3: "Thou who dwellest in the clefts of the rock…" Rashi explains that Edom
leans on the "staff" of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, but they will not help him.
Rashi also identifies the Hebrew word for "clefts", HAGVEY, with the word
HAGA="destruction" (cf. Isaiah 19:17). Rashi renders the latter in Old French as
BREITEINA. Whether this is a secret allusion identifying Edom with Britain is left for
the reader to decide.

Verse 4: "Although you soar aloft like the eagle and though you set your nest
among the stars, from there will I bring you down…" The eagle was the emblem of
the Roman and Byzantine empires as well as being the emblem of the U.S.A. [Does
the prophecy that God will bring Edom down even from among the stars indicate
that the American attempt to dominate outer space to ensure military superiority
will eventually fail? China's recent knocking out of a space satellite may presage
this.]

Verse 5: "If thieves come to you and robbers by night, how come that you will be in
a slumber (alternative rendering: cut off)?" Today the predominantly Edomite
nations of Europe and America are suddenly beginning to wake up to the fact that
vast numbers of foreign immigrants have entered their lands and are consuming
their resources at a rate that is very alarming to their home-born citizens!

Verse 7: "All the men of your confederacy have driven you to the border…." Does
this verse also allude to the way America's allies have left her alone in the mire in
Iraq?

Verse 8-9: The leadership of the west does indeed today seem to have fallen into
the hands of fools who seem bent on their own ultimate self-destruction.

Verse 10-11: "For your violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover
you". The final destruction of Edom will come about in vengeance for the evil they
perpetrated against Israel at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple.
RaDaK (on v 11) writes that Titus and his forces who destroyed the Temple were
Edomites, many of whom still lived in the land of Edom, and although they were
under the power of Rome, the Roman rulers themselves were Edomites, and when
Titus laid siege to Jerusalem the Edomites were delighted and did everything in
their power to hand over Jewish fugitives to the Romans, whereas they should have
come to their aid since they were their brothers…

"And foreigners entered his gates and cast lots upon Jerusalem, and you too were
one of them." In our own times, Israel's chief "allies", U.S.A. and Britain, are
constantly pushing for a "settlement" that involves the division of Jerusalem.

Vv 12-14: Edom should not have stood from afar jubilantly witnessing Israel's
suffering.

Vv 15-16: God will requite the nations measure for measure.

V 17: In the end the House of Jacob will repossess all that the nations took from
them and be restored to Zion.

V 18: Joseph will be the flame that sets fire to Esau's house of straw! It is the
moral purity of Joseph – archetype of the Tzaddik – that will prevail over Esau. See
Rashi on Genesis 37:1 for further explanation.
V 19: This verse prophecies that at the end of days, the people of Israel will inherit
both the territories of Edom to the south east of Israel and also all of their own
ancestral lands west and east of the River Jordan, including the territories that were
not fully conquered in the days of Joshua and the Judges (see Metzudas David).

V 20: The cities of the south of Israel will be inherited by "this exiled host of the
Children of Israel who are among the Canaanites as far as France and the exiles of
Jerusalem who are in Spain". RaDaK (ad loc.) explains that "this exiled host" refers
to the exiles that Titus took to Germany, France and Spain, and that it was the
inhabitants of Jerusalem who went into exile in Spain, from where they spread out
to other lands in the Roman Empire and to what are today Islamic lands. In other
words, the Land of Israel will eventually be repossessed by Jews of both Ashkenazic
(from France and Germany etc.) and Sephardic (Spain, Islamic lands) backgrounds.
This prophecy has been realized within our lifetimes. RaDaK also brings a tradition
that the inhabitants of Germany were the Canaanites who fled from their land in
the time of Joshua. This adds the profoundest historical irony to the fact that
Germany started the Holocaust.

And in the end of days, "Liberators shall ascend upon Mount Zion to judge the
mountain of Esau, and the kingdom shall be God's".

SPEEDILY IN OUR TIMES! AMEN.


Book of Jonah
Chapters 1-2
The book of Jonah is read every year in the synagogue on Yom Kippur as the
Haftara after the afternoon Minchah service reading from the Torah. Jonah is
appropriate reading on the Day of Atonement as the message of this profoundly
deep and heavily veiled prophetic metaphor is ultimately simple and completely
universal: Repent!

Our sages tell that Yonah (=dove) son of Amitai (from the root EMeT=Truth) was
the son of the widow from Tzorphath with whom Elijah the prophet stayed during
the years of famine (I Kings 17:8ff), and that it was this boy that Elijah revived
(ibid. vv 17-24; Midrash Shohar Tov 26). Jonah learned Torah from Elisha and was
considered Tzaddik Gamur – completely righteous. It was Jonah that Elisha sent to
anoint Yehu ben Nimshi, nemesis of the house of Ahab (II Kings 9:1-10), and
Jonah's prophecy that Yehu's grandson, Yerav'am ben Yo'ash would restore the
boundaries of Israel is recorded in II Kings 14:25. Here Jonah is said to have come
from "Gath HaHefer", prompting the rabbis to discuss if he was from the tribe of
Zevulun or Asher. Jonah is said to have received prophecy in the merit of going up
to Jerusalem for the festival of Succoth (at a time when the kingdom of Israel
prevented the people from doing so) and rejoicing greatly at Simhat Beith
HaSho'eva, the celebration of drawing the water for the Succoth water libation on
the Temple Altar (Yerushalmi Succah 8:1).

As the book of Jonah relates, God told the prophet to go to Nineveh to tell the
people to repent, but not wanting to carry out this mission, Jonah tried to flee to
Tarshish, taking a boat from Yaffo. The latter is none other than the ancient Israeli
Mediterranean harbor-town of Yaffo besides which the great metropolis of Tel Aviv
has sprung up in modern times. The exact identity of Tarshish is the subject of
considerable discussion: While some associate it with Tarsus, the city in Cilicia in
the present-day Mersin province of Turkey , others think it may have been Crete
(cf. Genesis 1:4). Elsewhere in TaNaCh Tarshish is the name of a great sea (Daniel
10:6 etc.) as well as that of the gem aquamarine (Ex. 39:13). Nineveh , the sinful
city to which Jonah was sent, was a very important city in ancient Assyria located
on the east bank of the Tigris in modern-day Mosul (N. Iraq/Kurdistan).

There could be no better guide into the mysteries of Yonah than Rabbi Eliezer the
Great in ch 10 of the Midrash named after him (Pirkey d'Rabbi Eliezer):-

Why did Jonah flee? First God sent him to restore the boundary of the kingdom of
Israel and his words were fulfilled. Next He sent him to Jerusalem to prophesy its
destruction, but the people repented and God relented and did not destroy it – and
people called Jonah a false prophet. The third time, He sent him to Nineveh, but
Jonah argued within himself: "I know this people are close to repenting, and if they
do and God relents, He will send His anger against Israel. Not only will the
Israelites say I am a false prophet but so will the nations of the world. I will flee to
a place in connection with which His glory is nowhere mentioned (=the sea)… "
Jonah went down to Yaffo but could not find a boat – the boat he eventually took
was already two days' voyage from Yaffo in order to test Jonah. What did God do?
He sent a storm-wind that brought the boat back to Yaffo. Jonah saw and rejoiced
in his heart, saying, "Now I know that my way is right". When the sailors told Jonah
they were going to the remote sea islands of Tarshish, he said "I will go with you".
Jonah happily hired the boat… After one day at sea the boat was encompassed by
storm-winds. All the other boats were going to and fro on a calm sea, but the boat
Jonah went in was in dire trouble, "so that the ship seemed likely to be wrecked"
(Jonah 1:4).

Pirkey d'Rabbi Eliezer continues: Rabbi Hananiah says, PEOPLE FROM ALL THE
SEVENTY NATIONS WERE PRESENT IN THAT BOAT, each one with his idols in his
hand (cf. 1:5). [I.e. the story of Jonah has universal application.] They prostrated
to their idols, saying, "Let each one call in the name of his gods and the god that
answers us and saves us from this trouble is God". Jonah was asleep until the
captain of the boat came and aroused him. When Jonah told him he was a Hebrew,
the captain said, "We have heard that the God of the Hebrews is great. Rise and
call to your God: perhaps He will have pity on us and perform miracles for us as He
did for you at the Red Sea ". Jonah said, "I will not deny that this trouble has come
upon you because of me. Throw me into the sea and it will become calm". Rabbi
Shimon says: The sailors did not want to throw Jonah into the sea, but after
throwing all their baggage into the sea and trying in vain to row back to the shore,
they took Jonah and lowered him up to his ankles into the water. The sea started
becoming calmer, but when they hoisted him up again it started to rage again.
They lowered him in up to his belly and it became calm; they pulled him up and it
raged again. They lowered him down to his neck and it became calm, but when
they pulled him up again it continued raging, until they threw him in completely –
and the sea became calm.

The Midrash continues: Rabbi Tarphon says, The fish had been prepared to swallow
Jonah since the six days of creation. HE ENTERED ITS MOUTH LIKE A MAN
WALKING INTO A GREAT SYNAGOGUE [i.e. the whole mystery of being swallowed
by the fish is bound up with the mystery of prayer and spiritual devotion]. The two
eyes of the fish were like radiant glass windows. Rabbi Meir says that a precious
jewel hung in the belly of the fish radiating to Jonah like the midday sun, showing
him everything in the sea and the depths of the earth. Of this it says, "Light is sown
for the righteous" (Psalms 97:11). The fish said to Jonah, Don't you know that
today it is my turn to be eaten by Leviathan?" Jonah said: "Take me to him". Jonah
said to Leviathan, "For your sake I have come down to see your dwelling-place,
because in the future I am destined to tie a rope around your tongue and raise you
up to slaughter you for the great feast of the Tzaddikim". Jonah showed Leviathan
the seal of Abraham (the sign of the Covenant, his circumcision). Leviathan saw
and fled two days' distance from Jonah.

The Midrash goes on: Jonah now said to the fish, "I saved you from Leviathan: now
show me everything in the sea and the depths of the earth." [The Midrash now
relates how the fish took Jonah on a kind of grand underwater world tour in a live
submarine.] The fish showed him the great river-source of the Ocean, as it says,
"The depth encompasses me" (Jonah 2:6). He showed him the Red Sea through
which Israel passed, as it says, "the reeds (SOUF) were wrapped about my head"
(ibid.) He showed him the breakers of the sea from which the waves go forth, as it
says, "all Your billows and Your waves passed over me" (v 4). He showed him the
pillars and foundations of the earth (v 7) and he showed him Gehennom, as it says,
"You brought my life up from destruction", and he showed him the lowest pit of
hell, as it says, "From the belly of hell I cried out and You heard my voice" (v 3). He
showed him the Temple of God, as it says, "I went down to the ends of the
mountains" (v 7). He showed him the Evven Shesiyah ("Foundation Stone") fixed in
the depths beneath the Sanctuary, and the sons of Korach standing praying on it.
The fish said to Jonah, "You are standing under God's Temple: pray and you will be
answered". Jonah prayed…. But he was not answered until he said, "What I have
vowed I will fulfill" (v 10) – "My vow to bring up Leviathan and slaughter him before
You I will fulfill on the day of Israel's salvation". God immediately made a sign for
the fish to vomit Jonah out onto the dry land (v 11).

The Midrash of R. Eliezer concludes: The sailors saw all the great signs and wonders
that God performed for Jonah and immediately rose and cast their gods into the
sea, as it says, "They that guard lying vanities forsake their loyalty" (2:9). They
returned to Yaffo and went up to Jerusalem and circumcised themselves…. And they
made vows and proceeded to fulfill them, going to bring their wives and all their
families to fear the God of Jonah (Pirkey d'Rabbi Eliezer ch 10).

Through the weave of Rabbi Eliezer's Midrash we can see how the story of Jonah is
an allegory of Israel among the Seventy Nations, and how the terrible global storm
sent by God as a result of Israel's flight from Him into sin eventually brings Jonah
and all the nations to know and fear God. With many contemporary world "leaders"
repeating regularly that "all of the world's problems are rooted in the Middle East
problem (= Israel), and if that can be solved, everything else will be solved", we
clearly see how God's "dove" (=Yonah, cf. Song of Songs 2:14) remains until today
at the very center of the global storm.

Another dimension of the prophecy of Jonah is brought out in the Holy Zohar
(Vayakhel 199a ff). In the words of the Zohar: These verses allude to the whole of
man's life from his emergence into the world until the resurrection of the dead.
Jonah's going down into the boat is man's soul entering the body to live in this
world. Man goes in this world like a boat in the great sea that seems likely to be
wrecked. When man sins in this world and thinks he will flee from his Master
without taking account of the world to come, God sends a great storm-wind – the
decree of harsh justice – and demands justice from this man, striking the boat and
causing illness. Even on his sickbed, his soul is still not stirred to repent – Jonah
goes down into the depths of the boat and slumbers. Who is the captain of the boat
that wakes him up? This is the good inclination, who tells him, "Now is not the time
to sleep – they are taking you to judgment over all that you have done in this
world: repent!" "What is your work? From where do you come? Which is your land?
From which people are you" (Jonah 1:8). "What work have you done in this world –
confess to God about it! Think where you come from – a putrid drop – and don't be
arrogant before Him! Remember that you were created from the very earth! Ask
yourself if you are still protected by the merits of the founding fathers of your
people!" When the person is about to die, his defending angels try to save him –
the sailors try to row back to the land – but the storm-wind is too strong and can
only be assuaged when man is taken down into his grave. Throwing Jonah into the
sea corresponds to burial in the grave. The belly of the fish is hell, as it says, "From
the belly of hell I cried out" (Jonah 2:3). The three days and nights Jonah was in
the belly of the fish corresponds to the first three days in the grave, when his
innards burst onto his face and they say, "Take what you put inside yourself: you
ate and drank all your days and did not give to the poor. You made all your days
like festivals, while the poor went hungry and did not eat with you…" The judgment
continues for thirty days with the soul and body being judged together. Afterwards
the soul ascends and the body rots in the ground, until the time when God will
revive the dead. "He has swallowed up death for ever" (Isaiah 25:8) – "And God
spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah out onto the dry land" (Jonah 2:11). And in
this fish there are remedies for the whole world…
Chapter 3
Vv 1-2: "And the word of God came to Jonah a second time saying, Arise go to
NINEVEH, that great city…" ARI points out that the Hebrew letters of the name of
Y-O(=Vav)-Na-H are contained in the name of the city N-Y-Ne-Ve-H, with the
addition of one extra Nun, signifying the 50 Gates of Binah=Imma. The gematria of
Y-O-Na-H is 71, and with an additional unit for the whole word we have a total of
72=HeSeD=Hokhmah=Abba. Jonah's task was to bring Abba and Imma to Zivug in
order to bring compassion into the world, which was under the dark shadow of
severe Judgments owing to the wickedness of the people (ARI, Sefer HaLikutim,
Jonah; see there for other amazing insights into Jonah ch's 1-2). The task of the
prophet was to bring the people to repentance, which is rooted in BINAH.

On Jonah himself the success of his mission would have a negative effect because
he was prophesying that the city would be overturned after forty days if the people
did not repent – and when they did, the city was not destroyed, making it seem as
if his prophecy had not come about and was false. (But in fact, a prophet is proven
false only if a good prophecy is not realized, not if a prophecy of doom does not
come about since God may relent and overturn an evil decree but he does not
overturn a good one, Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 10:4.) Despite the
potential damage to his reputation, Jonah went about his mission, saying, "Another
forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown (NEHEPHECHETH)" (v 4). The root
HAPHACH means to turn something around. ARI comments that Jonah was actually
prophesying that DIN, harsh judgment, would turn about into RAHAMIM, kindness
(ibid.).

V 5: "And the men of Nineveh believed in God and they called for a fast…" RaDaK
comments that men from Jonah's boat – those members of the 70 Nations who
converted – were there in Nineveh and they gave testimony over the wonders they
had witnessed with Jonah in the boat. This was why the men of Nineveh BELIEVED
Jonah and did what was required. RaDaK's comment once again points to the
universal significance of the book of Jonah for all mankind, as suggested also by the
following Midrash:

V 6: "And the matter reached the king of Nineveh …" The Midrash tells: Rabbi
Nehuniah HaKaneh says, You can learn about repentance from Pharaoh, who
rebelled flagrantly against HaShem when he said "Who is HaShem that I should
listen to His voice?" (Ex. 5:2) but later repented, saying, "Who is like You among
the gods, HaShem?" (Ex. 15:11). God saved Pharaoh from death to tell the power
of His might, as it says, "However, on account of this I have caused you to stand"
(Ex. 9:16), and he became the ruler of Nineveh. The men of Nineveh were
constantly plotting to harm each other and they were sunk in robbery and
homosexuality. God sent Jonah to prophecy the destruction of the city. When
Pharaoh heard, he rose from his throne and rent his garments and clothed himself
in sackcloth and ordered all his people to fast for three days… However after forty
days they went back to their evil ways and went to even further extremes than
before, and the dead were swallowed up in the lowest pit of hell, as it is written,
"Men groan from out of the city" (Job 24:12; Pirkey d'Rabbi Eliezer).

V 8: "Let them turn every one from his evil way and from the violence (HAMAS)
that is in their hands". Today we are still waiting for the world to renounce HAMAS
and everything that this evil concept and the Arab organization that bears its name
represents. Our sages taught on this verse that the level of repentance the king
demanded from the people of Nineveh was that even if someone had stolen a
wooden beam and built it into the structure of his house, he was to pull down the
house in order to return the brick (Ta'anis 16a). This actually is in accordance with
the strict law of the Torah relating to theft, but in fact, to avoid deterring people
from penitence, the Rabbis mitigated this with their enactment that a thief could
pay monetary restitution for the stolen beam to avoid having to pull his own house
down (Rambam, Laws of Robbery and Lost Property 1:5).

V 10: "And God saw their deeds…" The Talmud brings that on public fast days when
a sage would address the people exhorting them to repent, he would quote this
verse, saying, "Brothers, it is not the fasting and sackcloth that cause God to take
pity but the repentance in the heart and good deeds… It does not say 'And God saw
their sackcloth and fasting' but 'And God saw their DEEDS, for they returned from
their evil way'" (Ta'anis 16a).

Chapter 4
Why did Jonah feel so bad when the people of Nineveh repented and averted
disaster? Besides feeling that he was seen as a false prophet in the eyes of the
nations, our sages taught that Jonah also feared that the repentance of Nineveh
after only one warning would raise a serious accusation against Israel, who had
many true prophets yet still did not repent (cf. RaDaK on Jonah 4:1).

Verse 2 invokes the essence of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Exodus 34:6).

