Haftarah Discussions: Vayishlach
Too Awed To Speak: Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vorki was once asked by a Chassid why he did not speak as often as other Chassidic Rebbes. He responded with his twist on a story from the Talmud (Pesachim 22b) of Shimon HaAmsuni, who would teach in public until he reached the verse, “You must be in awe of God your Lord.” Once Shimon reaches a higher level of awe of God, he stopped his public teachings. “So too,” said the holy Rebbe, “Obadiah had great awe of God,” and therefore his book only has one chapter.” The Rebbe, known for his great humility, certainly did not mean to imply that he had achieved a higher level of awe than the Rebbes who frequently taught in public, just as he did not mean that Obadiah had achieved a higher level of awe than did Isaiah or Jeremiah. The Rebbe felt that he did not know how to properly convey the awe he experienced in his learning, and people who heard only a wonderful insight and did not experience the same level of awe would weaken the power of his Torah.
I used to have the practice of sharing ideas that were fundamental to my spiritual path only while wearing Shabbat clothes and standing in respect for the Torah I was teaching. I stopped this practice when I began to write for my website. I did not figure out a way to convey that a particular idea was special.
How can we convey to our children, students and friends, the honor we have for Torah thoughts that we consider fundamental?
A Change in The Prophecy
Obadiah’s prophecy begins as a “Chazon,” a vision, which is a term used to describe a prophecy that is not fixed in stone. Yet, the verse immediately changes to, “So says My Master, God, to Edom,” – “Koa mar,” which is a prophecy that is absolute. It is possible that Obadiah, who was a converted Edomite, retained his appreciation of Edom’s good qualities, and did not want to see the destruction described in this Haftarah as absolute. He was convinced that they could change and avoid this terrible end. However, as he grew in prophecy, he was raised above his personal feelings until the point that he saw with enough clarity to know that this vision was an absolute. (Or Hamikrah)
This thought reminds us that one is changed and raised by his prophecy and learning even while he is in middle of the actual vision or study. Discuss times in which you felt that you were changed by a Torah experience while it was happening.
Jacob and Joseph
“The House of Jacob will be a fire, and the House of Joseph a flame – and the House of Esau like straw. They will kindle among them and consume them, and there will be no survivor of the Hose of Esau. God has spoken!” (Obadiah 1:18)
Jacob’s power is to stir great illuminations above for his children. Joseph’s strength is to draw those illuminations down to us to transform our physical lives into Spiritual Illuminations. (Shem MeShmuel, Vayechi 5677)
How can we apply this teaching to the Mitzvot of Chanukah?