Haftaras Haazinu

In years like the present one, when there is a Shabbos between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, parashas Haazinu is read on this Shabbos, and the haftarah is the song David HaMelech composed to praise Hashem for delivering him from his enemies (Shmuel Beis 22, also appearing, with a few slight differences, as Tehillim 18). This song contains allusions to other instances of Hashem’s delivering the Jewish People from some threat. David declares (verse 18): “He saves me from my mighty foe, and from my enemies when they are stronger than me.” The Maggid notes two points about this statement that call for a closer look. First, in the Hebrew, the term used for “He saves me” is yatzileini, which is literally a future tense verb, rather than the present tense verb that we would expect. Second, in the phrase “mighty foe,” the role of the adjective “mighty” bears careful pondering, for relation to Hashem, it is meaningless to speak of a “mighty force” standing in opposition. The Maggid suggests an explanation addressing both points, interpreting David’s statement as running more deeply than it appears on the surface.
The Maggid brings out the idea with a parable. A certain wealthy man had a young son who contracted a minor illness, and he hired a doctor to treat the boy. The treatment was much more protracted and expensive than the father thought would be needed for such a minor illness, so he asked the doctor for an explanation. The doctor replied: “Your son’s initial illness was indeed minor, and it has already passed. But when I examined the boy, I saw that he has a serious latent disease that is destined to break out in his older years. If we wait for the disease to break out, we may have a hard time treating it for two reasons. First, in his older years he will not be as resilient as he is now, and it may be hard for him to undergo the treatment. Second, you might be less well-off then than you are now, and unable to bear the expenses. So I decided to give him some agents that would cause the disease to break out now, so that I could treat it easily, and free him of it for the rest of his life.
The parallel is as follows. Our forefathers were beset with various tribulations. Avraham was cast into a fiery furnace, was subjected to a famine, and was forced to wage war against mighty kings. Yitzchak, as well, suffered serious misfortunes. And Yaakov, the premier figure among the forefathers, had not a moment of rest almost his entire life. It is absurd to think that the forefathers were beset with these misfortunes as punishment for some misdeeds on their part. Rather, Hashem was paving the way for the Jewish People of the future. As our tradition teaches, “the experiences of the forefathers are a legacy for their descendants” (maaseh avos yirshu banim). Hashem foresaw that the Jewish People were destined to go into exile and suffer many calamities. But they would be too spiritually weak to bring forth the miracles needed to rescue them from these calamities. Hashem therefore, in His wisdom, brought upon the forefathers afflictions of the kind that their descendants would later suffer, just as, in the parable, the doctor brought on the latent disease before its time. The forefathers were spiritual giants who were capable of inducing Hashem to bring miraculous salvations. They thereby created a wellspring of salvation (cf. Yeshayah 12:3) that the Jewish People could tap into throughout the generations. Thus we say in the prayer right before the morning Amidah: “The Helper of our forefathers You have been in days of yore, and Shield and Savior unto their children after them in each and every generation.” When we invoke the merit of the forefathers in our prayers, we are asking Hashem to open for us the wellspring of salvation that He prepared for us in our forefathers’ days.
We can now turn to David’s statement: “He saves me from my mighty foe, and from my enemies when they are stronger than me.” David is describing the foe as “mighty” not in relation to Hashem, but in relation to us: We do not deserve being saved from the foe on the basis of our own merits, so the foe has the upper hand over us. David describes the enemies as “stronger than me.” In the Hebrew the phrase is ametzu mimeni, which can be interpreted as “strong on account of me” – our enemies’ strength is due to our lack of merits. The future tense verb yatzileini points toward Hashem’s taking action at a given point in time in order to affect a salvation for us at a later time. The next verse in the song elaborates (verse 19): “They came before me [yekadmuni, which also be read “they preceded me”] on the day designated for me, and Hashem was a support unto me.” Because of the troubles that beset our forefathers, Hashem became a support and savior – not only for them, but also for us afterward. The idea is reflected further in the verse with which the song closes (verse 51): “He is a fortress of salvation unto His king and does kindness for His anointed one, for David and his descendants, forever.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.