Verse 3: Jonah asked God to take his life because he did not want to see evil befall
Israel as a result of the accusation aroused by the repentance of Nineveh. His
request is compared to that of Moses to "please blot me out of Your book" if God
would not forgive Israel (Exodus 32:32, cf. Numbers 11:15, RaDaK on v 3).

Verse 4 begins a new Parshah Sethumah – continuing, after a pause, from the
previous section – in which God teaches Jonah a lesson in compassion.

V 6: "And HaShem-Elokim appointed a castor oil plant (KIKAYON)…" The Midrash


says of the KIKAYON: God brought up the KIKAYON over Jonah's head during the
night, and in the morning 275 leaves came out (corresponding to the gematria of
KIKAYON), each leaf a span and a handbreadth wide. There was enough room for
four people to sit under the shade of the KIKAYON to take shelter from the sun, but
God appointed a worm which gnawed through the plant from below so no moisture
could rise up to the leaves, which dried, and the plant died and all the flies and
mosquitoes there afflicted Jonah on every side until his eyes welled up with tears
before God. He asked him, Why are you crying – do you feel pain over this plant
that you did not cultivate, which you never fed with fertilizer and never watered,
which came up in one night and the next night it was already dried up? Should I
not have pity on Nineveh the great city? At that moment Jonah fell on his face and
said, Govern Your world with the attribute of compassion" (Yalkut Shimoni).

ARI (Sepher HaLikutim) states that the KIKAYON which protected Jonah alludes to
the TZELEM – the encompassing levels of Hochmah, Binah and Daat that hover
over and protect the soul in this world.

Verse 10: "…and should I not be concerned for Nineveh in which are more than one
hundred and twenty thousand people that cannot discern between their right hand
and their left and also much cattle?" Rashi comments that those who cannot
discern between one hand and the other are the children, while the "much cattle"
(BEHEMAH RABBAH) refers to all the adults whose mentality is that of an animal
(BEHEMAH) since they do not know Who created them.
Book of Micah
Chapter 1
The prophet Micah was from the tribe of Judah from the city of Moreshah in the
kingdom of Judah. Micah received Torah from Isaiah and was the youngest of the
"quartet" of prophets (the senior two being Hosea and Amos) in the days of Uzziah,
Yotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Pesachim 87a, see Tosafos there), immediately prior
to the exile of the Ten Tribes and about a century and a half before the destruction
of the First Temple.

The prophecies of Micah include reproofs against the people of Shomron and
Jerusalem over their sinful behavior to their fellow man, reproofs against the
leaders and false prophets who deceived the people, prophecies of consolation
about Mashiach, the future greatness of Zion, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and
the peace and tranquility that will then rule, God's complaints over the ingratitude
of His people, His desire that the people should pursue justice and kindness, and
the prophet's prayer for the people, concluding with his invocation of the 13
Attributes of Mercy in order for God to forgive Israel.

Chapter 1 Verse 1: Micah's prophecy is directed towards all the people of Israel –
the Ten Tribes (=Shomron) and Judah and Benjamin (Jerusalem). The intimate
relationship that he sees between their respective sins is set forth in this first
prophecy (vv 5, 9 etc.).

V 2: "Hear all you peoples…" Micah is addressing the Tribes of Israel, each one of
which is considered a "people" ('AM) in itself (Metzudas David). "Let HaShem God
be witness against you…" Micah is saying that He will testify "that I prophesied to
you in His name and warned you" (Rashi ad loc.).

V 3: "He will tread upon the high places of the earth" – "these are the people who
are exalted and arrogant" (Rashi).

V 4: In the light of Rashi's comment on the previous verse, the erupting volcanic
cataclysm described in this verse can be seen as a metaphor for the coming
complete upset of the people's existing social order.

V 5: "What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Shomron? And what are the high
places of Jerusalem? Are they not Jerusalem?" Micah traces the source of the sins
that are leading to the coming doom directly to the kings of Shomron and
Jerusalem respectively. Shomron was the stronghold of the kings of Israel (the Ten
Tribes), and it was they who promoted worship of Jeraboam's calves, while the
Jerusalem-based kings of Judah were responsible for allowing the continuation of
the altars in the "high places" (BAMOTH) in Judah. Both cults were fatal deviations
from the Torah. (See RaDaK on this verse.) [Similarly today the ills that afflict
secular Israel are closely bound up with the ills afflicting the more traditional Jews.]

Vv 6-8: First the prophet describes the complete destruction that would befall
Shomron and its idols – the Ten Tribes went into exile first. Micah's comparison of
Shomron to a harlot whose idols are the hire she received from her lovers follows
similar metaphors in Hosea (1:2 etc.) and the other prophets.

V 8: "For this I will wail and howl…" By the time of Micah, youngest of the "quartet"
prophesying in the same period, the day of doom was coming ever closer. His
phraseology here is reminiscent of the similar language found in Jeremiah, who
came later and lived through the destruction of the Temple.

V 9: "For her wounds are desperate, for it has come as far as Judah, it has reached
the gate of my people to Jerusalem ". The prophet already sees beyond the exile of
the Ten Tribes, because the disease has spread to Judah itself and to the very
capital in Jerusalem.

V 10: "Declare it not in Gath …" When David lamented the death of Saul and
Jonathan, he too did not want the shame of Israel to be known to their enemies the
Philistines (II Samuel 1:20). In the present verse, in which Micah begins to depict
the mourning and exile that were destined to strike city after city in Judah, it is
clear that foremost among the enemy forces encroaching on Judah 's territory were
the Philistines. The English translations cannot do justice to the subtlety of the
Hebrew in this and the following verses, where the prophet uses word-play on the
names of the various towns of Judea to depict the horrors that were to strike each
one. The name of the town OPHRAH in our verse is from the Hebrew root 'APHAR,
"dust". It seems highly significant that the KSIV (written form) as opposed to the
KRI (pronunciation) of HITHPALASHI, "roll about" [in the dust], is HITH-PALSHTI –
apparently alluding to the Philistine (PELISHTI). Today, nearly two and a half
millennia after Micah, we once again see a people whose self-selected name
consists of exactly the same letters seeking to encroach on the land of Israel .

Vv 11-15: The prophet sees into the future, watching the people of one Judean
town after the other facing the terrible shame, degradation and horror of
deportation and exile, in each case expressed through his wordplay on the names
of the towns. Lachish (v 13) was the first Judean town to import Baal worship from
the kingdom of Israel (RaDaK). "Therefore you will give presents to Moresheth
Gath" (v 14): Gath had been taken from the Philistines by David, but now they
would receive it back (see Rashi, RaDaK). "The houses of Achziv are a dried-up
stream (ACHZAV)" (v 14): this Hebrew root denotes disappointment (no water!).
Micah here prophesies how years in the future the Judean town of Achziv would be
drawn after Pekah ben Remalliah, the second last king of Israel, but would be
disappointed about having relied on him as he was killed (Rashi, Sanhedrin 102b).
"I will bring against you a possessor (YORESH) against you who dwell in
MORESHAH…" Here the prophet addresses the people of his own town (cf. Micah
1:1). Enemies are coming who will take possession of their land.

V 16: "The eagle flies high above the other birds, and once in ten years it flies
higher than ever until it reaches the upper atmosphere close to the sphere of fire,
and because of the great heat its feathers come of its wings and fall off" (RaDaK).
Likewise the prophet foretells how the land of Israel was to become "bald" when
the Israelites would go into exile under Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar.

And why??? The prophet has spoken about how the land would be possessed by
others, and in the coming short Parshah Sethumah (ch 2 vv 1-2) he will explain the
reason for this terrible punishment.
Chapter 2
Vv 1-2: "Woe to them that devise iniquity…" The wealthiest and most powerful
were constantly practicing the most sophisticated forms of land-grabbing and self-
enrichment at the expense of their fellow Israelites, and it was precisely because
they robbed others of their land that all their land would be taken by their enemies,
as prophesied in the previous chapter, MIDDAH KE-NEGED MIDDAH, "measure for
measure". The Israelite king Ahab's seizure of Naboth's vineyard (I Kings ch 21) is
the most glaring example of such land-grabbing.

V 3: This verse begins a new Parshah Pethuhah following on directly from the
previous one. Just as the wicked were devising (HOSHVEY) evil on their beds (v 1),
God declares that He is "devising (HOSHEV) evil against all this family" (v 3).
MIDDAH KE-NEGED MIDDAH.

V 4: Those who lament when this evil strikes will cry out, "The share of my people
has been exchanged…" – "the inheritance of my people has been given over to the
enemy – how will He ever come back to me to restore to us our fields that this
enemy shares out for himself, how will it ever be possible to return them to me?"
(Rashi). Many in the present day may be asking the same question about the
territories of the Holy Land that have been given over to Israel's enemies in
exchange for a mirage of "peace" that has turned into a nightmare.

V 5: "Therefore you shall have none that cast the line by lot in the assembly of
HaShem". Those who have robbed others of their land will be punished by having
no descendant who will measure out the land of his inheritance in God's land after
the future redemption (Metzudas David). Behind the harshness of this prophecy lies
the consolation that the rest of the people who did not rob others of their land will
have their share in the land of Israel returned to their descendants in the time of
the redemption.

V 6: "You who preach, do not preach…" Micah addresses the true prophets, as if to
say that the moral degradation has reached such a low that it is purposeless to
prophecy any more since the people will merely insult them.

V 7: The prophet quotes the people's mocking of his prophecies of doom: they ask
if God's temper has become short and if He would do such a terrible thing. God
answers that His words will benefit those who go straight. (See the comment on vv
12-13 below.)

V 8: The people see God as an adversary – and they continue their blatant robbery,
stripping innocent people who were going along quite securely of their very clothes,
making them look like war returnees (Rashi).

V 9: The theft of people's property is a catastrophe for their wives and children (see
Likutey Moharan I, 69).

V 10: The prophet tires of cataloging the people's sins, telling them to get up and
go into exile already because this was not the MENUHAH (invigorating repose and
tranquility) that God intended for the people of Israel in His land – to defile it with
their bands of wickedness.

V 11: Rejecting the words of the true prophet, the people would take any man
walking in wind and falsehood and preaching for a glass of wine or liquor as their
prophet and guide.
Vv 12-13: The two closing verses of this Parshah are susceptible to two quite
opposite interpretations, as detailed by RaDaK. They can be explained as
prophecies of the coming doom with the remnant of the people packed like sheep
into cities under siege as the enemies break through until eventually the king –
Tzidkiahu – ignominiously leaves Jerusalem , the divine presence having departed.

On the other hand Targum Yonasan, Rashi and Metzudas David prefer to draw out
the consolatory prophecy contained in the very same Hebrew words. (That two
opposite prophecies can be contained in the very same words was explained earlier
in v 7: "Are these His terrible doings? – [No], My words do good to him that walks
uprightly".)

The good news is that in the final redemption, "I shall surely gather the remnant of
Israel …" They shall be like flocks for multitude, and their cities will resound with
the sounds of their great populations. Their redeemer will break through the
barriers and obstacles in order to straighten the path for them, and their king –
Mashiach – will pass before them and God will pass by at the head of all of them
(see Targum, Rashi, RaDaK).

Chapter 3
Chapter 3 verse 1 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah setting forth the sins of the
leaders of the people on account of which they were to be punished with exile.
Whereas the preceding verse (Micah 2:13) spoke of God at the HEAD of the people,
the prophet now addresses the sinful temporal HEADS of Jacob and rulers of Israel,
who should have known better than to act as they were acting: "Is it not for you to
know justice?"

Vv 2-3: The root of all their evil is that they are devouring each others' very skin
and flesh, robbing and exploiting the people and consuming them like meat in a
pot. The prophet will return to the theme of oppression and injustice by the wealthy
and powerful in vv 9-11.

V 4: When the coming trouble strikes, the sinners will cry out to God but He will not
answer; rather, He will hide His face from them because of their evil deeds.

V 5 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah taking the analysis of the evil of the people a
stage further by exposing the venality of the false prophets who support the evil of
the rulers by selling prophecies of peace and prosperity to those willing to pay them
while declaring holy war against anyone who refused. The contemporary equivalent
of these false prophets and soothe-sayers would appear to be the armies of spin
doctors and hack media pundits whose job is to sell the policies of the very wealthy
and powerful to the hypnotized public and pull a cloak over their wrongdoing and
corruption.

Vv 6-7: Micah foretells that when the coming doom strikes, the false prophets will
be put to shame. Many of the official spokesmen and mainstream media
commentators who were predicting in the early 1990's that Israel's Oslo agreement
with the "Palestinians" would lead to a golden age of peace in the Middle East would
also be put to shame if they were forced to re-read their words again in the light of
the nightmare that has developed as a result. The same applies to those who
promised that Israel 's "disengagement" from Gaza would lead to greater security.
V 8: Micah asserts that in contrast to the baseless prophecies of the false prophets,
his own prophecies are full of the power and spirit of God. Unlike the false
prophets, he will not flatter the corrupt rulers and cover over their wrongdoing.

V 9: The prophet returns to castigating the rulers for their corruption. "If you see a
generation that suffers from many troubles, go out and examine the judges of
Israel, for all the troubles come only on account of the judges of Israel, as it says,
"Hear this you heads of the House of Jacob and rulers of the House of Israel who
pervert justice" (Shabbos 139a).

V 10: "…they build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity" – "Each one
builds his house with blood since they shed people's blood to take their money to
build their own houses, and they build Jerusalem with money extracted through
corruption, exploitation and deception" (Metzudas David). This is a prophecy that
resonates with those familiar with the property market in various parts of present-
day Israel with Jerusalem foremost among them. Many honest citizens are quite at
a loss as to how to afford a house when prices are driven ever higher by powerful
players who have amassed enormous wealth on the backs of others. Those same
honest citizens note that while they themselves are pinched ever tighter
economically as "the measure is reduced and the shekel price is increased" (Amos
8:5), the wealthy keep getting wealthier and bank profits have never been higher.

V 11: This verse lists three sins, which were to be requited with the three
punishments listed in the following verse (Shabbos 139a). The three sins are: (1)
The heads (=the kings or Sanhedrin, RaDaK) take bribes in passing judgments and
making their governmental decisions. [Recent revelations about corruption at the
top levels of the Israeli government may be presumed to be merely the tip of an
iceberg.] (2) The priests, whose function was to teach Torah and issue halachic
rulings could be bought for a price and would rule accordingly. [Today it is the
editors and columnists who decide what is right and wrong in favor of whoever pays
them, and predetermine the public debate before it even begins.] (3) The prophets
(the ideologues) divine for money.

V 12: Therefore: (1) Zion shall be plowed like a field. This prophecy was realized
with the destruction of the Temple – the Romans literally plowed up the Temple
Mount. In case this was not enough, the prophecy has been realized again quite
literally in our days with the extensive Arab excavations on the Temple Mount in
recent years, in which many priceless archaeological relics have been barbarically
destroyed. (2) Jerusalem shall become heaps of rubble. This too was realized when
the Romans destroyed the city, and again when the Jordanians wantonly destroyed
synagogues and other buildings in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem
after its capture in the 1948 War of Independence. (3) The Temple Mount shall
become like the high places of the forest. Anyone who has seen the Temple Mount
from the Mt of Olives or aerial pictures knows that it has been planted with many
trees, in flagrant violation of the Torah prohibition against planting any tree in the
vicinity of God's altar (Deut. 16:21).

A famous Talmudic passage tells how after the destruction of the Second Temple a
group of sages passed by its ruins and, on seeing a fox emerge from the place of
the Holy of Holies, broke down weeping, while Rabbi Akiva laughed. When his
companions asked why he laughed, Rabbi Akiva answered that seeing the literal
fulfillment of Micah's prophecy in our present verse gave him confidence that the
prophecy of Zechariah will also be fulfilled that "old men and old women will yet sit
in the streets of Jerusalem… and the streets of the city will be filled with boys and
girls playing…" (Zechariah 8:4; Maccos 24b).
Chapter 4
Verses 1-3: "And it shall be at the end of days…" Following the preceding prophecy
of destruction, this sublime prophecy of consolation about the restoration of the
Temple and how the nations of the world will stream to seek out God and His Torah
is also found in Isaiah 2:2-4 with almost identical wording except for very minor
changes.

RaDaK comments (on v 1) that in saying that the Temple Mount will be "established
on the top of the mountains and it shall be EXALTED ABOVE the hills" the verse
does not necessarily mean that it will be literally higher than it was, but that the
nations will exalt and give honor to the Temple Mount and come there to serve
HaShem. We may presume that the Temple Mount will no longer be insulted by
being called merely the "third holiest place" of a tradition that does not recognize
the name of HaShem or Moses his prophet. Rather, the Temple Mount will be the
central focus of the entire world, from which the Torah – the word of HaShem – will
go forth to all parts of the globe.

"And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning
hooks" (v 3). Despite the noble declared aims of the United Nations, the world is
clearly still very far from the realization of this prophecy, as astronomical sums of
money and resources continue to be poured into arms and armaments by nations
great and small. We can only hope and pray that God will bring humanity to its
senses before we destroy ourselves and the whole world. It is comforting that
Micah here prophecies that eventually "they will not learn war any more" (v 3).

V 5: "For let all people walk everyone in the name of his gods" – "all the nations
will go to destruction for having worshipped idols" (Targum) – "but we shall walk in
the Name of HaShem our God for ever and ever."

Vv 6-7 make up a short Parshah Pethuhah continuing with the prophecies of


consolation about the end of days, when God will bring in the scattered of Israel,
who are as if limping in exile, being unable to move from their place (Metzudas
David).

V 8: The prophet promises Jerusalem – the center to which the "flocks" gather on
the pilgrim festivals – that the former dominion will return: this is the original
united kingdom of David as it was before the Ten Tribes split from Judah and
Benjamin (Rashi, Metzudas David, RaDaK).

V 9: There are varying interpretations of the Hebrew word TA-RIYI in this verse.
Some render, "Why do you CRY OUT aloud", relating the root to TERU'AH as in the
shofar blast. However, Rashi relates the root to REI'A, a "friend", rendering, "Why
do you need to seek out friends and lovers, the kings of Egypt and Assyria, to help
you?" The same question could be put to the rulers of Israel today: Why do you feel
the need to rely on your peace treaty with Egypt and your backers in Washington
when God is your King and advises you how to run your affairs – by following His
Torah?

V 10: The prophet compares the coming ructions of exile to the pain of a mother
giving birth – but promises that after the exile will come redemption and
restoration.

V 11-14: Rashi and particularly RaDaK explain this passage as a prophecy of the
ingathering of the exiles in the time of Mashiah. Verse 11 begins with the word
NOW as if to say, You can be quite confident that this prophecy will come to pass,
even if it does so only after a long time, just as if it were happening NOW (RaDaK).

