Haftaras Shoftim

In this week’s haftarah, Yeshayah HaNavi exhorts (verse 52:2): “Shake yourself off from the dirt, arise!” The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 75:1) interprets this exhortation as a charge to be “like a hen that shakes its wings off from ashes.” The Maggid explains the Midrash as follows. A hen might roll around in the dirt and thrash about in the sand, and get covered with dust from head to foot. But, still, her state of cleanliness is hers to choose. If a person would try to wipe her totally clean, he would have a very hard time. But if she would decide on her own to shake herself off, she would quickly and easily become totally clean again, without a trace of dust. So it is with us, Hashem’s holy people. Our level of purity is ours to choose: It is within our own power to return to Hashem in repentance with complete regret for our misdeeds. As soon as we are stirred to cleanse ourselves, our impurities will be easily wiped away.
In Eichah 4:1, Yirmiyah likens the Jewish People to pure gold and fine vessels. As we know, these items do not corrode and are easy to clean. Even when they get full of mud, a mere light wiping will render them spotless, making them shine as before. So it is with us. Hashem implanted each of us with a pure heart. Our souls are clean and pure, refined like fine silver and gold. We are not subject to irreparable corrosion. Only because our souls are lying in the dirt, sunken in the quagmire of exile, are we soiled with sin and stained with the grime of iniquity.
In Eichah 1:6, Yirmiyah laments that the Jewish People “walked without strength before the pursuer.” The Maggid, in his commentary on this verse, presents a novel homiletical interpretation which describes with striking accuracy the state of affairs in our times. He builds on the following verse (Devarim 28:33): “And you will be just oppressed and pressured all your days.” The Maggid explains that when we are exposed to the horrid pall of a degenerate culture, we are are “just oppressed” – oppressed without an oppressor. We go along before the pursuer without the pursuer applying any force. We simply absorb the evil influences that engulf us, and the oppression takes place by itself.
But we have a way to escape this oppression. If we take the initiative, we can shake off the evil influences – like a hen that shakes its wings off from ashes.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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