Haftaras Lech-Lecha

This week’s haftarah concludes with the following passage (Yeshayah 41:14-16):
“Fear not, O worm-like Jacob, O hosts of Israel – I am your helper,” says Hashem, “and your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I have made you like a threshing sledge, with freshly-sharpened teeth – you shall thresh mountains and grind them down fine, and you shall turn hills into chaff. You shall cast them up, and a wind shall carry them, and a storm shall scatter them; and you shall jubilate in Hashem – in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.”
Yalkut Shimoni Nach, para. 540, comments on this passage. The Midrash says that just as the worm’s source of strength is its mouth, so, too, the Jewish People’s source of power is their mouths – through prayer.
The Maggid, in his commentary on Eichah 3:39-41, discusses why Yeshayah compares us specifically to a worm, and not to one of the predatory creatures, whose strength also is the mouth. He explains that there is a key difference between the worm and other species, which points to an important idea. With other species, an individual animal has the power to accomplish its goal even when it is alone, with no fellow creature helping out. Not so with the worm: an individual worm can do nothing. The worm manifests its great strength only when mounds of worms gather together. When many worms work in concert, no mountain can stand up against them, and their strength is incalculable. This idea is reflected Tanchuma Nitzavim 1, which compares us to sticks. Like sticks, we are individually thin and weak. But when we are gathered into a single bundle, then we are strong.
But how can we gather ourselves together when we are scattered across all corners of the globe? The Maggid answers that the matter does not depend on physical proximity, but rather on kindredness of spirit. We must all set our sights on a single target, and focus our efforts on a common appeal that concerns all of us together. As Yirmiyah declares (verses 50:4-5): “‘In those days and in that time,’ says Hashem,’ the Children of Israel and the Children of Judah shall come together, going on their way with weeping, and they shall seek Hashem their God. They shall ask for Zion .…’” We can join forces even when we are scattered, some here and some there. Kindredness of spirit is our salvation.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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