"And now many nations are gathered against you, who say, Let her be defiled and
let our eyes look upon Zion " (v 11). These "many nations" are Gog and Magog and
the many nations that are with him (RaDaK). We see with our own eyes how in
every international forum today the voices of the nations are raised in cries of
accusation that Zionist Israel is "defiled", and they all wait for her downfall.

"But they do not know the thoughts of HaShem…" (v 12). The nations do not
understand that it is part of God's plan that they should feel compelled to come
against Jerusalem, intending to plunder and destroy her – for this is how He draws
them so as to gather in the Vale of Yehoshaphat where He will defeat them (Joel
4:2; Rashi on Micah 4:12). The nations will be like sheaves gathered in from the
field – to be beaten and threshed.

V 13: "Having compared the nations to sheaves, God tells Zion that despite her
weakness after the exile, He will strengthen her and give her metal horns with
which to gore the nations and brass hooves with which to trample them" (Metzudas
David).

V 14: "Now gather yourself in bands, daughter of troops – he has laid siege against
us; they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek." Rashi applies
this verse to the Babylonians who were to destroy the First Temple because of
Israel's sin of abusing their prophets and judges and striking them on the teeth.
However, RaDaK applies the verse to the people of Jerusalem under siege from the
forces of Gog and Magog, when "half the city will go out in exile" (Zechariah 14:2)
and the enemies will publicly degrade the judges and leaders of Israel to the point
that they will contemptuously strike them on the jaw. The public demonization of
leading rabbis in our time – accompanied by the unscrupulous twisting of their
words to imply the opposite of what they intended (=striking them on the jaw) may
also be a sign of the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Chapter 5
Chapter 5 Verse 1 begins a Parshah Sethumah that continues until the end of verse
5. This very important section speaks of Mashiah and the defeat of Gog and Magog
at the end of days. It is thus a continuation of the previous prophecy (Micah 4:8-
14) which spoke about the restoration of the Davidic kingship and the war of Gog
and Magog.

V 1: The prophet addresses Bethlehem, (also called Ephrath, Gen. 48:7) – the
family home of King David (I Samuel 17:58), from whose progeny there will
emerge God's anointed Mashiah. RaDaK (ad loc., uncensored version) cites the
Christian interpretation of this verse as a reference to their founder, said to have
been born in Bethlehem. RaDaK shows that this interpretation is untenable since
(1) he was never "ruler in Israel" as Mashiah will be – rather, the people ruled over
him since they had him executed, Sanhedrin 43a; (2) the claim that "from ancient
time, from days of old" to which Mashiah's "goings out" are traced refers to God is
impossible because God is beyond time. Targum Yonasan renders "and his goings
out from ancient time from days of old" as: "his [Mashiah's] name was declared
from ancient time, from days of old" – i.e. from the beginning of creation it was
foreordained that Mashiah will come at the end of days.
V 2: "Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who travails has
brought forth…":God will give them into the hands of their enemies until the time
when Zion travails and gives birth to her children" (Rashi). Micah 4:9 also
characterizes the pangs of redemption as birth pangs. Since a woman gives birth
after NINE MONTHS of pregnancy, the Rabbis learned from this verse that "The son
of David will not come until the kingdom of wicked Rome has spread over the entire
world for NINE MONTHS" and then "the remnant of his brothers" – i.e. the brothers
of Mashiah, Judah and Benjamin (RaDaK), will return to the Children of Israel – i.e.
they will be reconciled with the Ten Tribes" (Yoma 10a).

V 3: This verse prophecies the strength and glory of Mashiah that will be
manifested through the power of God, and the return of the exiles to the Land of
Israel.

Vv 4-5: "And THIS will be peace", i.e. this will be genuine peace as opposed to the
sham that has gone by the name of "peace" until now. If enemies try to enter the
Land, we shall raise against them "seven shepherds and eight princes of men". The
rabbis stated that the "seven shepherds" are David in the center with Adam, Seth
and Methuselah to his right and Abraham, Jacob and Moses to his left. The "eight
princes of men" are Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Tzedekiah, Mashiah
and Elijah (Succah 52b). Rashi on our present verse states: "I do not know from
where they learned this". "Mashiah will save us by destroying the land of Ashur and
Babylon with their princes and rulers so that no more enemies shall go out of those
lands to enter within our boundaries" (RaDaK).

V 6 is a Parshah Pethuhah in itself. This verse is the beginning of the selection from
Micah (5:6-6:8) that is read as the Haftara to Parshas Balak in the Book of
Numbers. Balak's request to Bilaam to curse Israel is referred to in Micah Ch 6 v 5.

"And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like dew from
HaShem…" The "many peoples" are those who will gather against Jerusalem with
Gog and Magog. (Metzudas David, RaDaK). "Israel will be among them like dew
from HaShem, for the dew comes from God from heaven, and one who hopes in
Him will not put his trust in any man to bring it to him but he will put his hope in
HaShem alone since it is He Who causes the dew and rain to fall on the earth. So
too in the salvation from the war of Gog and Magog, Israel will not hope in anyone
except God, for He is their savior and there is no other savior besides Him, because
they will be a small number of people while the nations gathered against them will
be very many – who will be able to save them except Him? His salvation will come
down to them in the same way that dew comes down upon the ground… and
afterwards it will be 'like showers on the grass': just as the showers are more
abundant than the dew, so God's goodness to Israel will continue growing"
(RaDaK).

Vv 7-8 are another Parshah Pethuhah prophesying how in the war of Gog and
Magog when the nations will come against Jerusalem, Israel will stand up to them
like the lion, king of the animals, and like a young lion among flocks of sheep
(RaDaK). "Your hand shall be lifted up against Your adversaries, and Your enemies
shall be cut off" (v 8) – "The five fingers of God's right hand are all for the sake of
redemption. He will use His whole hand to destroy the children of Esau, who are His
adversaries, and to cut off the children of Ishmael, who are His enemies, as it says,
Your HAND shall be lifted up against Your adversaries…" (Yalkut Shimoni).

Vv 9-14 make up a Parshah Pethuah prophesying how the defeat of the forces of
Gog and Magog will come about not through horses and chariots (alluding to help
from "allies" like Egypt, Rashi) but through the power of God alone. God will "cut
off the cities of your land and destroy all your fortresses" (v 10) because there will
no longer be any need for fortified cities. After the coming of Messiah all the forms
of witchcraft, divination and idolatry that used to be practiced will become defunct.

Chapter 6
Chapter 6 opens with a new Parshah Pethuhah (vv 1-8) followed by a Parshah
Sethumah (vv 9-16). These are two sections of one prophesy which returns to the
theme of God's "argument" against Israel over their ingratitude for His past
kindness and mercy. The first section (vv 1-8) evokes God's kindness and forgiving
attitude to Israel at the time of their entry into the Land of Israel, explaining that
what He wants from the people is not multitudes of animal sacrifices but that man
should practice justice and kindness and go modestly with God. The second section
(vv 9-16) berates Israel for practicing the very opposite of this through their
dishonesty in business and the oppression practiced by the wealthy, and he warns
that God will punish them.

Chapter 6 v 1: "Arise, contend before the mountains and let the hills hear your
voice!" The "mountains" are the patriarchs, the "hills" the matriarchs (Rashi).

Vv 2-5 express God's complaint against Israel, pointing to His historical kindnesses
to them, for which they have shown nothing but ingratitude. The argument that
Israel should have shown more gratitude after God's kindnesses to them is familiar
from various passages in Hosea (e.g. ch 3; 7:13 etc.)

V 5: "O my people, remember now what Balak king of Moab devised and what
Bilaam son of Be'or answered him." Balak wanted Bilaam to divine the moment of
God's anger in order to take advantage of it to curse Israel, but Bilaam answered,
"How shall I denounce when God has not denounced?" (Numbers 23:8). In other
words, God showed complete forbearance to Israel in the wilderness and did not
show anger despite their backslidings, bringing them from Shittim (despite their sin
there with Pe'or god of the Moabites) to Gilgal, their first encampment after their
successful entry into the Land of Israel.

V 6-7: The prophet – speaking in the name of all Israel – asks what is the
appropriate way to show gratitude to God for his kindnesses: surely not through
abundant animal sacrifices (external rituals that do not cause people to improve
their actual behavior).

V 8: God has already told man what is good and what He wants from him: to
practice Justice and Kindness and "to walk modestly with God" (=loving God with
all one's heart and soul, which is a matter entrusted to man's heart, RaDaK).

Vv 9ff: The prophet calls out to the sinful city rebuking the people for practicing the
very opposite of what God asks, exploiting others and acquiring wealth through
selling short and other forms of deception and malpractice. They will be punished
for this behavior, yet the prophet knows that they will not heed his warnings, "for
the statutes of Omri are kept" – they will continue to follow the practices instituted
by the kings of Shomron, leading to inevitable doom.

Chapter 7
Vv 1-2: The prophet laments that he was chosen to prophesy in a generation in
which no Tzaddikim are left. The "summer fruits" have been "gathered in" – the
righteous have left the world. Micah outlived the other members of the "quartet" of
prophets of his time -- Hosea, Amos and Isaiah. He found himself left without
companions in a degenerate age when everyone was scheming against everyone
else.

V 3: The prophet continues his reproof against the people over their moral
degeneracy. The leaders demand bribes; the judges are interested not in justice
but in pay-offs while the great and powerful – who should have enforced justice –
abuse the victims of corruption and injustice, thereby thickening and strengthening
the cords of sin (Metzudas David).

Vv 4-5: The best of the people are prickly as thorns. It is impossible to trust in
anyone.

V 6: This verse is cited in Sotah 49b as typifying people's behavior BE-IKVASA


D'MESHIHA, in the "footsteps" or threshold of Mashiah".

Vv 7-8: In spite of seeing only negativity all around him, the prophet affirms that
he will hope in God, confident that the redemption will come. He tells Israel's
enemy not to rejoice, for in spite of Israel's fall, she will yet rise up. RaDaK states
that this prophecy is addressed to wicked Rome, under whose rule Israel had been
in exile for over a thousand years (by RaDaK's time), and who rejoices over her
plight thinking her hope is lost. "Yet even though I sit in darkness, God is light to
me."

Verses 9-13 make up a Parshah Pethuhah prophesying the future redemption that
will come when Israel's suffering for her sins is complete. The scales will then be
turned against her enemies, who taunted her during the exile but who will be
covered with shame in the end.

"There shall be a day when they shall come to you from Ashur…" (v 12). The
prophet says that while the nations mocked Israel saying that her hoped-for day of
redemption would never come, that day is in fact guarded and treasured by God as
the day on which their enemies will come to destroy them (Rashi). RaDaK explains
that the locations given in v 12 all border on the Land of Israel, "which was [and is]
surrounded by evil neighbors who did everything in their power to harm Israel ". On
the other hand, Targum Yonasan interprets this verse as prophesying the
ingathering of the exiles of Israel from Assyria and all the other lands of their
dispersal. Targum renders "from MAZOR" as "from great HORMINI", which is
usually identified with Armenia yet which is given in Targum on Jeremiah 51:27 as
the Aramaic translation of ASHKENAZ= Germany (see RaDaK on Micah 7:12).

V 13: "And the land shall be desolate because of those that dwell in it, for the fruit
of their doings." – "This refers to the lands of the nations, who harmed Israel"
(RaDaK).

Verses 14-20 constitute a Parshah Pethuhah beginning with Micah's prayer to God
to guide Israel as a shepherd leading his flock, with the people dwelling in their
ancestral pastures throughout Greater Israel just as in the days of their earlier
glory.

V 15: "As in the days of your coming out of the land of Egypt I will show you
wonders." Here God Himself answers the prophet, promising that the future
redemption will be attended my miracles and wonders as striking as those of the
Exodus from Egypt.
Vv 16-17: These wonders will be witnessed by the nations who will gather against
Jerusalem with Gog and Magog, and they will be ashamed of all the might with
which they thought to conquer Jerusalem (RaDaK).

Vv 18-20: The prophet returns to praising God over the good destined for Israel.
"Who is a God like You, Who pardons iniquity…" According to the strict line of
Justice we are not worthy of all that goodness since we are full of sin – but "Who is
like God, who forgives sin!"

These three closing verses of Micah invoke God's Thirteen Attributes of Mercy,
which were revealed to Moses at Sinai. While the Thirteen Attributes as revealed to
Moses (Exodus 34:6-7) are considered kabbalistically as their "outer vessels", the
attributes as invoked by Micah allude to the flow of inner blessing that is drawn
down to the lower worlds through these vessels (Zohar, Idra Rabba, Naso 130b).
The Thirteen Attributes as invoked by Micah and the corresponding Attributes
revealed by Moses are as follows:

Micah 18-20: (1) Who is a God like You (2) who pardons iniquity and (3) forgives
the transgression (4) of the remnant of his heritage? (5) He does not maintain his
anger for ever, (6) because He delights in mercy. (7) He will again have
compassion upon us; (8) He will suppress our iniquities. (9) And you will cast all
their sins into the depths of the sea. (10) You will show truth to Jacob, (11) love to
Abraham, (12) as you have sworn to our fathers (13) from days of old.

Exodus 34:6-7: [HaShem HaShem] (1) mighty, (2) merciful (3) and gracious, (4)
long- (5) suffering (6) and abundant in love (7) and truth, (8) keeping kindness (9)
to thousands, (10) forgiving iniquity (11)and transgression (12) and sin (13) but
who will by no means clear the guilty…
Book of Nahum
Chapter 1
Nahum the Alkoshi was so called after the name of his town or family. Seder Olam
(ch 20) states that Nahum prophesied in the days of Menasheh king of Judah, who
was the son of Hezekiah. The commentators suggest that Menasheh's name is not
mentioned in the text as he was not a righteous king. Rambam in his introduction
to the Mishneh Torah states that Nahum received Torah from the prophet Joel, who
had received it from Micah, and that Nahum transmitted the Torah to Habakuk,
who gave it over to Tzephaniah, who taught Jeremiah.

The main theme of Nahum's prophecy is the overthrow of Nineveh, which was the
capital of the empire of Ashur, Assyria. While the earlier kings of Judah and Israel
suffered from the incursions of Aram, by the reign of Hezekiah Aram had been
eclipsed by Assyria, which became the major "superpower" of the time and which
under Sennacherib not only exiled the Ten Tribes but also laid siege to Jerusalem
itself, threatening the very Temple, until the miraculous overthrow of his army as
described in detail in II Kings chs 18ff. Thereafter Ashur continued to be a major
center and Jonah was sent to prophecy against the sinful Nineveh. In the days of
King Menasheh, Judea was subject to Assyria and had to pay her taxes, but Nahum
prophesied that God would take vengeance and that Nineveh would be overthrown,
as happened about a century after his time, when Nebuchadnezzar conquered the
city and Babylon took Assyria's place as the major world empire.

While the classical commentators explain Nahum's prophecies about the coming
doom of Nineveh as referring to its overthrow by Nebuchadnezzar, Targum Yonasan
also interprets the same prophecies as alluding to the future destruction at the end
of days of all the nations that harmed Israel. As a prophecy of vengeance against
her enemies, Nahum's message, although fearsome and doom-laden, is a
consolation to Israel. Thus the name Nahum is from the Hebrew root NAHEM
meaning to comfort. The form Nahum is adjectival (like BARUCH, RAHUM, HANUN)
indicating that the bearer of the name is a source of comfort (just as RAHUM, from
RAHEM, to show mercy, applies to He who is the source of all mercy).

The opening verses of Nahum, following on as they do in our Bible texts from the
closing verses of Micah, continue to describe God's attributes, focusing here on His
vengefulness to His enemies (v 2). While verse 3 describes God as "long-suffering"
or "slow to anger", it also describes Him as being "great in power". Rashi (ad loc.)
explains that God has the power to take vengeance, and if He does not hurry to do
so, this is because He is long-suffering – but in any event He will not acquit the
wicked.

Vv 3-5 evoke the mighty powers of God as manifested in nature in the storm winds
that raise clouds of dust, in the drying up of seas and rivers, the destruction of the
most fertile of areas and in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In the words of
RaDaK (on v 4): "He has the power to overturn nature – all the more so does He
have the power to give one nation sway over another so as to destroy it, which is in
any case not contrary to nature". Thus the commentators interpret the references
to God's power over the forces of nature as metaphors for His overthrow of the
nations. "He rebukes the sea and makes it dry…" (v 4) – "this is a metaphor for the
nations, who are compared to water" (Isaiah 17:12; Rashi on Nahum 1:4). "…and
He dries up all the rivers" (v 4) – "Here the prophet prophesies that God would
make Nebuchadnezzar king in the days of Yeho-yakim and give over Assyria and all
the other lands to the sword" (Rashi ad loc.).

V 7: "HaShem is good, a stronghold on the day of trouble…" "Even when He exacts


punishment from His enemies, His mercy does not move from benefiting those who
fear Him, unlike a man of flesh and blood who when occupied with one thing is
unable to direct his attention to something else" (Rashi).

V 8 prophesies how Nineveh would be completely swept away.

Vv 9-11: When Sennacherib laid siege to Jerusalem, his lieutenant Ravshakeh


publicly blasphemed (II Kings 18:22ff), as if God had no power against Assyria, but
Nahum prophesies that its overthrow will be swift and total.

Vv 12-14 make up a Parshah Sethumah emphasizing how complete will be the


overthrow of Assyria, to the point that it will never again be able to oppress Israel.
"Though they are at peace and likewise many, even so they shall be cut down and
it shall pass away…" (v 12). In its simple meaning this verse is saying that even if
the Assyrians are all at peace – unified and of one accord – and constitute a great
multitude, they shall still be sheared like wool and pass away, never again able to
afflict Israel. Rabbinic Midrash turns the whole verse around, darshening
homiletically that if a person sees that his livelihood is limited and all the more so if
he is "at peace and likewise many" (=wealthy), he should "shear" his possessions
and give charity and then he is assured that he will not see the face of hell. "It's
like when two sheep have to cross through the water. If one of them has been
sheared and the other not, the one that is sheared gets across but not the one that
is covered in thick wool, which gets weighed down by the water" (Gittin 7a).

Chapter 2
V 1: Nahum's prophecy of the coming overthrow of Nineveh and Assyria is a
consolation to Judah, who suffered greatly because of Sennacherib's overbearing
haughtiness and his attempted capture of Jerusalem. "O Judah, celebrate your
feasts…" – "You find in every place that Judah is first: when they encamped in the
wilderness, Judah was in the east… And when the bringer of good tidings will come,
Judah will be given the good news first, as it says, 'O Judah, celebrate your feasts'"
(Midrash Tanchuma).

