B’Ohel Hanevi’im: Shabbos Vayishlach

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This week’s Haftorah is the Prophecy of Ovadia (Ovadia essentially consists of only one Nevua). Ovadia prophesies the destruction of Eisav Be’acharis hayomim. The Medrash in our Parsha says that this is symbolized in our Parsha by the metaphorical fight Yaakov Avinu has with the guardian angel of Eisav. The Passuk tells us ‘Vaye’oser Yaakov Levado’ – and Yaakov will be left alone. This phrase “and Yaakov will be left alone” refers to the Nevua of our Haftorah when Eisav will vanish and Yaakov will triumph.

Rashi at the beginning of the Haftorah gives two reasons as to why Ovadia is the one to have this Nevua of the final fall of Eisav and the ultimate rise of Yaakov. The first is that Ovadia was a convert who came from Edom/ (Eisav). The second reason is because Ovadia had to work with two Reshaim (Achav and Izevel) and was not influenced at all by their sins, while Eisav lived among two tzadikim (Yitzchok and Rivka) and nonetheless became sinful. Rashi is making an interesting point and drawing striking contrasts, but what is he essentially telling us?

While there is a very hopeful note in the Haftorah as it predicts our ultimate rise, it seems almost too bleak for Eisav. In Judaism, we tend to try to look at the world positively and we want the end to come out well for everyone. It is somewhat disappointing that the end of the story isn’t that we rise and Eisav does Teshuva. Furthermore, Eisav is also a son of Yitzchok. Why does Yitzchok have to have any of his children perish?

Perhaps this is the message Rashi is conveying: while the Haftorah predicts Eisav is going to perish, the prophecy itself is being transmitted by one of Eisav’s descendants – Ovadia. And why is it so? Because Ovadia is the descendant who rectified Eisav’s evil. Instead of remaining an Edomite steadfast in the ways of Eisav, Ovadia converted and became a righteous Jew. Not only did he convert, but he was able to compensate for what Eisav lacked. Eisav couldn’t stay righteous in the house of Yitzchok and Rivka, yet Ovadia was able to stay righteous in the house of Achav and Izevel. If this is the case, the message of the Haftorah is powerful: Eisav will perish but this does not mean that there will be no more descendants of Eisav. It means, rather, that what Eisav represents will cease to exist.

May we soon see the fulfillment of this Nevua, when the force of good, when we, Bnei-Yaakov, will have the final upper hand, and the force of evil, the force of Eisav, will perish for eternity.

A very warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski