Background:

This week?s Haftorah is from the Book of Malachi, Chapter 1-2:7.



Malachi [Hebrew for ?my messenger? or ?my angel?] was the last of the prophets and he lived during the Second Temple period. The Talmud in Tractate Megillah (15a) discusses his identity, with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha stating that Malachi was in fact Ezra the scribe. The Sages, however, dispute this and say that the name Malachi refers to a prophet by that name and not to Ezra or anyone else. The Book of Malachi is three chapters long, and it is a powerful and passionate book of prophecy. After admonishing the Jews, and particularly the priests, the final chapter (which is not part of today?s Haftorah), foresees the coming of the Messiah and the end of days.



Summary:

The Haftorah begins with Malachi reprimanding the Jews, reminding them that G-d loves them, the children of Jacob, rather than the nation of Edom, the children of Esau. The prophet says that G-d will destroy the Edomites? country and that if they should return to rebuild it, then G-d will destroy it again. The prophet then turns to address Israel?s behavior, saying that the Jewish people should respect G-d just as a son respects his father or a slave his master. He criticizes the priests for the manner in which they conduct themselves in the Temple, showing contempt for the sacrificial service and offering unfit animals. G-d warns the priests that they should take heed to give honor to Him, for if they do not, He will transform their blessings into a curse. The Haftorah concludes by describing what the proper role and behavior of a priest should be, saying: ?For a priest?s lips shall guard knowledge and Torah should be sought from his mouth, for he is a messenger of the L-rd of Hosts (Chap. 2, verse 7).?



Connection Between the Haftorah and This Week?s Parsha:

The Parsha contains the story of Jacob and Esau and the Haftorah describes how G-d relates to the descendants of Jacob and Esau.



A Gift of Love



At the beginning of the Haftorah, the prophet states that G-d loves Israel, to which the Jews reply, ?How have you loved us (Chap. 1, verse 2)?? G-d answers by saying, ?Was not Esau a brother to Jacob?? and I loved Jacob (Chap. 1, verse 2)? ? meaning that of the two sons of the patriarch Isaac, G-d chose Jacob, the father of the Jewish people.



The Question:

To what is the verse referring when it states, ?I have loved you, said the L-rd? (Chap. 1, verse 2)??



The Answer:

Rashi, the Radak and the Ibn Ezra all explain that when G-d says ?I have loved you,? He is referring to giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish people, because that is an expression of His love for us. As Rashi states, the Land of Israel is a land that is desired by other nations, hence, by choosing to give it to us, rather than to others, G-d is demonstrating His affection for the Jewish people.



The Ibn Ezra offers a slightly different explanation, saying, ?The brothers Esau and Jacob were sons of one father [Isaac], and I [G-d] vowed to keep My covenant with Isaac. I loved Jacob and I gave him the Land of Canaan, about which I had sworn to his ancestors to give to their seed. And I cast out Esau from the Land and I gave him Mt. Seir? and here you are, children of Jacob, here you have returned to the Land of the Covenant.? Thus according to the Ibn Ezra, G-d?s love for the Jewish people is manifest in that He chose to give us the Land rather than give it to the descendants of Esau.



The Lesson:

The very act of giving the Land of Israel to the Jewish people is a sign of G-d?s love for us. In 1948, the miracle of Israel?s establishment was clear to all. Similarly, the events of the Six-Day War in 1967, when Israel liberated Judea, Samaria and Gaza, the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, was another stupendous act of Divine love for the Jewish people, when G-d chose to give us additional portions of the Holy Land, returning them to our control. Bearing this in mind, we can better understand the severity of giving up territory to the Palestinian Authority under the Oslo accords. For if G-d?s act of giving us the Land is a sign of His love for us, then by ceding portions of the Land, Israel is effectively rejecting G-d?s gift to the Jewish people. If your parent or your spouse gives you something as a sign of their affection and you proceed to toss it away, then that is not only a sign of disrespect ? it is an act of defiance. As we saw above, the Ibn Ezra reminds us: ?and here you are, children of Jacob, here you have returned to the Land of the Covenant.? Our return to the Land of Israel is a sign that G-d loves the Jewish people. It is time that we recognize this basic truth and act accordingly ? by appreciating the Land, rather than giving it away.



The Chutzpah!



The prophet continues by rebuking the priests for their attitude toward the sacrificial service in the Temple. G-d berates the priests for defiling His name and offering unfit animals on the altar. G-d asks the priests a rhetorical, yet powerful, question: ?And now, will you pray before the L-rd that He be gracious to us? This has come from your hand. Will He favor any of you?? says the L-rd of Hosts (Chap. 1, verse 9).?



The Question:

What does the verse mean when it says, ?This has come from your hand??



The Answer:

Rashi explains the verse as follows: ?And now, you priests who commit this evil, how does it enter your into hearts that you can be the messengers of Israel to request [Divine] mercy on their behalf? After all, this evil has come from your hands.? In other words, it is absurd for the priests to ask G-d to save the Jewish people from evil, when it is they themselves who have brought the evil down upon them in the first place. Since they are the cause of the evil, the priests have no right to beseech G-d to rectify it.



The Lesson:

Recently, there has been a great deal of media attention given to the diplomatic plan allegedly being formulated by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. According to these reports, Peres has been putting together the proposal - which includes the establishment of a Palestinian state, a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the uprooting of Jewish communities there ? with the aim of trying to revive the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians. A different plan has also been put forward by former Justice Minister Yossi Beilin. Yet it is precisely these gentlemen who fathered the Oslo Accords, which are directly responsible for the mess that Israel currently finds itself grappling with. It was Peres and Beilin who brought Yasser Arafat and his armed gunmen back to Gaza, agreed to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and withdrew from critical areas of the Land. Even though it was apparent virtually from the outset that Arafat had no intention of combating terror, the architects of Oslo persisted with the charade, carrying out additional withdrawals and allowing the PA to enlarge its military force.



Now that those guns have been turned against Israel, now that the entire process has collapsed in failure, one would think that its proponents would have the courage to admit the error of their ways. Yet no such courage has been forthcoming. Rather, they persist with their idle and inane approach, as if Arafat and the PA were still legitimate negotiating partners. Yet, as we saw above, those who brought about the disaster have no right to turn around and seek to portray themselves as the potential saviors of the nation, especially when they continue to pursue the same type of chicanery responsible for the current disarray. The time has come for the architects of Oslo to finally admit their mistakes and do away with the illusions that continue to guide them. Rather than continuing to offer new proposals in the spirit of Oslo, they should beg the forgiveness of the entire nation for the disaster that they have wrought.