Saturday, December 17, 2016

Our Work Is Complete

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The Haftora for parshas Vayishlach is the entire book of Ovadia (Obadiah), which is the only book of the Tanach that has just one chapter.

The Haftora tells of the terrible fate awaiting Edom, which are Eisav's children, when Moshiach comes.

Eisav who we call Edom, was the father of many nations including Amalek and Rome. They deserve this punishment for several reasons. First, not only did they  stand by idly when their brother Yaakov's children were attacked and exiled during the first Temple era, but they pillaged, rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem and they blocked the way, so that the Jewish refugees had no route to escape, causing the death of countless Jewish people. Then attacking Israel themselves approximately 500 years later, with extreme hatred and brutality, sending us into the current exile, the Exile of Edom, which we have been in for close to 2000 years.

Who is Edom today? Our sages tell us, that the nations of the world are all mixed up. However, it is a culture and an attitude which is clearly discernible. Over the years, we have suffered by the hands of Edom, in many European countries.

The attributes of Eisav. Eisav would deceive his father, pretending to be observant, but he was far from it. Eisav is compared to a pig. A kosher animal has two kosher signs, they ruminate and have cloven hooves. A pig is the only animal that has cloven hooves, but does not ruminate. Yet, when it sits, it sticks its feet out in front of him in deceit, as if to say, look at me, I have cloven hooves, I am kosher.

A second attribute of Eisav is his coldness towards G-dliness in general. This is something that we see today, as we experience a barrage of godless laws being passed all over the world, in the name of progress. Where G-d is being erased from everywhere possible, and where all sense of morality and decency is being wiped out. We also see how the good people of the world are being treated badly, while governments bend backwards to make evil regimes happy.

Eisav is called Edom because Edom means red, which was the color of the lentil soup he sold his first born right for. This also shows his callousness towards Hashem's values, shaming the first born right.

The connection to the parsha is obvious. The parsha speaks of the confrontation between Yaakov and Eisav's angel, Yaakov and Eisav and Eisav's departure from Canaan to Mount Seir. The Haftora continues with Eisav's future and tragic end.

Ovadia was chosen to convey this prophecy, because he was an Edomite who converted to Judaism. As the expression goes, "From the forest itself comes the handle of the ax." In other words, that which destroys the forest, comes from the forest itself. Here to Ovadia who came from Edom, says the prophecy of Edom's destruction. Another reason is because unlike Eisav, Ovadia stayed holy even though he was constantly in the presence of two wicked people, King Achav and his evil wife Ezevel (Jezebel), while Eisav, who grew up in the presence of two holy people, Yitzchak and Rivka, turned foul.

Ovadia merited to be a prophet, because he saved 100 prophets, hiding them from the wicked Ezevel, and borrowing money to sustain them.

The Haftora begins with the words "Chazon Ovadia." Chazon means the vision, which hints to the verse which tells us, that when Moshiach comes, "Mibsari echezeh Eloka," from my flesh I will envision G-dliness. That we will see the G-dliness in the physical. Ovadia means, to serve Hashem. This teaches us, that to bring Moshiach, we need to serve Hashem the way Ovadia did, with action and self sacrifice. Ovadia hid and sustained Hashem's prophets, when they were being hunted down and killed by Ezevel. The story continues, that Ovadia met Eliyahu Hanavi, who is the one who will herald the coming of Moshiach.

Same is true for us, that if we serve Hashem with action and self sacrifice, especially to support Torah institutions, especially for young children, who like the prophets, ensure the future of Judaism. Then, we will merit to meet Eliyahu Hanavi, as he heralds the actual coming of Moshiach.

The Haftora continues, Hashem says to Edom, "If you lift yourself as high an eagle, and if you place your nest between the stars, I will bring you down from there.... " The Midrash tells us, that when Yaakov had the dream of the ladder, he saw the exiles climbing up the ladder. First Egypt went up and came down, then Babelonia followed by Persia, but when Edom started up the ladder, he just kept on going up and up, and wasn't turning to come down. Yaakov understood that every exile has a purpose, but each came to an end, why then is the exile of Edom taking so long? To this Hashem answered, that even if Edom lifts itself as high as an eagle, even if Edom thinks that it is untouchable, I will bring them down, and the exile will come to an end. In other words, we will complete the purpose of this exile, and Moshiach will come.

The difference between this exile and the previous exiles, is that the previous exiles were in one basic local. However, in this exile the Jewish people have been spread to every corner of the world, and we built Jewish communities and Torah institutions in those places, accomplishing the Jewish mission, to turn the world into a dwelling place for Hashem. This is symbolized by the verse, "The exiled army of the Children of Israel with the Canaanites until Tzorfas (France)..." Why France? Because France symbolizes the lowest of the low in morality and coldness towards G-dliness, and when France is transformed, our work will be done. This has taken a long time, and our work is done, as we are witness to the explosion of Judaism in France.

So why hasn't Moshiach come? I don't have a good answer to this question, because it doesn't make sense. Perhaps there is something more that Hashem wants, maybe our trust and belief in His purpose, the reality of the coming of Moshiach. We can make it real to us by learning about it and its laws, making Moshiach part of our daily lives.

Through our efforts to make Moshiach real, and being that our work is complete, we will soon experience the two stages of Moshiach, mentioned in the final verse of the Haftora. "And the saviors will go up onto Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Eisav," which refers to the first stage, a stage of judgment, where like the words of a judge, the world will be obligated to follow the judgment of Moshiach. Then the final stage will come, when, "Hashem will be King." When everyone will recognize Hashem as their King, out of love. May it happen soon.

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