Haftarah Parshat Miketz
December 15, 2012
02 Tevet 5773
Jewish history is full of trials and tribulations but it is also not without its great redemptive moments: the redemption from Egypt, God’s rescue of the Jewish people from the hands of the Assyrian army, the return from Babylonia, the rebuilding of the Temple, the victory of the Hasmoneans over the Greeks in the Hanukkah story and in our day the restoration of the Jewish state. None of these miraculous redemptions, including the one in our day, was ever complete. There were and still are things to complain about. Zechariah lived under much more trying circumstances than we do. He could only yearn for redemption and try to imagine what it might look like. When he did, he envisioned it this way: “’Shout for joy, fair Zion! For lo, I (God) come and I will dwell in your midst’, declared the Lord. In that day many nations will attach themselves to the Lord and become His people. And He will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that I was sent to you by the Lord of Hosts. The Lord will take Judah to Himself as His portion in the Holy Land, and He will choose Jerusalem once more. Be silent all flesh, before the Lord for He is roused from His holy habitation.” (2:14-17)
Zechariah understood the redemption to include overcoming his people’s enemies, God’s dwelling amongst His chosen nation, and the ultimate recognition of God by the nations of the world who will then become a part of God’s people. The following midrash broadens the scope of this vision by noting God’s conditions for when He would carry out the ultimate redemption: “Said God to David: ‘My son David, even if thou petition Me to rise many times, I will not rise. So when will I arise [to bring about the redemption? When you see the poor oppressed and the needy sighing’, as it says: ‘For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, said the Lord.’ (Psalm 12:6) R. Simon bar Jonah said: ’Now will I arise’- as long as she (Jerusalem) wallows in the dust, [I too am oppressed], as it were. But when that day comes, in connection with which it is written: ‘Shake yourself from the dust; arise, and sit [on your throne], Jerusalem.’ (Isaiah 52:2) At that time, ‘Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord’. (Zechariah 2:17). Why? ‘For He is roused from His holy habitation.’ (ibid) R. Aha said: Like a fowl which shakes itself free from the dust.” (Bereishit Rabbah 75:1 Theodore-Albeck ed. p. 878)
This midrash assumes that God will be aroused to redeem His world by injustice, oppression and the lowly nature of His beloved city and people. The redemptive process will come when it is least expected – when the world has languished in its troubles – when God’s helping hand is most needed. These moments are always with us. These tragic conditions never seem to disappear. We wait for God to be ‘roused’ so that we may be ‘silent in His presence’. His presence was never more needed.
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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