V 2: "For the wicked one (MEIPHEETZ) shall no more pass through you, he is
utterly cut off." – "This refers to Sennacherib, who scattered (HEIPHEETZ) the
Children of Israel in exile" (Rashi, Metzudas David, RaDaK).

V 3: The glory of Israel will be restored.

Vv 4-6 graphically depict the onslaught of Nebuchadnezzar's warriors and chariots


against Nineve.

V 7: Nineveh was situated on the banks of the Tigris (Mosul in modern day N. Iraq).
Once the gates to the river would be opened, the way into the city would be clear
and "the palace was dissolved" (=the king would be terrified, Targum). Verse 8
describes the exile of the queen and her panic-stricken maids.
Vv 9-10 evoke the great power and wealth of Nineveh, all of which would fall to her
enemies. Verse 11 evokes the devastation and terror that would come upon her
inhabitants.

Vv 12: "Where is the den of the lions…?" – "This is a lament over Nineveh whose
kings were harsh and strong as lions" (Rashi). The kings of Assyria would go
hunting for lions in the hills above the Tigris and took the lion as the symbol of
Assyrian power.

V 14: "Behold I am against you, says HaShem of Hosts, and I will burn her chariots
in the smoke… and the voice of your messengers shall no more be heard". The
most notorious of Assyria's "messengers" was the blasphemous Ravshakeh (I Kings
18:28; Isaiah 36:13) but all his vauntings would prove to be empty.

Chapter 3
"Woe to the city of blood…" (v 1). The closing chapter of Nahum makes up one
continuous Parshah Pethuhah reproving arrogant Nineveh for the sins that are
leading to her doom. "It is full of lies and robbery; the prey does not depart."
Nineveh's dominion was founded on deceit and robbery.

Vv 2-3 evoke the cruel military power and force with which Assyria asserted her
dominion over other peoples in order to build her empire.

V 4: "Because of the harlotries of the charming and bewitching harlot…" – "The


Assyrians knew how to seduce the hearts of the kings of the earth and join up with
them, and in the end they would conquer and subject them" (Rashi).

Vv 5-6: God will expose the shame of the harlot.

V 7: The downfall of Assyria will be astonishing to the nations, but none will mourn
for her because she harmed them all.

V 8ff: "Are you better than No-Amon …?" The town of NO is Alexandria in Egypt,
which is described as AMON, having the connotation of a foster-parent, as this was
the city that fostered and produced the kings of Egypt (Rashi). Nahum was
prophesying that Nineveh would meet the same fate as Alexandria, Kush (=
Sudan?), Egypt, Phut (= Tunisia or possibly Somalia) and Loob (= Libya): all were
exiled by Nebuchadnezzar, and so too would the people of Nineveh be exiled.

V 11: "You too shall be drunken …" According to her greatness, Nineveh too shall
drink the cup of poison and be hidden from the world as if she never existed (Rashi,
Metzudas David).

Vv 12-14: Prophesying how the population of Nineveh will fall to their captors like
ripe fruits falling from a shaken tree, Nahum warns them to prepare water and
build up the fortifications of the city for the coming siege.

Verses 15-17 compare the great hosts of Assyria to various species of locusts,
which mysteriously fly off and disappear. [According to the tradition that Nahum
was the disciple of the prophet Joel, Nahum's metaphorical comparison of the
Assyrians to swarms of locusts makes it plausible to interpret the prophecies in Joel
1-2 about the coming plague of locusts as foretelling the onslaught of the swarming
nations against Israel in the end of days.]
V 18: "Your shepherds slumber, O king of Ashur…" It is when a country's leadership
falls into complacency and "sleep" while the people are bent on the pursuit of
leisure that the nation is ripe for God's vengeance to strike.

V 19: "All who hear the report about you clap their hands over you, for upon whom
has not your wickedness passed continually?" The prophet has explained the moral
dimensions of God's overthrow of Nineveh and her empire in order to teach
mankind a lesson about His way of dealing with the wicked and arrogant powers of
the earth.
Book of Habakuk
Chapter 1

Our text gives no indication of the identity of Habakuk's father, tribe or city. The
Holy Zohar teaches that he was the son of the Shunemite woman born through the
blessing of Elisha and later revived by him (II Kings 4:8-37; Zohar I, 7a). He was
called Habakuk because "you will embrace (HOBEKETH) a son" (II Kings 4:16). This
would place Habakuk in the time of Yehoram son of Ahab. However, Seder Olam
states that Habakuk prophesied considerably later, in the time of Menasheh son of
Hezekiah. In accordance with this, Rambam (Intro. to Mishneh Torah) states that
Habakuk received Torah from the prophet Nahum and was the teacher of
Tzephaniah. It could be that the Zohar is hinting at the provenance of Habakuk's
soul while Seder Olam is telling us when he lived.

HABAKUK'S ARGUMENT WITH GOD

"How long shall I cry and You will not hear…?" (v 2).

Habakuk was oppressed with the problem of why the wicked prosper while
successfully oppressing and inflicting suffering on the righteous. This is a question
that continues to vex us until today because it seems like an affront to faith and
belief in a just God.

Our sages teach that even in the reign of Menasheh, when Ashur was in the
ascendant, Habakuk already saw prophetically that Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar
would become the world power and treat all the peoples under their dominion with
the utmost cruelty, especially Israel, whose Temple they destroyed. "For lo, I am
raising up the Chaldees, a bitter and impetuous nation…" (Habakuk 1:6).

Just as in recent generations the Holocaust and other evils have baffled even those
who want to have faith in God's justice, so too in the time of Habakuk, the prospect
of the impending doom that was being prophesied by leading prophets was baffling
even to the believers of the generation. As Habakuk says (1:4): "Therefore Torah is
slackened' – people see no more point in observance – "and justice does not go out
triumphantly, for the wicked man besets the righteous so that justice goes out
perverted (ME-UKAL)". Rabbi Nachman of Breslov points out that ME-UKAL is made
up of the letters of AMALEK, who led the nations in barbaric attacks on Israel
(Likutey Moharan II:5).

Just as today, Habakuk's cry is over HAMAS (v 2) – violence, as exemplified in cruel


terror attacks on innocent men, women, children and little infants. (It is enough to
glance at some of the Tisha Be-Av KINOS, the mournful dirges recited in the
synagogue annually on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple, to get a
glimpse of the bloodthirsty, sadistic cruelty of the Chaldean Babylonians as well as
Israel's other persecutors through the ages.
Vv 5-9 evoke the specter of the rise of Babylon to world dominion, sweeping
through country after country on a rampage of conquest, slaughter, robbery and
plunder.

V 10: As a world conqueror whose power-crazed arrogance dwarfed even that of


Julius Caesar or Napoleon, Nebuchadnezzar would laugh at the many kings and
rulers he was to capture.

V 11: Seeing his great success, Nebuchadnezzar would be overcome by a spirit of


madness that would make him attribute all his success to his false god (Rashi). The
picture of Nebuchadnezzar that emerges from Daniel chs 1-4 confirms and
complements Habakuk's evocation of the Babylonian ruler.

V 12-13: After having described the menacing specter of Nebuchadnezzar and the
Chaldeans as he saw it in his prophetic vision, Habakuk now defines the issue of
faith which this is arousing in him. Granted that God is eternal and that we, the
people of Israel shall not die – for we shall never be wiped out – and granted that
God has only ordained and established the coming ascendancy of Babylon to judge
and punish those who rebel against Him, the question remains: "You are of eyes
too pure to behold evil and cannot look upon iniquity. Then why do You look upon
them that deal treacherously and hold Your peace when the wicked devours the
man that is more righteous than he?" People are often expressing the same
bafflement when they ask where God was during the Holocaust and other evils.

V 14: "You make man like the fishes of the sea…" – "Why are men compared to the
fishes of the sea? To tell you that just as the fishes of the sea die as soon as they
go up onto dry land, so people who separate themselves from the study of Torah
and practice of the mitzvos immediately die" (Talmud Avodah Zarah 3b).

Vv 15-17 express the conclusion of Habakuk's presentation of the challenge to


faith. If the wicked conqueror enjoys such success and prosperity, sacrificing to and
worshiping his own net and trap as if they were the gods who bestowed his
ascendancy upon him, how will the wicked ever cease from their evil rampages
against all the nations?

Chapter 2
"I will stand upon my watch and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what
He will say to me and what answer I shall give to those who argue with me" (v 1,
see Rashi). As spiritual leader of his people, Habakuk felt obliged to answer those in
perplexity, who were raising with him the very arguments he set before God.

The rabbis taught that Habakuk, like Choni HaMe-agel after him, traced a circle in
the ground and declared that he would not move out of it until he received an
answer from God (Ta'anis 23a). Of course only a complete Tzaddik is permitted to
do such a thing!

Vv 2-3: "And HaShem answered me and said, Write the vision… For there is still a
vision for the appointed time…" God's answer was that the ascendancy of
Nebuchadnezzar's dynasty would come to an end, and that another prophet would
arise who would foretell exactly when this would be (Jeremiah 29:10). RaDaK
points out that Daniel also foresaw and lived to witness the fall of Babylon, as well
as being the channel of God's chastisement of Nebuchadnezzar over his arrogance.

Habakuk's prophecy of how God's righteousness and justice will eventually be


vindicated applies not only to Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldees but to all the
wicked persecutors of Israel. "For there is still a vision for the appointed time, and
it speaks concerning the end, and does not lie: though it tarry, wait for it, because
it will surely come, it will not delay" (v 3). Phrases from this verse are included in
the Thirteen Principles of Faith # 12: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of
Mashiah, and even though he tarries, even so I will wait every day for his coming."

V 4: "Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright in him…" Even though the
oppressor may remain incorrigibly arrogant, "…the just shall live by his faith". The
rabbis said that 613 commandments were given to Moses, King David reduced
them to eleven basic principles, Isaiah to six, Micah to three… Amos to one… And
Habakuk based them all on one foundation: "The just shall live by his FAITH"
(Maccos 23b).

Verse 5 begins a new PARSHAH SETHUMAH which amplifies the general answer
given to the prophet in vv 2-4 by showing him visions of the downfall of
Nebuchadnezzar's dynasty and the taunting parables which the nations will invoke
against him.

V 5 alludes to the drunken intoxication of Nebuchadnezzar as well as that of his


grandson Belshazzar, who drank from the Temple vessels, only to be killed on the
same night by Darius the Mede, who conquered Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had a
voracious appetite for conquest, but in the end all the nations he conquered would
sing dirges over the destruction of his empire.

V 6: "Woe to him that increases that which is not his…" In the coming sections (vv
6-20) the word "Woe" (HOY) is repeated five times like a chant in a dirge. Each
HOY introduces a new aspect of the reproof against the wicked Babylon (vv 6, 9,
12, 15 and 19).

"Woe to him that increases that which is not his" (v 6). This is a reproof that could
also justly be directed not only against Babylon but also against former colonial
powers like Britain, France, Italy, Holland etc. as well as the neo-colonial powers
that still continue to ravage weaker nations and plunder their wealth and resources
under the guise of "development programs" and other noble-sounding projects.

Vv 7-8: Just as Babylon ravaged other nations, so the time would come when she
would be ravaged, "…because of the blood of ADAM (=Israel, Ezekiel 34:31) and
the violence done to the land (of Israel), to the city (=Jerusalem) and all its
inhabitants" (v 8, see Rashi).

Vv 9-11: If a person steals, it is bad for his house and dynasty, for even a stolen
brick or wooden beam built into the structure of the house cry out that they were
acquired through crime (RaDaK on v 11).

Vv 12-14: Building an empire on blood and iniquity are a futile endeavor, for
eventually God's glory will be revealed to all the world and everyone will see that
His Justice rules (cf. Isaiah 11:9).

Vv 15-18: The Talmud relates that Nebuchadnezzar would get the exiled kings he
held in captivity in Babylon very drunk and then make sport and sodomize them
(Shabbos 149b). This expresses the Babylonian method of pretending to be very
friendly and getting their victims to feel so relaxed that they would reveal their
most sensitive secrets (cf. II Kings 20:12ff). MIDDAH KE-NEGED MIDDAH,
"measure for measure", Babylon's shame would also be revealed in the eyes of all
and she too would drink the cup of poison. "Because of the blood of ADAM (=Israel)
and the violence done to the land (=of Israel), to the city (=Jerusalem) and all that
dwell therein" (v 18, Rashi ad loc.). Of what use then would be Nebuchadnezzar's
idols?

Could it be that the bloody carnage in Iraq in recent years, which is still increasing,
may not also be an expression of God's vengeance for the crimes of Babylon?

"Woe to him that says to the wooden idol, 'Awake!' to the dumb stone, 'Arise!' Can
it teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver and there is no breath at all in it.
But HaShem is in His holy Temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him" (vv
19-20).

Chapter 3
HABAKUK'S PRAYER

"This prayer is constructed in the same way as one of the psalms, and thus the
phrase 'upon Shigyonoth' (v 1) is like 'A Shigayon of David' (Psalms 7:1) and the
phrase 'To the Menatze'ah ("conductor") on my stringed instruments' (v 19) is like
similar phrases in Psalms, and the word Selah (v 9) is also not found anywhere else
in the Bible except in this prayer and in the Psalms. The subject of the prayer is the
suffering of Israel in this exile. The prayer relates the miracles and mighty deeds
performed by God for Israel from the day He redeemed them from Egypt, and the
prophet prays and tells prophetically that He will do likewise during this exile and
when they go out from the exile and in the war of Gog and Magog" (RaDaK on
Habakuk 3:1).

"Prior this prayer, earlier in Habakuk's prophecy, he said, 'Why do you show me
iniquity and cause me to behold mischief?' (Hab. 1:3). For the prophet saw
Hananiyah, Misha-el and Azariah entering the fiery furnace and being saved, and he
saw Rabbi Hananiyah ben Teradyon burned in the fire. When he saw this he
complained, 'They were righteous and pure and so was he – then why will he be
burned while they will be saved?' The Holy One blessed be He then revealed
Himself to him, saying 'You are complaining against Me? Is it not written, "A God of
truth without iniquity" (Deut. 32:4)? Habakuk immediately said, 'I spoke
mistakenly' – 'A prayer of Habakuk the prophet over SHIGYONOS' (from the root
SHEGAGAH, an unintentional sin)." (Midrash Shoher Tov 90).

In the light of the classical commentaries (Targum Yonasan, Rashi, Metzudas David,
RaDaK), it can be seen that Habakuk's prayer contains allusions to the Exodus from
Egypt, the Crossing of the Red Sea, the Giving of the Torah, Israel's entry into the
Land and the miraculous overthrow of the 7 Canaanite Nations as well as the
subsequent Exile, the final Ingathering of the Exiles and the defeat of the forces of
Gog and Magog at the gates of Jerusalem.

In Diaspora communities where the festival of Shavuos commemorating the Giving


of the Torah is celebrated for two days, the Haftara of the second day of the festival
is read from Habakuk 2:20-3:19.

V 2: "O HaShem, I have heard the report of You …" Rashi explains: "I have heard
the report of You from of old – how you always exacted punishment from those
who angered You – yet you show patience for this villain (=Nebuchadnezzar, who
was to cause Israel so much suffering, as expressed in the previous chapter). Now,
during the years of trouble that we are in today, arouse and restore Your earlier
work when You exacted punishment from our enemies, and make it known during
these years now. And even when you show anger to the wicked, remember to show
mercy to Israel."
Vv 3-5: Now the prophet begins to recount God's earlier feats which he previously
asked Him to renew. Habakuk starts with the giving of the Torah: "God comes from
Teiman and the Holy One from Mount Paran …" Teiman was the firstborn of Eliphaz
son of Esau (Gen. 36:11) while Ishmael "dwelled in the wilderness of Paran" (Gen.
21:21). Esau (=Seir) and Ishmael are similarly mentioned in Moses' evocation of
God's revelation at Sinai (Deut. 33:3). These verses are the foundation of the
Midrash that prior to giving the Torah to Israel, God offered it to the children of
Esau and Ishmael but they refused because the Torah forbids bloodshed and
robbery etc. on which both live (Avodah Zarah 2b etc.).

V 6: "He stands and shakes the earth…" Targum Yonasan and Rashi explain this
verse as alluding to the earthshaking ructions with which God punished the sinful
generations of the Flood and the Tower of Babel, while Metzudas David and RaDaK
explain it as alluding to the way God drove out the Canaanite nations. "His ways
(HALICHOS) are as of old (OLAM)" – "These wonders came about because all those
who run and govern the world, the angels above and those below, all belong to God
to execute His will" (Metzudas David). "For this reason He does with them
according to His will – to raise up one and cast down another, to drive out one and
give to another their inheritance. It says 'His ways are of old' (HALICHOS OLAM)
because the world (OLAM) is governed through the journeying of the spheres, stars
and planets" (RaDaK). The phrase HALICHOS OLAM LO is quoted at the end of the
daily morning prayers (TANYA D-VEI ELIAHU etc. – learn halachos every day, don't
read the word as HALICHOS but as HALOCHOS).

V 7: Kushan was one of the first oppressors of Israel in the period of the Judges
(Judges 3:8). Targum explains the verse as saying that because of their sins Israel
were afflicted with Kushan, but when they repented they were saved from the
Midianites by Gideon.

V 8 alludes to the miracles of the splitting of the River Jordan when Israel entered
the Land and the splitting of the Red Sea.

Vv 9-10: God reveals His "bow" in order to fulfill His oath to the patriarchs to
benefit the Twelve Tribes in giving them eternal possession of the Land of Israel.
He revealed His power through the miracles of Arnon (Numbers 21:13-15) and the
splitting of the Jordan.

Vv 11-12: God made the sun and the moon stop for Joshua (Josh. 10:13) and
performed other miracles to drive out the seven Canaanite nations.

V 13: "Just as you went out to save Your people when they entered the land of the
seven nations, so You are destined to go forth in the future to save Your anointed
Mashiah. Just as you saved them then, so you will take them out of exile and bring
them back to their land. Your Mashiah refers to Mashiah ben David. Then you will
smash the head of the forces of the wicked Gog…" (RaDaK).

Verse 14 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah – the closing section of Habakuk's prayer,
which continues until the end of the book.

While Rashi interprets v 14 as a reference to the miraculous overthrow of


Sennacherib's armies when they came against Jerusalem, RaDaK explains it as
further amplification of the destined defeat of the forces of Gog and Magog. "You
have pierced with his own shafts the head of his warriors who come out as a storm
wind to scatter me" – "With the shafts of Gog himself You shall pierce the head of
his warriors, who are called P'RAZAV because they will come in a great multitude
spreading out everywhere around Jerusalem (cf. Ezekiel 38:11; Zechariah 2:8),
and God will send tumult among them and they will all take sticks in their hands
and smash each others' heads … They will be destroyed just like the Egyptians, who
came to consume Israel, the 'poor one', in a place where they thought God does
not see" (RaDaK).

