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Tazria 5771

Haftarah Parshat Tazria
Shabbat Hahodesh
(Ezekiel 45:16-46:18)
April 2, 2011
27 AdarII 5771

Shabbat HaHodesh marks the last of four special Torah readings which precede Pesah. The additional Torah reading was intended to serve as a reminder on the Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh Nisan that it was time to start preparations for the special rites which mark the festival celebrating our people’s redemption from Egypt. Ezekiel’s message, in the special haftarah for this Shabbat, recounts the regulations governing the Temple rites for Shabbat and the festivals at the time of the future redemption. Appended to this message, Ezekiel also lays out rules which govern the behavior of the king at the time of the redemption. At the end of the haftarah, he states: “But the prince shall not take away any of the property of the people and rob them of their holdings. Only out of his own holdings shall he endow his sons, in order that My people may not be dispossessed of their holdings.” (46:18)

Rabbi David Kimche (13th century Provence) noted: “[Don’t take from the people] like the kings of Israel used to do, for they would steal, coerce, and rob the poor among the both in the city sand in the field, like [King] Ahab did in the vineyard of Naboth, and as is said regarding the kings of Israel: ‘They covet fields and seize them; houses and take them away. They defraud people of their homes and take them away.’ (Micah 2:2) This should not be done in the future at the return of the kingdom… For the kings should be instilled with a new heart that will fear God and observe His commandments.” (adapted from Radak on 35:8)

The Torah recognized the potential imperfection of those who govern and laid down for them strict rules of conduct to control their appetites and guide them to govern properly. (See Deuteronomy 17:14-20) Similarly, the prophet Samuel warned the people about the hazards of human rulers. (See 1 Samuel 8:10-18) The examples of biblical kings who abused their power were legion and the prophets were constantly vigilant in their attempts to protect the people against their corruption.

Times may change but these very same battles continue on today as well. We can only hope that the redemption is near and that someday soon the leaders of the world will heed God’s message and take up the cause of justice and good over avarice and self-delusion.

About This Commentary

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.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
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