Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Haftorah Beam - Tzav/Zachor

The Torah reading for this week was from Parshat Tzav -- the same one my daughter did for her Bat Mitzvah last year.  The Haftorah, however, is a special reading ("Zachor" - "Remember") for the Shabbat preceeding the festival of Purim, which began this evening. The "usual" reading for this Parsha is actually read only 3 times in the next 12 years....  It is a reading from Jeremiah, which concludes with the exhortation:
Chapter 9    22 Thus said the Lord:
    Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom;
    Let not the strong man glory in his strength;
    Let not the rich man glory in his riches.
    23 But only in this should one glory:
    In his earnest devotion to Me.
    For I the Lord act with kindness,
    Justice, and equity in the world;
    For in these I delight
Instead, we read this selection from Samuel, which presages the story of Purim (Book of Esther):
2 "Thus said the Lord of Hosts: I am exacting the penalty for what Amalek did to Israel, for the assault he made upon them on the road, on their way up from Egypt.
The nation of Amalek represents the perennial enemies of Israel.  Tradition has it that villains from Haman to Hitler hailed from this stock, though many interpret this as a spiritual rather than genetic linkage.

The main gist of the Haftorah is King Saul's disobedience in his campaign against Amalek.  He had been commanded:
3Now go, attack Amalek, and proscribe all that belongs to him. Spare no one, but kill alike men and women, infants and sucklings, oxen and sheep, camels and asses!"

But, upon emerging victorious, he proceeds instead:

7 Saul destroyed Amalek from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is close to Egypt, 8 and he captured King Agag of Amalek alive. He proscribed all the people, putting them to the sword; 9 but Saul and the troops spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the second-born, the lambs, and all else that was of value. They would not proscribe them; they proscribed only what was cheap and worthless.
(emphasis mine)
Much is made out of the sparing of King Agag.  Apparently, in the one day before Saul repented and executed Agag, the latter was able to "perpetuate his seed" which would spell trouble for Israel forever after.  However, it is not indicated that the livestock was ever properly disposed of.  Presumably, it was kept as war booty, in defiance of explicit divine commandment.  In fact, the rebuke itself stated:
"Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As much as in obedience to the Lord's command?
Surely, obedience is better than sacrifice,
Compliance than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
Defiance, like the iniquity of teraphim.
Because you rejected the Lord's command,
He has rejected you as king."
(emphasis mine)
The rebuke does not mention King Agag, but it mentions the sacrificial livestock 3 times. Do not save the spoils of war under the pretext of using them for the Temple service -- your obedience to the commandments is the true sacrifice G*d seeks.  In fact, this is the sin which is corrected by Mordechai, who refuses to bow down to Haman and his idols in spite of the threatened consequences.  Mordechai (and later Esther) realizes that expedience does not justify rejecting G*d.

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