V 16: "When I heard, my belly (=heart) trembled…" – "The prophet is saying that
He heard prophetically of the trouble in which Israel will be placed on the day of
Gog's coming…" (RaDaK). "…that I shall rest only to encounter a day of trouble" –
"Because I thought I would be able to rest in my Land after having returned there
from exile, and now my rest has turned into a day of trouble" (RaDaK). In recent
generations, the many Olim to Israel who hoped that their settling in the Land
would be for MENUHAH, rest and recreation, have likewise been filled with profound
unease to say the least as they come to realize that Israel is now under actual
assault from the forces of Gog and Magog in the guise of the "Palestinians",
Hezbullah, "Al Qaeda", Iran, the multinational forces of the U.N. etc. etc. etc.

V 17: "But the empire of Babylon shall not endure… the kings of Medea will be
killed, the warriors of the idolatrous nations will not succeed, Rome will be
destroyed…" (Targum Yonasan). The world is currently witnessing the steady
destruction of Babylon (= Iraq ), while Medea (= Iran ) would appear to be next in
line. "This verse speaks metaphorically of the nations that will gather against
Jerusalem with Gog and Magog, saying that they will not succeed but they will be
destroyed and any who escape without getting killed will be afflicted with a plague
in their limbs etc. (cf. Zechariah 14:12; RaDaK on Habakuk 3:17).

V 18: "The prophet says in the name of Israel, When the camp of Gog is destroyed,
then I will rejoice in God's salvation." (RaDaK).

V 19: "He makes my feet like deers…" "We find here not KA-AYALIM (the masculine
form) but KA-AYALOTH (the feminine form). Why? Because the legs of the females
are more steady than those of the males!!! KA-AYALOTH – like TWO deers,
Deborah and Esther" (Midrash Shoher Tov 22). The redemption comes about
through the righteous WOMEN!

"To the MENATZE'AH on my stringed instruments" – "I will make pleasant melodies
and the MENATZE'AH, the Levite Temple musician, will play the corresponding song
on his instruments" (Rashi).
Book of Tzephaniah
Chapter 1
The opening verse of the prophecy of Tzephaniah traces his lineage to Hezekiah:
according to the biblical commentator Ibn Ezra, this was King Hezekiah of Judah.
Tzephaniah received the Torah from Habakuk and was the teacher of Jeremiah. As
stated in verse 1, Tzephaniah prophesied in the time of Josiah, who was the last
righteous king of Judah a generation before the destruction of the First Temple. Our
sages teach that Tzephaniah was a Tzaddik and the son of a Tzaddik (Megillah 15a)
and they counted him with eight "princes of men" together with Adam, Jesse, Saul,
Samuel, Elijah, Amos and Mashiah (Succah 52a). Prophesying at the same time as
Tzephaniah were Jeremiah and Huldah the Prophetess. According to our sages,
Tzephaniah prophesied in the synagogues and study halls, Jeremiah in the streets
and markets and Huldah to the women. The destruction of the Temple was very
imminent and God sent prophets to all the people in the hope that they would
repent and avert the decree, but each person went his own way and did not pay
attention, and the prophecies of doom were fulfilled.

Tzephaniah's prophecies are mainly about "the Day of HaShem" – the harsh Day of
Judgment that was coming on account of the people's idolatry and corruption – and
Tzephaniah appeals to the people to repent. He also speaks of God's vengeance on
the nations surrounding the Land of Israel, and prophesies that a remnant of Israel
will finally dwell securely in the Land and God will rejoice in them and all will know
and recognize His greatness.

Vv 2-3 prophecy the ravage and devastation of the Land, which will affect the
people and the very animals, birds and fish (the ecology) as well as the "stumbling
blocks" of the wicked" – i.e. their idols (Rashi).

Vv 4-6: God's hand is stretched out specifically over Judah and Jerusalem, and
specifically over the idols and their priests and ministers, those who worship the
heavenly hosts and swear by God but back up their oaths by invoking their
"king"=idol (Rashi), and those who have fallen away from God's Torah or who have
failed to search Him out.

Vv 7-8: "The Day of HaShem is near…" God is preparing a "sacrificial slaughter" and
sanctifying the "guests": it is "holy war" (Jihad). This is the punishment of the
princes and governing classes "and ALL WHO WEAR FOREIGN APPAREL". [In the
early days of the State of Israel, the political leadership went Israeli-style in
shirtsleeves and without neckties, but today almost all the males go in the best
tailored suits and expensive ties though rarely with any head covering, while female
political fashion has become the height of chic.]

V 9: "And I will punish all who leap over the threshold…" Yonasan translates this as
"all who follow the customs of the Philistines" (see Rashi; cf. I Samuel 5:5). "They
fill their masters' house with violence (HAMAS) and deceit".
Vv 10-11: "The sound of crying from the Gate of the Fish… from the Second Gate…
from the Hills… from Makhtesh". Rashi brings the simple PSHAT that the Gates are
those of the Fish and Fowls in Jerusalem while Makhtesh refers to the Kidron valley
east of the Temple Mount, but he also brings the Midrash (from Psikta Rabasi) that
the Gate of the Fish is Akko (the port town of Acre, the "key of the Land of Israel"),
the "Second Gate" is Lod (which was the second city after Jerusalem and a major
center of learning in the time of R. Akiva and is a thriving town until today), "the
hills" allude to the town of Tzippori (Sepphoris) in the hills above Tiberias (Megillah
6a), while Makhtesh (=a bowl) refers to Tiberias itself, which is in the "bowl" or
"navel" of Israel. All these have historically been locations of strategic importance.

V 12-13: From God's "search" through Jerusalem "with lamps" our sages learned
out that the search for Chametz (leaven) on the eve of the 14 th of Nissan in
preparation for the Pesach festival of redemption must be conducted with a candle
(Pesahim 7b). This verse shows that purpose of God's search is to punish the
people who are the Chametz of the nation, those who "are settled on their lees
[living in tranquility and at ease, like wine on its lees, Metzudas David], who say in
their hearts, HaShem does not do good [to the Tzaddikim] or evil [to the wicked,
Rashi]". The real Chametz is thus APIKORSUS, the belief that there is no judgment
and no Judge. Those who embrace this will be devastated. The positive message of
this verse is that just as Chametz is removed but everything that is not Chametz
remains, so God will remove the wicked but save the righteous.

Vv 14-16: In these verses alone the DAY of HaShem is mentioned EIGHT TIMES
besides the four mentions earlier in verses 7, 8, 9 and 10. This emphasizes the
imminence of the coming doom.

V 17: "And I will bring distress upon ADAM" – "this means Israel, who are called
ADAM" (Rashi). There can be no mistaking against whom Tzephaniah's reproof is
directed: you and I should take careful note. "They will go like the blind": The
apparent blindness on the part of many Jews both in Israel and the Diaspora as to
what is going on today in the world around us is also very noteworthy.

Chapter 2
V 1: "Gather yourselves together and assemble together O unfeeling nation…" The
rabbis darshened the phrase HITHKOSHESHOO VA-KOSHOO as meaning "search for
your own flaws and those of others in order remove them" (Sanhedrin 18a, Rashi,
Metzudas David, RaDaK). Targum Yonasan says the nation is "unfeeling" (LO-
NICHSAF) because they do not yearn to return to the Torah.

V 2: The prophet calls on the people to repent before the day of doom arrives.

V 3: The very essence of repentance is to practice justice and to cultivate humility.


"When Rabbi Ami would reach this verse he used to break down in tears: 'Seek out
justice, seek out humility…' – and after all this, 'PERHAPS you will be hidden [and
not die] on the day of God's anger'!?!" (Hagigah 4b).

V 4: "For Gaza shall be forsaken and Ashkelon shall be a desolation; they shall
drive out Ashdod at the noon-day…" It might appear from a simple reading of the
text that the abandonment of Gaza etc. takes place on the day of God's anger.
Israel's ignominious retreat from Gush Katif (Gaza) and the continuing daily missile
bombardment of the Israeli towns of Ashkelon and Ashdod etc. certainly seem
indicative of God's anger. However, in biblical times Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod and
Ekron were Philistine towns, and Rashi (on v 4) explains Tzephaniah's prophecy of
their future devastation as a promise to Israel that if they will follow the path of
repentance explained in the previous verse, God will punish their wicked neighbors,
the Philistines, Ammonites and Moabites, as the coming verses elaborate. It would
be very beneficial for present day Israel to imbibe this message.

Vv 6-10 thus detail the overthrow of the Philistines, Ammonites and Moabites one
after the other, and how the remnant of Israel will take possession of their lands. In
the case of the Philistines, the verse states that this will take place "in the
EVENING" (v 7). Similarly, the future redemption from the hordes of Gog and
Magog is described as taking place "towards the EVENING" (Zechariah 14:7). These
verses explain that the nations are punished for their arrogant taunting of Israel
and because "they have magnified themselves against their border" (v 8). Metzudas
David explains the latter phrase to mean that "they took from the land of Israel to
expand and add to their own boundaries". This is exactly what the Arab nations
sought to do in 1948, 1967 and 1973 etc. and are still trying to do today – not
without the tacit support of the British, who had already subtracted vast chunks of
territories from the lands they originally promised in 1917 as the Jewish national
homeland and handed them to their Arab protégées.

V 11: The destruction of the nations and their gods will bring them to fear HaShem.

V 12: The commentators indicate that the KOOSHIM mentioned in this verse (and
in Tzephaniah 3:10) as a people who come not from Africa, as many believe, but
rather from beyond the rivers of India (the Indus??? see Rashi on this verse and
Targum Yonasan on Tzeph. 3:10). This would conform to the opinion in the Talmud
that KUSH mentioned in Esther 1:1 was adjacent to India and not in far off Africa
(Megillah 11a). It was to Kush that the Ten Tribes were exiled.

Vv 13-15: The catalog of nations to be destroyed when God redeems Israel


climaxes with Ashur – who took the Ten Tribes into exile – and their capital city of
Nineveh.

Chapter 3
V 1: Having suggested to Judah that if the people will repent, God will wreak
vengeance on their enemies, the prophet now returns to his reproof against the
"filthy polluted oppressing city" – the sinful Jerusalem.

Vv 2-4: But the people have not accepted the reproof. The rulers and judges are
self-seeking and corrupt; the false prophets are worthless and treacherous while
the priests have polluted the sanctuary and violently perverted the Torah.
Unfortunately these criticisms hold until today. The latter-day equivalent of the
priests who have perverted the Torah would be those "rabbis" of varying
complexions who blatantly or subtly corrupt the true message of the Torah.

Vv 5-7: Despite the backslidings of the people, God has been just and has done no
iniquity. He has repeatedly destroyed great nations hoping that Israel would see
and draw out and apply the moral to themselves in order to avoid a similar fate so
as not to lose all the goodness God has bestowed upon them, "but they rose early
and corrupted all their doings" (v 7).

V 8: "Therefore wait for me, says HaShem, until the day that I rise up to the prey;
for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms to
pour upon them my indignation, all my fierce anger." RaDaK applies this verse to
the war of Gog and Magog, as if God is saying, "Wait until that day, when I will
smelt and purify you, because you will not imbibe the lesson until the day I arise
for the prey, the day of the coming of Gog and Magog, against whom I shall come
forth to take the prey and plunder them" (RaDaK on v 8). We would be well advised
not to wait until then to repent.

V 9: "For then I will convert the peoples to a purer language…" – "These are the
peoples who will remain after the war of Gog and Magog: I will turn their original
language into a pure language, so that they will no longer bring the names of other
gods on their lips but all will call on the Name of HaShem" (RaDaK; cf. Zechariah
14:9).

V 10: "From beyond the rivers of Kush come my suppliants, the daughter of
Putzay…" Targum Yonasan explains that "my suppliants" refers to the exiled
Children of Israel, who call on God's name and He answers them, while the
"daughter of Putzay" alludes to how Israel were scattered (PATZATZ) in their exile.

Vv 11-12: The Day of God will not bring destruction to Israel but rather their
cleansing from their previous arrogance so that they will again be fit to celebrate on
God's holy mountain – in the Temple.

V 13: "The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity…" This famous, beautiful verse
expresses the high standards of behavior to which Israel will adhere in the time of
the redemption, so that "they shall feed and lie down with none to make them
afraid".

Vv 14-15 are a short PARSHAH PETHUHAH calling on the redeemed Zion and Israel
of the future to rejoice wholeheartedly in God's salvation.

Vv 16-17 begin the closing section of Tzephaniah, prophesying the future security
that will replace our present fear: God Himself will rejoice.

V 18: "Those that were far away from the festive assembly do I gather…" Rashi (ad
loc.) explains this to mean that God will destroy those who took themselves away
from His appointed seasons and did not keep His Sabbaths and festivals. It follows
that one of the main keys to redemption is observance of the Shabbos and
festivals. In the words of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, "If only Israel would observe two
Shabbosos they would be redeemed immediately" (Shabbos 118b).

V 20: "At that time I will bring you in and at that time I will gather you…" This
verse is read in the early part of the daily morning service at the climax of the
passages accompanying the first recital of the Shema following the BIRKHATH
HASHACHAR (morning blessings), prior to the sacrificial readings and P'sukey
DeZimra. Metzudas David states that the two expressions "bring you in" and
"gather you" refer respectively to the Ten Tribes, who did not return when the
Second Temple was built, and to the people of Judah, not all of whom returned at
that time. In the final redemption they will all return without exception. This is
surely an excellent thought with which to start the prayer service each morning!
Book of Haggai
Chapter 1
Haggai was one of the last prophets of Israel. The identity of his father and tribe
are unknown, but he was called MALACH HASHEM, God's "emissary" (Haggai 1:13).
He was a member of the court of Ezra the Scribe together with Zechariah and
numerous other prophets and sages, who are known as the Men of the Great
Assembly. Some say that Haggai received Torah from Ezekiel, but Rambam says
that he and the other members of Ezra's court received Torah from Baruch ben
Neriah, the student of Jeremiah (Mishneh Torah, Introduction). Haggai is said to
have been one of the prophets who was with Daniel when he saw his vision of the
angel (Daniel 10:7; Sanhedrin 93b). It is also said that the Targum of Yonasan ben
Uzziel on the prophets was received from the mouths of Haggai, Zechariah and
Malachi (Megillah 3a).

Verse 1: "In the second year of Darius the king…" This is Darius king of Persia, who
ruled after Ahashverosh, who was killed by one of his servants one year after the
Purim miracle. According to Midrash Vayikra Rabbah (13) Darius was the son of
Queen Esther. He came to the throne in the year 3406 (=354 B.C.E.). Haggai's
prophecy in the second year of Darius' reign came eighteen years after the first
wave of Jewish exiles had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem under the leadership
of Zerubavel son of She'altiel and Yehoshua ben Yehotzadak the High Priest, as
narrated in Ezra ch's 1ff. They initially had the blessing of Cyrus king of Persia to
rebuild the Temple and they laid the first foundation of the new House, but Cyrus
subsequently retracted his permission. Throughout the 14 year reign of his
successor Ahashverosh, the building of the Temple was stalled as a result of the
letters of denunciation he received from the Jews' adversaries under the leadership
of the sons of Haman. The Purim miracle at the end of the reign of Ahashverosh
opened the way for the building of the Second Temple, which was resumed in
Darius' second year because of the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah that the
time was ripe, as we see in our present text (cf. Ezra 5:1).

"…in the sixth month on the first day of the month…" The prophecies contained in
the book of Haggai were all delivered in a four month period beginning on 1 st Elul,
a most significant date in the Torah calendar as it marks the start of the days of
compassion and repentance culminating in the High Holidays. Haggai's prophecies
were directed particularly at Zerubavel and Yehoshua the High Priest, who as
leaders of the people were being called upon to take the initiative in acting on the
divine call to rebuild the Temple.

V 2: "This people say, The time has not come for the House of HaShem to be
built…" Haggai's prophetic mission came at a time when the returnees from Babylon
had fallen into deep despair. From the time of their return to Jerusalem they had
been faced with unremitting opposition from their adversaries to any move to build
the Temple , and they had all but given up, wondering if it would ever be rebuilt.
Instead they put their focus on restoring and rebuilding their land, which had been
devastated for over seventy years since the Babylonian conquest. There is a strong
resemblance between the feelings of the people of that time and those of many in
Israel today, who after the first exhilaration of the great influx of returnees after
almost two thousand years of exile have encountered so many insuperable
obstacles to the establishment of a true Torah state that they find it impossible to
conceive how the complete redemption of the people in the land will ever be able to
take place.

Verse 3: God's answer to the people through His prophet is a resounding YES! Now
– when everything seems completely hopeless – is precisely the time to rebuild the
Temple. "Is it the time for you to dwell in your well-timbered houses whilst this
House lies waste?" The same question might well be addressed today to the many
whose primary concern is to build and decorate their own magnificent private
mansions.

Vv 5-6: The people of the time were faced with a phenomenon that is all too
familiar today. No matter how much effort they put into their livelihood, they
always ended up with pathetically little to show for it. Through the prophet, God
asks the people to reflect why this is so. "Consider your ways… You have sown
much and bring in little…" (This is the opposite of how it should be: normally one
sows a small amount of seed and reaps a large harvest.) "He that earns wages
earns wages to put them into a bag with holes." This will certainly resonate with
everyone who has to pay income tax, social security, city taxes, health and
education bills, water, electricity, gas and an unending list of other expenses. The
rabbis explained that the reason for sowing much and harvesting little was because
without the Temple the mitzvah of bringing the BIKKURIM ("first fruits") was in
abeyance. The reason why people ate but were not satisfied was because there
were no MENACHOS ("meal offerings"). The wine did not lift anyone's spirits
because the Temple wine libations were defunct, while people's clothes did not
provide genuine warmth because the priestly garments were not in use in the
Temple (Rashi on v 6).

Vv 7ff: In this new Parshah Pethuhah, God challenges the people to ponder deeply
the economic and ecological woes that are afflicting them as long as each one runs
to his own house while God's House lies in ruins, and to see the turnabout that will
take place as soon as they will start rebuilding the Temple.

V 8: God tells the people to start gathering the materials for the new Temple "so
that I may be glorified" – VE-EKAVDA. In the Hebrew scroll this word is written
HASEIR, i.e. lacking the final letter HEH that Hebrew grammar requires for the first
person singular. The lack of this HEH (=5) in relation to God's glory in the coming
Second Temple was taken to signify the five elements that were present in the First
Temple but lacking in the Second: the Ark of the Covenant, the Urim VeThumim
(prophetic spirit coming through the High Priest's breastplate), fire from Heaven on
the Altar, the Shechinah and Holy Spirit (Yoma 21b; Rashi on v 8).

