Haftaras Shabbos HaGadol

The haftarah for Shabbos HaGadol ends as follows (Malachi 3:23-24): “Behold, I send you Eliyahu HaNavi before the great and awesome day of Hashem. And he shall set the fathers’ hearts upon their sons, and the sons’ hearts upon their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with utter destruction.” The Maggid offers a novel interpretation of this passage.
He develops his idea with a parable. A man advised his son-in-law to do some trading in a nearby major city. The young man hesitated. “I don’t know how it works,” he said. “I’ve never done any trading before.” The father-in-law replied: “Just watch the other merchants and do as they do.” So the young man set out on the road. After traveling a moderate distance, he stopped at an inn, and he saw a group of merchants there enjoying a fancy meal. He therefore also ordered a fancy meal, and he continued this practice throughout his trip at every inn he visited. Finally he arrived at his destination, and found he had no money left, so went back home empty-handed. He told his father-in-law what happened, and got sharply scolded: “You fool! You should have realized that you were not in the same shoes as those merchants you met at the first inn. They had already finished their business, and were celebrating their success. But you were just starting out on your business trip. It was not time for you to celebrate.”
Similarly, when a person is in his early years, he should not spend his time reveling. Rather, he should live austerely, and focus on the business of acquiring Torah knowledge. As our Sages say (Avos 6:4): “This is the way of Torah: Eat bread with salt, drink water by measure, and sleep on the ground; live an austere life, and toil in the Torah. If you do so, then ‘you are fortunate, and it is well with you’ (Tehillim 128:2) – you will enjoy good fortune in this world, and it will be well with you in the World to Come.” If a person devotes his prime years to Torah and mitzvos, and gains control of his evil inclination, he can then allow himself, in his later years, to partake more liberally of the enjoyments of this world.
On the other hand, if a person squanders his early years mindlessly chasing worldly pleasures, in his later years he will regret it, and will scramble to salvage his life. He is compelled to devote his last years entirely to repentance and self-affliction, shunning worldly pleasures altogether.
Unfortunately most people follow the second course, spending their early years on rejoicing that they should have saved for old age, and spending their old age trying to cram in the spiritual work that they should have done in their early years. But when Elihayu HaNavi comes, he will turn the situation around. He will set the fathers’ hearts upon their sons – instilling in the hearts of young men a drive to toil in Torah and mitzvos. And he will set the sons’ hearts upon their fathers – enabling men in their old age to rejoice as young men do today.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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