Haftarah Parashat Vayishlah
December 2, 2017 | 14 Kislev 5778
Jeremiah is most often thought of as the prophet of the destruction of the First Commonwealth and the First Temple, but he was not the only one. Obadiah also prophesied during that same period. Where Jeremiah prophesied at great length, with disappointment, anger and hopeful encouragement, about the total destructive experience and its aftermath, Obadiah’s short, profoundly angry and vengeful prophecy addresses the nation of Edom’s role in the destruction. But despite differences in tone and focus, obvious similarities between the two has scholars arguing over who borrowed from whom. Here are some examples:
14. I have received tidings from the Lord. And an envoy is sent out among the nations. Assemble and move against her and rise up for war.
15. For I will make you least among the nations. Most despised among men.
16. Your horrible nature. Your arrogant heart has seduced you. You who dwell in clefts of the rock. Who occupy the height of the hill.
Should you nest as high as the eagle. From there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.
1. We have received tidings from the Lord. And an envoy has been sent out among the nations. Up! Let us rise up against her in battle. Thus said my Lord God concerning Edom.
2. I will make you least among the nations, You shall be most despised.
3. Your arrogant heart has seduced you. You shall dwell in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty abode. You think in your heart, ‘Who can pull me down to earth?’
4. Should you nest as high as an eagle. Should your nest be lodged among the stars, even from there I will pull you down, declared the Lord.
One Talmudic sage draws a thoughtful religious message from the slight differences in the messages of these two prophets which is totally unrelated to the harsh content of their prophecies: “Rabbi Yitzhak said: The same communication is revealed to many prophets, yet no two prophets prophesy using identical language. [So,] Obadiah said: ‘Your arrogant heart has deceived you; while Jeremiah said: ‘Your horrible nature, your arrogant heart has deceived you.'” (Sanhedrin 89a)
The bottom line of Rabbi Yitzhak messages is that no two prophets speak alike. This seems obvious but it is actually quite profound. We might assume that someone carrying God’s message should deliver it verbatim. We see that is not the case.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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