Vv 9-11 depict the lack of blessing in the ecology and the produce of the land as a
result of the absence of the Temple. "If the nations of the world knew how much
they suffer when Israel sin, they would post two soldiers by the side of each one to
guard him from sinning" (Midrash Tanchuma). Unfortunately the nations are mostly
unaware of this, and instead vent their frustrations through anger and anti-Semitic
outrages against the Jews.

V 12: The greatness of Zerubavel and Yehoshua and the remnant of the nation who
were with them lay in the fact that they did indeed heed the prophet's reproof and
went into action.
V 13: As soon as the people began to stir, God assured them through his
"emissary" or "angel", Haggai, that "I am with you".

Vv 14: "…and they came and performed work in the House of HaShem…" The
commentators explain that this work was in PREPARATION for the building –
hewing stones and sawing beams to provide the materials (Rashi; Metzudas David).

V 15 opens a new Parshah Pethuhah because a new chapter was starting in the
history of the people with the beginning in earnest of preparations for the rebuilding
of the Temple. Yet this verse is a continuation of the previous Parshah in the sense
that it tells us the day on which these preparations started – on the 24 th Elul,
another most significant date in the Torah calendar as it is the anniversary of the
beginning of the six days of creation (according to the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer,
Rosh Hashanah 8a).

Chapter 2
V 1: "In the seventh month on the twenty-first day of the month…" This prophecy
came on the seventh day of the festival of Succoth, "Hoshana Rabbah" – one day
before the conclusion of the Tishri festival season. Since the actual building of the
Temple was set to commence little more than two months later on 24 Kislev
(Haggai 2:10), it was necessary to spur the people to throw all their energy and
enthusiasm into the preparatory work of assembling the required materials.

V 3: Faced with the devastation all around them in the aftermath of the exile and
the opposition of the adversaries, the task of restoring anything of the true glory of
Solomon's legendary Temple must have seemed completely daunting (cf. Ezra
3:12f).

Vv 4-5: God urges the people to keep strong in their faith "according to the word
that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt" – this refers to the Torah.
If the people were to keep the Torah, seeing as God's spirit was standing in their
midst – i.e. in their prophets – they had nothing to fear (Rashi).

V 6-7: Since the rise of Assyria, Israel had become accustomed to living under the
shadow of colossal empires, but God promises that He will now throw the world into
ferment. This is interpreted as a prophecy of the destruction of the Persian empire
(which came in the thirty-sixth year of Darius' reign with his defeat at the hands of
Alexander the Great), and the overthrow of Greek dominion over the Jews under
the Hasmoneans (Rashi on v 6).

V 8: "The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine…" – "Rabbi Meir says, A person should
always teach his son a clean, easy craft and beg mercy from Him to whom wealth
and possessions belong, for poverty is not the result of one's profession nor is
wealth the result of one's profession by only because of Him to whom wealth
belongs, as it says, The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine" (Kiddushin 82b).

V 9: "The glory of this latter House shall be greater than that of the former…" Some
said that this is because the Second Temple, particularly as embellished by King
Herod, was physically grander than the first, while others said that it is because the
Second Temple stood for 420 years while the first stood only for 410 years (Bava
Basra 3a). "This LATTER House…" Since the building was ready to go up in front of
them, it would have been sufficient to refer to it simply as THIS House. The
apparently redundant word ACHARON (="latter" or "last"), thus alludes to the Third
Temple (may it be built quickly in our times), which will be the greatest of all.
V 10 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah with a new prophecy that was delivered in the
same year on 24 Kislev. This was when the work on the actual building of the
Temple began – appropriately this was on the eve of what would later become the
Festival of Hanukah, the celebration of the re-inauguration of the Temple by the
Hasmoneans after the overthrow of the Greeks.

Vv 11-14: Just as the work of physically rebuilding the Temple commenced, it was
necessary to show the priests who would be responsible for conducting all the
services that they had to have complete mastery of all the complex Torah laws
which they involved. God instructed Haggai to "test" the priests in order to show
them that they needed to "brush up" on their Mishneh!

A full understanding of Haggai's two questions to the priests and the various ways
they were interpreted by the commentators requires a detailed knowledge of the
laws of TUM'AH and TAHARAH (ritual impurity and purification). Each of the main
sources of TUM'AH is called an AV ("father"), such as a dead lizard (SHERETZ), a
lump of carrion meat (NEVELAH), spit of a leper (ROK), etc. while something that
was originally pure but became defiled by one of the above is known as a VLAD
("child" or "derivative"). The laws of Tum'ah involve a kind of domino effect
whereby an AV causes the VLAD it touches to become a RISHON (first degree
derivative), while the RISHON causes the food it touches to become a SHENI
("second derivative"). If a SHENI comes in contact with priestly Terumah or
sacrificial Kodoshim food, it turns them into a SHELISHI ("third derivative"), which
in turn has the power to render Kodoshim (but not Terumah) a REVI'I ("fourth
derivative"). Haggai's first question to the priests (v 12) was precisely whether one
of the kinds of AV TUM'AH listed above had the power to cause such a domino
effect to the fourth degree. His second question (v 13) was about the what domino
effect caused by TEMAY NEFESH, i.e. blood, flesh or bones from a dead human
body, which is called AVI AVOS HA-TUM'AH ("the father of the fathers of impurity"),
because its ritual impurity is so intense that it causes even what it touches to
become an AV.

What exactly Haggai was asking and whether the priests did or did not know the
correct answers are subjects of extensive discussion by the commentators (see
Rashi, Metzudas David and RaDaK on these verses). RaDaK concludes his
discussion by saying that even if the priests did know the correct answers, the
lethargy they had displayed until now in rebuilding the Temple meant that anything
they offered on the Altar would be considered ritually impure. This may be seen as
a dig at those who are willing to study the Temple laws in great depth but show no
enthusiasm about doing anything to actually rebuild it.

Vv 15-19: The prophet challenges the people to take careful note of how from the
very day that they would start to throw themselves fully into the building of the
Temple God would send blessing and prosperity.

Vv 20ff are a prophecy addressed to Zerubavel, who was not only the governor of
the Persian imperial province of Judea but also heir to the kingship of David, which
had very nearly been wiped out completely since two out of the last three kings of
Judah had left no heirs – Yeho-yakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar exiled and tortured to
death, and Tzidkiyahu, all of whose sons were slaughtered in front of his eyes. The
last surviving member of the Davidic dynasty, Yeho-yakim's son, King Yechoniah,
whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile in Babylon prior to the destruction of
the Temple, also had no heir and was unlikely to have one since he was cruelly
imprisoned in solitary confinement in a deep narrow pit. Eventually
Nebuchadnezzar's wife prevailed upon him to agree to let Yechoniah's wife be
lowered down by rope into his prison pit cell, but she then discovered that she had
a flow of blood, which meant that relations were forbidden. Yechoniah had been
wont to ignore the laws of NIDDAH and ZIVAH when free in Jerusalem prior to his
captivity, but, chastened by his sufferings in exile, he had repented and now
heroically refused to have relations. His wife was hauled up again and mercifully
was allowed to purify herself from her flow, after which she was once again lowered
down… And through their coming together standing in this cramped dark pit, the
House of David was saved from extinction (Vayikra Rabba 19:6). The child born of
that union was She'alti-el, father of Zerubavel.

Prior to Yechoniah's repentance, Jeremiah had prophesied that even if he was as


close to God as His very signet ring on His right hand, He would cast him away
(Jeremiah 22:24). But after his repentance, God restored his seed and promised
that He would make Zerubavel "like His signet ring" (which a person normally never
removes). "For I have chosen you" – "I have chosen the seed that will issue from
you to be King Mashiah!" (Metzudas David).
Book of Zechariah
Chapter 1
V 1: "In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius…" Zechariah's first recorded
prophecy came in the same period as Haggai was prophesying that the time had come to
rebuild the Temple. Haggai had prophesied at the beginning of Elul, the sixth month of
that same year, and again on 21 Tishri, the seventh month, telling the people to start
preparing building materials. To reinforce the message of restoration and revival,
Zechariah prophesied in Heshvan, the eighth month. Haggai then prophesied again on 24
Kislev, when the work of the actual building began, followed by Zechariah two months
later on 24 Shevat (Zech. 1:7).

"…Zechariah the son of Berechyah the son of Iddo the prophet…" From the fact that the
names of Zechariah's father and grandfather are given in the text, it is inferred that they
too were prophets. Some identify Iddo with Iddo mentioned in Nehemiah 12:16 as one of
the priests, which would mean that Zechariah was the leader of his priestly family.
Together with the other Men of the Great Assembly, Zechariah received Torah from
Baruch ben Neriyah, the student of Jeremiah (Rambam, Introduction to Mishneh Torah).
Zechariah was also called Meshullam since he was complete (SHALEM) in his deeds.

The meaning of Zechariah's prophecies is very hidden. Their mysterious imagery bears
comparison with the visions of Daniel, for both lived at a time when the power of
prophecy was declining owing to the exile, and for this reason they were unable to clarify
the full meaning of their visions (Metzudas David on Zech. 1:8). In the words of Rashi:
"Zechariah's prophecy is very obscure, for it contains images similar to a dream that
should be susceptible to interpretation, but we will not be able to attain the true
interpretation until the Righteous Teacher (Mashiah) will come" (Rashi on Zechariah
1:1).

The fourteen chapters of Zechariah make up four separate prophecies: (1) Zech. 1:1-6;
(2) Zech. 1:7-6:15; (3) Zech. 7:1-11:21; (4) Zech. 12:1-14:21. The themes of his
prophecy are the restoration of Jerusalem and the repentance required on the part of the
people in order to establish the new Temple; the destiny of the people in the Second
Temple era and thereafter until the end of days, the war of Gog and Magog and the final
redemption.

Vv 2ff: "God was greatly displeased with your fathers…" The prophet opens with reproof,
recalling the sins of the fathers of the present generation, which had caused the
destruction of the First Temple. His second prophecy (Zech. 1:7ff) alludes to the future
history of the Second Temple and the restoration and consolation of Jerusalem, but
before he can comfort the people and give them hope, he must first chastise them in
order to make them think about God's ways, which are "measure for measure". Before
they could embark on the work of building of the new Temple they had to repent and
understand that they must not return to the sinful ways of their fathers. Zechariah's
message is highly relevant to the many today who have left the path of loose or even
non-existent attachment to Judaism with which they were brought up and seek to
embrace the authentic Torah pathway.

Vv 5-6: "Your fathers – where are they?" Zechariah asks the people to reflect on what
happened to the generation of the destruction. The people could retort that the prophets
who had reproved them were also no longer alive (Sanhedrin 105a), but Zechariah points
out that nobody can live forever and that all the dire prophecies of destruction had been
fulfilled.

Verse 7 begins a new prophecy which falls into ten sections running until the end of
Chapter 6.

V 8: "I saw in the NIGHT…" The fact that the vision of the prophet was "in the night"
indicates that the power of prophecy was diminished, for the era of prophecy was coming
to an end (Metzudas David).

"…and behold a man riding on a red horse…" – "This 'man' was an angel while the RED
horse alludes to the fact that retribution would be exacted from the Kasdim (Babylonians)
and from Medea and Persia with the sword and with blood, as it says below (v 15), And I
will show great anger to the nations that are at ease" (Rashi on v 8).

"…and he was standing among the myrtle bushes that were in the glen…" RaDaK (ad loc.)
explains that the myrtles, which have a fragrant scent, symbolize Israel, who have the
fragrance of the mitzvoth. The man was "standing by them" to help them and take them
out of exile, which is the METZULAH ("glen"). "…and behind him were horses, red,
faint-colored [or mixed-colored] and white." Metzudas David (on v 11) explains that the
horses were sent by God and allude to the world empires. They are symbolized by horses
to allude to their great speed and multitude… The red ones allude to Babylon (symbolized
in Daniel 2:38 by gold, which is red-colored)… The fainter/mixed-colored horses allude to
the two empires of Medea and Persia … while the white ones allude to Greece, perhaps
because they customarily wore white garments. In this vision He did not show him the
fourth empire – that of Rome – because their rule came only after the destruction of the
Second Temple and as yet He had not spoken to him about this; later on, after having
spoken to him about it, He also gave him allusions about the fourth empire.

Vv 9-11: In answer to the prophet's request for the interpretation of the vision, the angel
channeling him prophecy tells him that he will show him its meaning. In verse 10 the
angel on the red horse amidst the myrtles begins to give the answer, which is amplified
in verse 11. The horses – the empires – have taken over the world and are dwelling in
peace [not unlike today, where Europe, America, Russia and China etc. enjoy relative
peace while Israel suffers from constant harassment and wars].

V 12: The tranquility of the nations prompts the angel of God speaking in the prophet's
mouth to ask why God does not show mercy to Jerusalem: UD MOSAI – "until when???"

V 13-17: This cry of pain to God over the suffering of Jerusalem prompts God's reply of
comfort and consolation: God promises that He will return to Jerusalem and rebuild His
Temple while the nations that live in tranquility will face His anger for having caused
Israel unwarranted suffering.

Chapter 2
Verse 1 opens a new section of Zechariah's second prophecy. The four "horns" again
symbolize the four main empires that have dominated Israel through history – Babylon,
Persia, Greece and Rome – just as an animal's horns are emblematic of its power and
pride (Metzudas David; cf. Daniel 7:7 & 11, 8:3ff etc.).

Vv 2-4: The four empires come to scatter Judah and treat them without mercy, but the
four "craftsmen" (HARASHIM, carpenters, experts at cutting hard wood and tough horn)
will exact vengeance from them.

Vv 5-8: An angel is coming to measure the city of Jerusalem, as if to indicate the future
greatness it will attain. "The Holy One blessed be He wanted to give a measure to
Jerusalem… but the ministering angels said, Master of the World, You have created many
great cities in Your universe belonging to the nations of the world and you never put limits
on their length and breadth. Will You give a measure to Jerusalem, where Your Name
dwells, where Your Temple stands and where there are many Tzaddikim??? God
immediately said to the angel that was supposed to measure Jerusalem, Run, speak to
that lad (=Zechariah) saying ' Jerusalem shall be inhabited like unwalled towns because
of the multitude of men and cattle that shall be in it'" (Bava Basra 75b). In our time we
are witnesses to the fulfillment of this prophecy. Jerusalem is now the largest and most
populous city in Israel and has spread far beyond the old walled city, with extensive
beautiful suburbs on the surrounding hills. Animals too can quite literally be found in the
city (such as donkeys and horses, not to speak of cats and dogs), or it could be that the
reference to "men" and "animals" here is similar to that in Jonah 4:11 as explained there
by Rashi (see our commentary on Jonah 3-4).

V 9: "For I will be to her, says HaShem, a wall of fire round about…" – "Said the Holy One
blessed be He, I must pay for the fire I kindled: I set Zion on fire… and in the future I will
build it with fire" (Bava Kama 60b). This verse is quoted in the NAHEM prayer that is
recited in the Tisha b'Av Minchah afternoon service.

Vv 10-11 call on the exiles of Israel to come home.

Vv 12-13: God will take vengeance on the nations, "for he that touches you touches the
apple of his eye".

Verse 13 introduces a section of Zechariah (from here until ch. 4 v 7) that is familiar as
a Haftara read TWICE every year – on the Shabbos of Hanukah and also as the Haftara of
Parshas BeHa'aloschah (the third parshah of Numbers, read in mid-summer shortly after
the festival of Shavuos). The prophet comforts the people with the promise that many
nations will come to recognize God and serve Him and that God will again inherit Judah as
His share and restore Israel and Jerusalem. Speedily in our times!!! Amen.

Chapter 3
Verse 1 opens a new section of the lengthy prophecy that began in Zechariah 1:7 about
the dawning age of the Second Temple and the coming empires until the end of days.

YEHOSHUA THE HIGH PRIEST

"And He showed me Yehoshua the High Priest…" As High Priest, Yehoshua was the most
important mover in the enterprise of building the new Temple second only to Zerubavel
the "king". Outwardly there seemed to be reasons to question the ability of either of them
to be granted success in this holy venture, but the prophet's vision penetrates beneath
the surface appearance.

"And the adversary (SATAN) was standing at his right hand to thwart him." The accusing
forces had a hold because Yehoshua's sons had taken foreign wives who were unfit to be
married to Cohanim (priests), as we learn from Ezra 10:18 (see Rashi on Zechariah 3:1).
The accusation against Yehoshua in the higher world gave force to Sanvalat and the other
adversaries in this world who had been working to thwart the rebuilding of the Temple, as
described in Ezra (see RaDaK on Zech. 3:1).

Verse 2: "And God said to the adversary, God rebukes you…" Because of the great power
of this verse to quell the forces of evil, it is customarily recited together with other "verses
of mercy" with the "bedside" Shema prior to going to sleep for the night.

"Is this not a brand plucked out of the fire?" The Talmud tells that in Babylon Yehoshua
had been cast into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar together with two false prophets
(Ahab ben Kolayah and Tzidkiyahu ben Maaseyah cf. Jeremiah 29:21), and that although
Yehoshua was saved when the other two died, the fire did singe him on account of his
sons being married to foreign women (Sanhedrin 93a).

Vv 3-4: Yehoshua's dirty clothes are symbolic of the stain caused by his sons' marriages.
Yet the angel before whom Yehoshua stood in this celestial judgment told the angels
standing before him to remove the dirty clothes (and his sons did divorce their wives and
repent, Ezra 10:19), showing that sin can be rectified and that the soiled garments can be
replaced with "festive garments" – merits – a very important lesson as the new Temple
was about to rise out of the ruins of the first.

V 5: "Then I said, Let them put a pure mitre on his head…" The prophet tells us that he
prayed for Yehoshua: the mitre on his head alludes to the crown of the priesthood that he
attained as an inheritance for his offspring after him since they separated from their
foreign wives (Metzudas David).

V 7: On the threshold of the Second Temple period, God warns the High Priest to follow
sincerely in the pathway of the Torah, promising him that if he does, "I will give you
pathways among these standing". Targum renders: "I will revive you at the resurrection
of the dead".

