Haftaras Shabbos HaGadol

The Shabbos before Pesach is called “Shabbos HaGadol,” and on this Shabbos we read a special haftarah from Sefer Malachi. In this haftarah it is written (Malachi 3:6): “For I, Hashem, have not changed – and you, the sons of Yaakov, have not perished.”
The Maggid connects this verse with the following famous Gemara (Yoma 69b, paraphrased):
Why were they [the Sages of early Second Temple times] called the “Men of the Great Assembly”? Because they restored the crown [of Divine Attributes] to its original state. Moshe had said: “The great, mighty, and awesome God.” Then Yirmiyahu saw foreigners reveling in His Temple, and omitted the word “awesome.” Daniel saw foreigners enslaving His sons, and omitted the word “mighty.” But the early Second Temple Sages said: “On the contrary! Therein lie His mighty deeds, that He suppresses His wrath. Therein lies his awesomeness: if not for the Holy One Blessed Be He’s awesomeness, how could a lone nation survive in exile among other nations?
The Maggid brings out the message of this Gemara with a parable. A man sent his son to a school in another city, and got one of the people there to take the boy in. The father promised to pay this man a set sum to cover his son’s living expenses. During the boy’s stay, he got very sick, and ate hardly anything. Eventually the father came to take his son home. The host demanded to be paid the agreed sum. The father replied: “How can you think to ask me for this amount? My son got sick, and ate almost nothing.” The host retorted: “You fool! Don’t you realize that the expenses of a sick person are twice those of a healthy one?”
The parallel is as follows. During the era of this First Temple, we were healthy and whole both physically and spiritually. At that time, Hashem bestowed on us a wondrous array of blessings, which all could clearly see. But afterward, when we went into exile in a foreign land, these overt blessings came to an end. It looked as if Hashem had turned His benevolent attention away from us. This situation led Yirmiyahu and Daniel to omit the words “awesome” and “mighty” when describing Hashem. But the Men of the Great Assembly proclaimed that Hashem’s level of guidance over our affairs had not changed at all. On the contrary, our survival among hostile foreigners represented an even more awesome display of Hashem’s might than the wondrous blessings of First Temple times.
And so it has been throughout the generations. Over the centuries, we have been under the shadow of various hostile nations, and subjected to great cruelty. Our enemies have gone to lengths to wipe us off the face of the earth. Yet we survive. There is no greater miracle than that. This is the message behind the verse in Malachi. Hashem says: “I, Hashem, have not changed.” And then He brings the proof: “You, the sons of Yaakov, have not perished.”
PS: The above idea is reflected as well in the following famous section of the Pesach Haggadah: “And this is the system that has endured for our forefathers and for us. For not only one has stood against us to annihilate us. Rather, in each and every generation, people stand against us to annihilate us – and the Holy One Blessed Be He saves us from their hands.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.