V 8: "Hear now, Yehoshua… for behold I will bring My servant Tzemach". The root
TZAMACH means "sprout". Rashi (ad loc.) interprets this as a promise to magnify
Zerubavel, who although heir to the kingship of David was in the eyes of the Persian court
merely the governor of Judea, a small figure, but God would give him favor in the eyes of
the king so as to be able to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. RaDaK (ad loc.)
adds that TZEMACH also refers to King Mashiah, and that in addition to the salvation that
occurred in the time of Zerubavel, this is a prophecy that God will bring another even
greater salvation in the time of Mashiah. RaDaK notes that the tradition that the name of
Mashiach is Menachem is based on this verse because the gematria of Menachem is the
same as that of Tzemach.

V 9: "For behold the stone I have laid before Yehoshua; upon one stone are seven
facets." Targum and Rashi interpret the "stone" as referring to the foundation of the
Second Temple: this is a prophecy that the Temple was to expand seven times the extent
of the existing foundation. Metzudas David (ad loc.) adds that this is also a prophecy that
the foundation of the Third Temple has already been laid in the sense that it has already
been decreed that it will be built, and that it will be inaugurated by a descendant of
Yehoshua the High Priest. "And I will remove the sin of that land in one day" – "On the day
they begin to rebuild the Temple blessing will come into the fruits" (Rashi).

Chapter 4
Verse 1 is a continuation of the section Zechariah's lengthy prophecy that started in the
previous chapter. The prophecy now rises to a new level in which the spiritual sources of
the power of Zerubavel the "king" and Yehoshua the High Priest are revealed. In Zech.
3:1-10 the angel channeling the prophecy to Zechariah did not speak to him directly but
only showed him what was going on in the celestial court. But now "the angel that talked
with me CAME BACK", speaking to Zechariah directly and "rousing" him as from a sleep
– i.e. bringing him to a new spiritual level.

THE GOLDEN MENORAH

Verse 2: The seven branched Temple candelabrum as described in detail in Exodus


25:31-40 is the source of spiritual light that emanates to the whole world. In his vision of
the Menorah, Zechariah saw above it a bowl (GOULAH="fountain" cf. Joshua 15:19) from
which oil was flowing into the seven lamps (i.e. the cups holding the oil and wicks). Each
of the lamps was individually supplied with oil from the GOULAH-bowl through seven
small channels of its own (Rashi, Metzudas David). The Midrash associates the seven
lamps with the seven shepherds of Israel , the seven days of creation and seven very
fundamental mitzvoth etc. (Yalkut Shimoni). On the kabbalistic plane they allude to the
seven lower Sefiroth, each of which contains aspects of all of the others. Rashi states that
this verse alludes to the light that will shine in the future, which will be forty-nine times
as great as the light of the creation.

V 3: "And there were two olive trees by it…" Only later in the prophecy (vv 11-12) do
more details emerge about how oil was produced from these olive trees to fuel the
Menorah. Rashi on v 3 explains that just as in an olive press, the many berries from the
olive branches mentioned in v 12 were being squeezed by themselves into the golden
"spouts" (TZANTROTH) which are mentioned there, and that it was from these spouts
that the oil flowed into the GOULAH bowl or fountain which was supplying the pipes
leading down into the lamps.

V 6: In answer to the prophet's request for an explanation of the vision, the angel tells
him that it is a sign to reassure Zerubavel. Just as the olives grew and the oil was
produced all by themselves in every respect (with no need for effort or intervention), so
the building of the Temple would be completed not through the might and strength of its
builders but through God's spirit (Rashi ad loc.)

V 7: "Who are you, the great mountain before Zerubavel? Become a plain!" On one level
the prophet was addressing Tathnai governor of the Persian provinces west of the
Euphrates and the other adversaries of the Jews who had been stalling the building of the
Temple, saying that they would not be able to stand before Zerubavel. Metzudas David
(ad loc.) states that the "great mountain" refers to Gog king of Magog. "Do you think that
you are a great mountain that will stand in front of Mashiach so that he will not be able to
get across? It is not so. In the face of Mashiach you will be like a plain that he will cross
quite easily – Gog will have no power to hold back Mashiach!"

"And he shall produce the headstone of it" – "King Mashiach will bring forth a great stone
to place as the foundation of the future Temple" (Metzudas David).

Vv 8ff: A new section of this prophecy now elaborates further on the significance of the
vision of the Menorah, promising that Zerubavel will succeed in building the new Temple .

V 10: "For who has despised the day of small things…" When the foundations of the
Second Temple had first been laid, those who remembered the glory of the First Temple
were disappointed and discouraged (Ezra 3:12), but they would rejoice when they would
see Zerubavel's building arise. For "The eyes of HaShem rove to and fro through the
whole earth" – God sees what humans do not see, and He knows that Zerubavel is fit to
build this Temple (Rashi).

Vv 11ff: The prophet asks for further explanation of the vision of the Golden Menorah,
and specifically about the two olive trees standing by it, since these are the source of the
spiritual power emanating from it. The angel answers him that they allude to the
Priesthood and the Kingship (the High Priest and the King are both anointed with the
anointing oil, which is perfumed olive oil) and these are the foundations of the Temple, as
embodied in Yehoshua the High Priest and Zerubavel the "king". They "stand by the Lord
of the whole earth" because they are ready to do His will.

Chapter 5
In the previous visions concerning Yehoshua the High Priest and the golden Menorah, the
prophet received great lessons about the leaders who were to build the new Temple and
the spiritual source of their power. Now, in the vision of the Flying Scroll (Zechariah
5:1-4) and the Eiphah-measure (Zech. 5:5-10) the prophet receives lessons about the
social justice that must be the foundation of the new order, because it was theft,
deception and oppression that caused the exile.

THE FLYING SCROLL

Vv 1-2: "And I looked, and behold a flying scroll… its length twenty cubits and its breadth
ten cubits." The scroll came forth from the Holy of Holies in the Temple through the
entrance of the Temple vestibule (OOLAM) which was ten cubits wide and twenty cubits
high. In other words, this moral lesson that theft, deception and false oaths bring
punishment in their wake is bound up with the very essence of the Temple concept. The
presence of the Holy Temple demands appropriate standards of conduct between men,
particularly in their business dealings with one another. This scroll of reproof is the same
scroll that the prophet Ezekiel saw (Ezekiel 2:9-10).

The sages of the Talmud stated that the entire Torah was written on this scroll. The
Hebrew word in verse 2 that is translated as "flying" ('APHAH) also has the connotation of
"folded" or doubled over, which means that the surface area of the scroll was in fact
twenty by twenty cubits. We learn from verse 3 (MI-ZEH… MI-ZEH…) that it had writing
on both sides. If the scroll were sliced into two leaves, the total surface area would come
out to be doubled again, i.e. twenty by forty cubits = 800 square cubits. Isaiah 40:12
asks, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and meted out heaven
with the SPAN…?" Since God measures heaven (=the created world) with a span, which
is a half cubit, 800 sq. cubits consist of 3,200 square spans. This means that the entire
world is only 1/3,200 the expanse of the Torah (Talmud Eiruvin 21a, Rashi on Zech. 5:1).

V 3: "Then he said to me, this is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole
earth…" The curse – the punishment for the sins enumerated in this verse – is "going out"
over the earth because the scroll was going forth from the Temple. One side (MI-ZEH) of
the scroll (one aspect of the reproof) is directed against every thief; the other side
(MI-ZEH) is directed against everyone who swears falsely. They are two sides of the same
reproof because although theft in itself is less serious than taking God's name in vain
through a false oath, theft brings a person to lie and swear falsely (RaDaK on v 2).

V 4: "I have taken it forth, says HaShem of hosts…" Previously individuals who stole and
swore falsely had not been punished, but now God has drawn forth the reproof in the
form of the flying scroll and shown it to the prophet, to indicate that the nation has now
been warned and that once their measure is complete they will suffer collectively for
these sins (Rashi on vv 3-4).

THE EIPHAH MEASURE

The EIPHAH is one of the standard Torah units of measure of weight (cf. Exodus 16:36
etc.). Estimates of the modern equivalent vary between 24.8-43.0 kilograms. The Torah
explicitly forbids "double standards": "You shall not have in your house an EIPHAH and an
EIPHAH, one big (for measuring what one buys) and one small (for measuring what one
sells)" (Deut. 25:14).

Vv 5-6: The EIPHAH-measure is going forth to reprove those "whose eyes are in all the
land" – who are looking everywhere to see what they can steal and how they can reduce
the weight of what they sell while raising the prices. They will be punished "measure for
measure".

Vv 7ff: "And behold, the leaden cover was lifted and there was a woman sitting in the
midst of the EIPHAH…" The wicked woman represents the nation whose people behaved
unjustly in business. The woman is now punished by being enclosed in the
EIPHAH-measure – she is punished with the very same measure she meted out to others!
A heavy lead lid closes her in: this represents the heavy weight of exile that punishes the
sinners by keeping them trapped and silenced. RaDaK (on vv 7-8) explains that this
woman represents the Ten Tribes, who were all part of one kingdom and went on the
same wicked path, as a result of which they were sent into a long exile.

[The Talmud in Yoma 69b and Sanhedrin 64a darshens this verse in a radically different
way as teaching that in the time of Zechariah the sages sought to eliminate the evil
inclination by closing it up in a lead container in order to silence it, until they realized that
all desire to procreate would dry up, so instead they released it but blinded its eyes so as
to reduce the impulse to worship idols and contravene the incest laws, and indeed these
sins were less rampant in the time of the Second Temple than they had been in the time
of the First.]

Vv 9-11: "And I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold there were two women coming
forth, and the wind was in their wings…" Again, these women were coming forth from the
Temple to give reproof. RaDaK interprets these two women as representing the tribes of
Judah and Benjamin, who went into exile in Babylon. Even though by the time of
Zechariah's prophecy many of the exiles had returned to Jerusalem with Zerubavel,
many others still remained in Babylon. "And they carried the EIPHAH-measure between
the earth and the heaven." This is not the same EIPHAH as in verse 8, which was closed
in under a heavy lead lid to make it sink into the earth (alluding to the lengthy exile of the
Ten Tribes). The EIPHAH of verse 9 borne by the women with wings like a stork's was
hanging in mid-air, indicating that the exile of Judah and Benjamin was only temporary
until they returned to their land (RaDaK). Nevertheless, as a result of their sins, many
still remained in exile in the land of Shin'ar = Babylon (Rashi; Metzudas David).

Chapter 6
THE VISION OF THE FOUR CHARIOTS

Following the previous section of this long prophecy evoking the exile of the Ten Tribes to
an unknown land and of Judah and Benjamin to Babylon as a result of their sins, the new
section (ch 6 vv 1-8) is a vision of four chariots representing the four major powers that
have oppressed and exiled Israel throughout history until today: Babylon, Medea-Persia,
Greece and Rome-Ishmael.

V 1: The chariots come forth from between two mountains of bronze, symbolizing the
great strength of these powers, since they are God's agents (Rashi).

V 2: The horses of the first chariot are red, signifying Babylon (cf. Daniel 2:38; gold is
red-colored). The horses of the second are black, signifying Medea-Persia, who
"blackened the faces of Israel in the days of Haman" (Rashi).

V 3: The horses of the third chariot are white, signifying the Greeks, who customarily
wore white garments. The horses of the fourth are B'RUDIM, "grizzled" or "blotched" (as
if with lumps of white hail, BARAD) and AMUTZIM, "ashen". These signify Ishmael and the
Romans, who are from the children of Edom and who rule together with Ishmael. The
"blotched" horses allude to Ishmael, for they contain whiteness and radiance since their
extraction is from Abraham and they hold to some of his instructions since they are
circumcised, while the "ashen" horses allude to the Romans, who burned the Temple and
turned it into ashes (Metzudas David). RaDaK, who makes similar identifications to those
of Metzudas David, adds that the white blotches signifying Ishmael/Rome indicate that
they consider themselves faithful to the Torah of Moses which is white as hail, yet they
mix it in with many other beliefs…

V 5: "These are the four winds of the heavens…" – "These are the guardian angels of the
powers that rule over the four directions of heaven" (Rashi). "They are going forth from
standing before the Lord of all the earth" – "They came before Him and He gave them
permission to rule" – (Rashi).

Verse 6 makes no mention of the chariot with red horses – Babylon – because their rule
had already come to an end by the time of Zechariah (Rashi). The black horses – Medea
and Persia – went northwards to conquer Babylon. The white horses – Greece – went
after them: Alexander of Macedon ( reece ) defeated Darius of Persia. The blotched
horses – Ishmael – went and entrenched themselves in the south, which was where
Ishmael dwelled (Metzudas David). In verse 7, the ashen horses – Rome – go forth to
walk to and fro throughout the earth, "for they rule over the earth with Ishmael"
(Metzudas David).

V 8: "See, those who go out to the land of the north have relieved My spirit in the land of
the north" – God is pleased that Medea-Persia have gone to the north, Babylon, and
exacted His vengeance from her (Rashi).

CROWNS FOR THE HIGH PRIEST AND KING-MASHIACH

Verse 9 begins a new Parshah Sethumah which runs until the end of this chapter (Zech.
6:15), concluding the lengthy prophecy that began in Zechariah 1:7 evoking the era that
was beginning with the building of the Second Temple and the powers that would rule the
earth thereafter until the end of days.

In this closing section of the prophecy Zechariah receives instructions from God to take
silver and gold from some of the wealthy returnees to Jerusalem from Babylon in order to
make two crowns. One of them is explicitly made to place on the head of Yehoshua son of
Yehotzadak, the High Priest, one of the two main leaders and builders of the Temple (v
11). Our text does not state explicitly for whom the second crown is intended, but this
may be inferred from verse 12, where Zechariah is instructed to tell Yehoshua about the
great destiny of Zerubavel, from whose progeny will come the Mashiach=Tzemach (cf.
Zechariah 3:8), who will build the future Temple. Zerubavel himself was never crowned
king, but already on the threshold of the Second Temple era, Zechariah was told to
prepare the crown for Mashiach, who will build the Third Temple , which will stand forever
(Metzudas David).

"…and the counsel of peace shall be between them both…" The Temple will be built when
the temporal and spiritual leaders – represented by the king and the priest – will see eye
to eye.

V 15: "And they that are far off shall come and build…" – "This refers to the future Temple,
for then the scattered exiles of Israel (=the Ten Tribes) and Judah will come from far off
and build God's Sanctuary, and then you will know that HaShem of Hosts sent me to
prophecy these things and that I have not spoken from my own heart… This will come
about in your days IF YOU LISTEN TO GOD'S VOICE TO GO IN HIS WAYS!!!" (Metzudas
David).

Chapter 7
A HALACHIC QUESTION

Vv 1-3: "And it was in the fourth year of King Darius…" With this begins a new prophecy
that runs until the end of Chapter 11 and consists of 21 sections or paragraphs of a few
verses each.

The previous prophecy (Zechariah 1:7-6:15) had come to Zechariah two years earlier in
Darius' second year, when the building of the Second Temple was just beginning. Now,
nearly two years later, with the building work still in progress, came a new prophecy
prompted by a halachic question that had been addressed to the priests of the new
Temple and the prophets (=Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi) by leading members of the
community of Jews that still remained in exile in Babylon. Since the destruction of the
First Temple seventy years earlier they had each year been marking its anniversary on
the ninth day of the fifth month (=Av) with the fast of Tisha b'Av, and they wanted to
know if they should still continue to do the same now that the Temple was being rebuilt.

"For they still did not believe that the building work would succeed because of the
adversaries who had succeeded in holding it up for many years, and even though they
had now heard that the building work was again in progress, they lacked faith and were
unwilling to come up out of exile from Babylon because they did not believe that the
Temple would be completed and be able to stand against those adversaries" (RaDaK).

Somewhat similarly, many Jews in the Diaspora today also wonder if they should make
Aliyah to Eretz Israel considering that the country is beset by enemies from outside and
within, and they question whether the steadily increasing ingathering of exiles that has
been witnessed over the last few centuries until today is really the fulfillment of the
ancient prophecies.

Just as such doubts are very discouraging to those who have settled in the national
homeland in order to rebuild and restore its glory, so the niggling halachic question about
whether it was still necessary to fast on Tisha B'Av was also very discouraging to the
brave pioneer returnees from Babylon to Jerusalem who were working hard to rebuild the
Temple against fierce opposition from the gentiles all around.

Vv 4ff: The prophecy is not even addressed directly to those in the community of Babylon
who had put the actual question (who, having remained in exile, were as if
excommunicated by God), but rather to "all the people of the Land" (v 5) – i.e. the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, whom it was necessary to encourage in order to rid them of any
doubts about the matter (Metzudas David).

Before coming to the specific answer to the question (which does not come until ch 8 vv
18-19), the prophet begins with a rebuke designed to show that the question essentially
missed the point. The people were asking what they should do on Tisha b'Av as if fasting
were a religious duty that somehow benefits God. The prophet tells them that the reason
why they had to fast was only in order to repent of their own sins, which had led to the
destruction of the First Temple and the exile: fasting in itself was no more pleasing to God
than their eating and drinking, which was only for their own pleasure and benefit.

[The prophet's answer also contains another implicit rebuke, because the people had only
asked whether they should continue fasting on Tisha b'Av, whereas Zechariah (v 5) also
adds the fast of seventh month (=Tishri), which was established to commemorate the
assassination of the Babylonian-appointed Jewish governor of Judea, Gedaliah son of
Ahikam, which spelled the end of the last vestige of Jewish independence there after the
destruction of the First Temple. Here Zechariah teaches that the death of a Tzaddik is as
disastrous as the destruction of the Temple – Metzudas David.]

The real point is not to carry out a ritual fast but rather to be aware of the sins that caused
the destruction of the Temple in order to correct them from now on: these were the sins
for which all the "first prophets" in the time of the First Temple had reproved the people
prior to the destruction. They were the very opposite of the pathway of true justice and
kindness to one another that Zechariah beautifully depicts in vv 9-10.

Vv 11-14: In order to succeed in building a new Temple that would endure, the people
had to take to heart that it was precisely because of the earlier generations' refusal to
listen to the voice of the prophets and follow the Torah sincerely that the destruction and
exile had come about. The people themselves were responsible for turning the "pleasant
land to desolation" (v 14).

Chapter 8
Vv 1ff: Beneath the surface of the halachic enquiry sent by the Diaspora community in
Babylon lay an implicit lack of faith in the Temple rebuilding project. The prophetic
response is a most emphatic rejection of any notion that God has somehow abandoned
Zion and Jerusalem: "I have been zealous for Zion with great zeal…"

V 3: "I have returned to Zion and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem …" Zechariah's
prophecies of the glory of Jerusalem were addressed to encourage those who were
rebuilding the Second Temple. Many aspects of these prophecies were indeed fulfilled for
lengthy periods during the Second Temple era, which saw great blessing in the Land (v
12) and many prominent converts to the Torah, such as Queen Helene (Yoma 37a etc. cf.
Zech. v 21f). Yet eventually the Second Temple was destroyed, leading to a possible
question as to whether Zechariah's prophecies also relate to the Future Temple. As if to
answer this, Metzudas David comments on verse 3 that God's promise to return to Zion
with the building of the Second Temple was conditional on the people's willingness to
heed the message of the prophets (cf. Zech. 6:15) and that if they were to do so, the
complete redemption would come about in their days. This implies that each generation
has the ability to bring about the complete redemption if they rise to the challenge and
repent sufficiently, but if not, the final redemption is deferred, though not forever, and
when it comes, all the promises in the prophets will be fulfilled.

V 4: "Thus says HaShem of Hosts…" This and similar phrases are repeated again and
again in the coming verses of consolation (6 7 9 11 14 & 17) in order to strengthen the
consolation, for no matter what, the promised goodness will come (RaDaK).

"Old men and women shall YET AGAIN dwell in the streets of Jerusalem …" – "the phrase
YET AGAIN ('OD) emphasizes that the future redemption will indeed come. The old men
and women will be in the streets because they will not be homebound on account of
weakness (Metzudas David).

V 5: "And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets."
Streets in many present-day neighborhoods of Jerusalem testify to the fulfillment of this
prophecy nearly 2,500 years after it was delivered.

V 6: "In time to come God will bring the evil inclination and slaughter it in front of the
righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will seem like a tall mountain, while to the
wicked it will seem like a thread no wider than a hairsbreadth. The righteous will weep
saying: How were we able to conquer such a tall mountain? The wicked will weep asking:
Why couldn't we overcome this thread of no more than a hairsbreadth? And the Holy One
blessed be He will also be in wonderment with them, as it says, 'If it be marvelous in the
eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, it will also be marvelous in My eyes'"
(Succah 52a).

Vv 9-13: God encourages those building the Temple by pointing to the fact that from the
time of the commencement of the work the previous lack of blessing and peace had been
reversed, and in future prosperity will reign.

Vv 14-17: The prophecy emphasizes that the foundation for success lies in truth between
man and man in their mutual dealings: everything depends upon justice.

Vv 18-19: The prophecy could only specifically address the Babylonian community's
question about whether to continue fasting on Tisha b'Av and the other fast-days
commemorating the destruction of the Temple after having first corrected their various
misconceptions. The actual answer is a resounding affirmation that with the rebuilding of
the Temple, what were once fast-days will turn into festivals. The fast-days enumerated
in verse 19 are the four mandatory public fast-days in the Torah calendar besides Yom
Kippur. The "fast of the fourth (month)" is 17 th Tammuz commemorating the breach of
the walls of Jerusalem and other calamities. That of the fifth month is Tisha b'Av
commemorating the actual destruction of the Temple. The fast of the seventh month (3
Tishri) commemorates the assassination of Gedaliah son of Ahikam (II Kings 25:25),
while the fast of the tenth (10 Teves) commemorates Nebuchadnezzar's laying siege to
Jerusalem.

Vv 20-23 prophecy how after the future redemption of Israel many nations will come to
seek out HaShem in the Temple in Jerusalem.
"And ten men from all the languages of the nations shall take hold and seize the corner of
the garment of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you…" (v 23). Since there are
seventy nations, the verse teaches that seven hundred men will take hold of each corner,
and since there are four corners, each Jew will have 2,800 men hanging onto his Tzitzith!
(Talmud Shabbos 32b). This requires merit.
Book of Malachi
Chapter 1
Malachi was the last prophet of Israel. His name is from the word MAL'ACH meaning
a "messenger" or "angel", and the YUD at the end means that he is "My" (i.e.
God's) special messenger. Malachi prophesied at the beginning of the Second
Temple period together with Haggai and Zechariah, but unlike in the case of their
prophecies, no date is included in that of Malachi. Nor are their any indications in
the text about his identity. The opinion of Rav Nachman in the Talmud is that
Malachi was a pseudonym for Mordechai (who according to this opinion was called
Malachi, "my agent," because he was "second to the king" Esther 10:3). However
the opinion of R. Yehoshua ben Korchah is that Malachi was Ezra (Megillah 15a).
Targum Yonasan (on Mal. 1:1) likewise identifies Malachi with Ezra, although other
sages considered that he was a separate prophet (Megillah ibid.). He was a
member of the Great Assembly and came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, where he
had learned Torah from Baruch ben Neriyah, the student of Jeremiah (Rambam,
Intro. to Mishneh Torah).

The identification of Malachi with Ezra seems particularly plausible since the major
focuses of Ezra's work included the separation of the returnees from Babylon from
their foreign wives and the re-establishment of the priesthood on firm foundations.
Both themes figure prominently in the prophecy of Malachi. Yet the fact that his
identity and date were perhaps intentionally left obscure gives his message a
timelessness that makes it as relevant today as ever, since his was the very last
prophetic message to Israel. With Malachi everything has come full circle, because
the first prophet who came to reprove Israel after the death of Joshua was also
anonymous and was simply called God's MAL'ACH or "messenger" (Judges 2:1)
although the sages identified him with Pinchas (Seder Olam 19; Targum Yonasan,
Rashi and RaDaK on Judges 2:1). Indeed Ezra was a direct descendant of Pinchas
(Ezra 7:5).

Malachi 1:1-2:7 was chosen by the sages as Haftara to Parshas Toldos (Genesis
25:19-28:9) which tells of the birth of Jacob and Esau and how Jacob took the
birthright and the blessings from his brother. In Malachi's prophecy, God reproves
the descendants of Jacob for failing to live up to their mission.

V 2-5: "I have loved you, says HaShem, yet you say, How have You loved us…?"
The prophet introduces his reproof against Israel with a reminder that God has
shown unique love for the descendants of Jacob, giving them preference over those
of Esau-Edom, to whom God will never grant lasting ascendancy, because no
matter how they may build and rebuild, He will always pull them down. It is a fact
that Mt Seir, the region south east of the Dead Sea which God gave as an
inheritance to Esau (Deut. 2:5), is today largely barren and unpopulated.

V 6: "A son honors his father and a servant his master; if then I am a father, where
is My honor, and if I am a master, where is the reverence due to Me…?" Having in
the previous verses demonstrated God's fatherly love for the descendants of Jacob,
the prophet now chastises them for failing to respond by showing Him the proper
respect and reverence.

"…says HaShem of hosts to you, the priests, who despise My Name…" Ostensibly
this prophecy is addressed to the COHANIM priests, who officiated in all the
sacrificial rituals in the Temple. Yet Malachi's reproof also applies to the entire
people, since God's call to Israel was that "you shall be to Me a kingdom of
COHANIM" (Exodus 19:6).

Vv 7-9: While the prophet's reproof is ostensibly directed against the disparaging
way in which the priests conducted the Temple services, offering blemished animals
on the altar, we should also take it as a criticism of the way we often offer our
prayers today in the Synagogue, speaking casually and absent-mindedly to God in
a way in which we would never dare address a high government official whose
patronage we require. If this is the way we pray, what kind of an answer can we
expect?

V 10: The priests considered they deserved a reward for their smallest acts of
service in the Temple – opening the doors, kindling the altar fire… Don't many also
feel they deserve some kind of "reward" for their prayers and acts of devotion, as if
they are doing God a great favor with them?

Vv 11-14: "For from the rising of the sun to the place of its going down, My Name
is great among the nations, and in every place offerings are burned and presented
to My Name…" Throughout the world, from east to west, even the idolaters
acknowledge that there is one supreme God over all the powers they worship. This
makes our disparaging and blemish-ridden service of God an even greater
desecration of His Name since God has revealed His unity, transcendence and
immanence to us more than to any other nation.

The sages also darshened verse 11, "in every place offerings are burned and
presented to My Name", as referring to those Torah scholars who engage in the
study of Temple laws even in exile: they elicit God's favor just as if they had
actually offered sacrifices (Menachos 110a, Rashi on Mal. 1:11).

Chapter 2
Vv 1-3: Following on directly from the reproof in the previous chapter, Malachi now
warns the priests of the curses that will come upon them if they fail to heed his call
to serve God with the proper respect.

V 3: "…I will spread dung upon your faces…" – "This is addressed to those who
abandon the Torah and celebrate every day as a festival… Three days after a
person has been laid in the grave his belly bursts and spews out its contents on his
face and says, Take what you put inside me" (Shabbos 151b).

Vv 4-7 depict the behavior and attitudes that God asks from the priests by evoking
the personality of the founding fathers of the priesthood, Aaron and Pinchas, with
whom God also established His covenant (Numbers 25:12). "The law of truth was in
his mouth and iniquity was not found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and
righteousness and turned many away from sin" (v 6). "Rabba bar bar Hannah said
in the name of Rabbi Yohanan: What does it mean when it says, 'For the priest's
lips should guard knowledge and they should seek the law at his mouth, for he is
the messenger (MAL'ACH) of HaShem of Hosts'? It means that if the teacher is like
an angel of HaShem of hosts, they should seek Torah from his mouth, and if not,
they should not seek Torah from his mouth" (Hagigah 15b). The clear message that
cries out from this verse is that it is not sufficient for the Torah scholar to be sharp-
minded and know a lot. He must LIVE the Torah he teaches!

Vv 8-9: If Torah teachers stray from practicing the path they are teaching, they will
come to be despised.

V 10: "Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal
treacherously each man against his brother by profaning the covenant of our
fathers?" (v 10). Taken in its simple, obvious sense, this verse has a message for
all of us. The commentators also interpret this verse as an introduction to the
second main theme of Malachi's reproof – his criticism of those who had taken
foreign wives, particularly those who already had Israelite wives whom they
subsequently treated as less than second best. The prophet points out that all the
Israelite souls are hewn from one source and are thus brothers, making their sin of
taking foreign wives and betraying their Israelite wives even worse (Metzudas
David, RaDaK). While all the commentators take the reproofs against intermarriage
and marital faithlessness at face value, they can also be seen as reproofs against
the people for betraying their own priceless national heritage by dallying with
foreign cultures and traditions.

Vv 11-12: The penalty for taking foreign wives is that the issue of such marriages
will be cut off from the Torah tradition and from the priesthood.

V 13 deals with a sin that is considered even more serious than that of those who
were unmarried and took foreign wives. This is the sin of those who did so when
they already had an Israelite wife, thereby betraying her. "Because the Israelite
women became blackened with hunger during the exile and became disgusting in
the eyes of their husbands, who would leave them at home like widows in their
husbands' lifetimes while treating the foreign woman as the mistress. The Israelite
women would come before God's altar crying, asking how they had sinned and
what crime their husbands had found in them…" (Rashi). This verse is the source of
the tradition that when a husband divorces the wife of his youth, the very altar
sheds tears (Sanhedrin 22a).

V 15: "And did not he who was one do this even though he had the residue of the
spirit? And what did the one seek? The seed of God!" The commentators interpret
this somewhat obscure verse as an interchange between the people and the
prophet. The people challenge the prophet's warning against taking a second,
foreign wife by citing the case of Abraham, who was "one", i.e. unique and alone in
his time (cf. Ezekiel 33:24), who took Hagar (who was from Egypt) when already
married to Sarah. The prophet answers that Abraham only did so because Sarah
was childless and he sought a successor who would teach the world about God (cf.
Targum Yonasan, Metzudas David on v 15).

V 16: If a person hates his wife he should either come clean with her and divorce
her, or else remove the hatred from his heart (cf. Rashi ad loc. & Gittin 90b).

V 17 begins a new Parshah Pesuhah which continues without a break until Malachi
3:12. The conventional chapter break after the present verse is artificial and
disrupts the continuity of the new section (cf. Metzudas David on Malachi 3:1). With
this verse the prophet introduces a new element in his reproof – a criticism of the
people who question God's justice when they see the success of the wicked in this
world. Either they say that everyone who does evil must be good in God's eyes
since He apparently shows them favor, or else they think there is no sense at all in
the way the world is run and ask, Where is the God of justice? Such thoughts have
led many to abandon their faith, and we are therefore in great need of Malachi's
answer in the closing sections of his prophecy in the coming chapter.

* * * The passage in Malachi 1:1-14 and 2:1-7 is read as the Haftara of Parshas
Toldos Genesis 25:19-28:9 * * *

Chapter 3
The closing chapter of Malachi gives the prophet's answer to the doubts and
questions with which the people "wearied" God as expressed in the last verse of the
previous chapter, Malachi 2:17: considering the apparent success of the wicked,
either God approves of them or else, where is the God of Justice? (As indicated in
the commentary on the previous chapter, the conventional chapter break after
Malachi 2:17 violates the continuity of the new Hebrew parshah which begins with
that verse and continues until Malachi 3:12.)

The book of Job could be described as an "in-depth" analysis of all the issues bound
up with the above questions, which are also addressed in the other "wisdom"
literature (Psalms and Proverbs) and in certain other biblical passages. But here in
Malachi it is the prophetic answer to these questions that is given: in essence, this
is that the apparent success of the wicked in this world is only temporary until
God's terrible Day of Judgment, when they will be destroyed, while the righteous
will be vindicated and rewarded.

Chapter 3 verse 1: "Behold I shall send My messenger (MALACHI) and he shall


prepare the way before Me…" Rashi (ad loc.) states that God's messenger comes to
destroy the wicked, while the "Master Whom you seek" is the God of Justice, and
the "messenger (or angel) of the Covenant" comes to avenge the Covenant.
Metzudas David (ad loc.) states that the "Master whom you seek" is King Mashiah,
while the "angel of the Covenant" is Elijah the prophet, who, like Pinchas (Numbers
25:11), was zealous for God's Covenant (I Kings 19:10 etc.) when the kingdom of
Ephraim banned the practice of circumcision.

Vv 2-3: "For he will be like a refiner's fire and the washer-man's soap. And he shall
sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…" He who comes to prepare the way for the
God of Justice separates out all impurity and removes the stain of the evil doers
from the world.

"And he will purify the children of Levi…" The ultimate restoration of the Temple as
a place of true service of God depends on the purification of the Levites and priests
who will minister in it.

V 4: "Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant to HaShem as in


the days of old and as in former years." Sifri darshens: "as in the days of old" – as
in the days of Moses, "and as in former years" – as in the days of Solomon; Rabbi
Judah the Prince says, "as in the days of old" – as in the days of Noah, "and as in
former years" – as in the days of Hevel (=Abel), when there was no idolatry in the
world. In the end everything will return to its pristine purity.

The passage from verse 4 until the end of Malachi, the central theme of which is
the future Judgment and Redemption, is read as the Haftara on Shabbos HaGadol,
the Shabbos immediately preceding the Pesach festival.

V 5: "And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against
the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against false swearers and against
those who oppress the hireling in his wages…" – "When Rabbi Yohanan would come
to this verse he would weep, saying, Is there any remedy for a servant whose
master is coming near to judge him and is quick to bear witness against him?
Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai said, Woe to us because the verse equates light sins
(holding back a hireling's wages) with the most serious (adultery and sorcery)"
(Hagigah 5a; Rashi ad loc.).

"For I, HaShem have not changed…" – "Even though I am patient and slow to anger,
My original attitude has not changed so as to love evil and hate good" (Rashi).
"…and you, children of Jacob, have not been consumed" – "Even though you die in
wickedness and I have not exacted punishment from the wicked during their
lifetimes, you have not been consumed, and I have left the souls for Me to exact
punishment from them in Gehennom" (Rashi).

Vv 7ff: God calls for the people to repent in order for Him to return to them. The
specific sin that is singled out as requiring the people's repentance is the entire
nation's failure to pay their MA'ASER and TERUMAH tithes to the Levites and Priests
respectively, whose task is to minister in God's Temple and teach His Torah. The
people's failure to pay these tithes is the cause of the curse that is causing
agricultural and economic depression, whereas God promises that if they will pay
them, "I shall pour you out a blessing until there will not be sufficient room to
receive it" (v 11) until Israel will be a "land of delight" (v 12). Providing proper
support for the nation's spiritual ministers and teachers is the very key to national
prosperity.

Vv 13-15: "Your words have been strong against Me…" The people's lack of faith in
God's justice, as expressed in Malachi 2:17, is now elaborated. Just as today, many
people saw the apparent success of those who acted with brazen impunity and
inferred that it was pointless to serve God and observe the Torah code. "They have
even tested God and been saved!"

V 16: Without responding directly to this lack of faith, God points to those who are
God-fearing and who speak differently in quiet conversation with each other,
agreeing not to be drawn after the ways of the wicked even though God does not
hasten to punish them.

"And God listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before
Him…" Not a single good thought, word or deed is ever forgotten. Everything is
recorded in God's book, and in the end the righteous will be rewarded and the
wicked punished. These quiet, thoughtful private conversations at the "grass roots"
level of the nation among the God-fearing are the very key to redemption.

V 18: "Then you shall return and see the difference between the righteous and the
villain, between the one who serves God and the one that did not serve Him." One
cannot make inferences about God's justice from the apparent lack of justice in this
world: only on the Day of Judgment will His true justice be fully revealed.

V 19 opens a new PARSHAH PESUHAH, and in some Biblical editions this makes up
a separate chapter, Malachi 4:1-6. The prophetic reply to people's doubts about
God's justice is that they will be answered decisively on the terrible Day of
Judgment, when those who were flagrantly evil will be consumed.

Vv 20ff: "But to you who fear My name a sun of righteousness shall shine with
healing in its wings…" The same day that burns like an oven for the wicked will
prove to be a day of healing for the righteous – they will be saved from all evil and
will rejoice wholeheartedly (RaDaK).
V 22: "Remember the Torah of Moses My servant…" In his closing words, the last
prophet of Israel calls on the people to remember and follow God's law, which is
called by the name of Moses because he sacrificed himself totally for the sake of
the Torah. The sin of the golden calf and subsequent breaking of the Tablets of the
Law, which took place in the Hebrew month of Tammuz, brought forgetfulness into
the world. The initial Hebrew letters of the prophet's plea to remember Moses'
Torah – ZICHRU TORAS MOSHE – are the same letters that make up the name of
the month of TaMuZ!

V 23: "Behold I shall send you Elijah the prophet…" – "Rabbi Yehoshua said, I have
a tradition from Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai going back to Mt Sinai that Elijah will
not come to defile or purify, reject or draw near, but only to reject those who
forcibly pushed their way forward and to bring close those who were forcibly
pushed away… The sages said, he comes not to reject or draw near but to make
peace among them, as it says, And he will turn the heart of the fathers to the
children and the heart of the children to their fathers" (Eduyos 8:7). Speedily in our
days! Amen!

* * * Malachi 3:4-24 is read as the Haftara on Shabbos HaGadol, the Shabbos


immediately preceding the festival of Pesach * * *