Haftaras Shemos

The haftarah for parashas Shemos, according to the Ashkenazic custom, consists of Yeshayah 27:6-28:13 and 29:22-23. Yeshayah declares (verses 27:6-8, rendered according to the Maggid’s commentary):
Days are coming when Yaakov will take root; Yisrael will bud and blossom and fill the face of the earth like produce. “Is it with the blow that he struck him that He struck him? Is it as he slew those that he slew that He slew him? According to the appropriate measure as she was sent out He assaulted her, stripping her barren with His harsh wind on the day of the east wind.
The Maggid explains this passage with a parable. A town leader got angry at a certain resident of his town to the point where he slapped him on the face. After some time, this leader grew poor and lost his position, while the man whom he slapped grew rich and was appointed as town leader. The new leader convened an assembly and lodged a complaint against the man who had slapped him, saying: “How could this lowly person slight my honor and slap me on the face?” The townspeople heard this complaint and imposed a severe punishment on the one who had done the slapping. The offender exclaimed: “Did I raise my hand against a town leader? At the time, this man was a rank-and-file citizen like I am now, and I was the town leader!” The judges of the case replied: “We have to carry out justice according to the way we see the picture now. The man you slapped was worthy enough to rise to the position of town leader, while you are of such low caliber that you wound up sliding down into the lower class. How could you have dared to slap this person? The offense is intolerable!”
The parallel is as follows. Initially the Jewish People were in a very lowly state, dominated by the Egyptians. But ultimately, when they left Egypt, they reached a high level, with Hashem designating them as “a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation” (Shemos 19:6). Hashem, in His wisdom, did not call the Egyptians to justice while the Jews were in a lowly state. Instead, He waited until they rose to greatness. The Midrash expounds on the greatness they attained (Shemos Rabbah 20:2):
It is like an orchard owner who was approached by someone who asked to buy it, and he sold it for the low price of 1 maneh, unaware of what the orchard contained. A group of people asked him: “How much did you sell the orchard for?” He replied: “A maneh.” They told him: “The orchard has olive trees worth 100 manehs, grapevines worth 100 manehs, pomegranate trees worth 100 manehs, fragrant herbs worth 100 manehs, and various other types of trees and plants, 100 maneh’s worth of each type.” … It is written (Shir HaShirim 4:13): “Your most arid ones are like a pomegranate orchard laden with luscious fruit, henna and spikenard.” When Pharaoh sent the Jews out, he regarded them as worthless, but his ministers told him: “What have you done? Even if they had only the spoils that they took here, it would have been quite enough. … See how many rich men are among them, how many wise men, how many craftsmen!”
It was when the Jewish People reached this state that Hashem passed judgment on the Egyptians. He declared: “Against whom did you raise your hand? Against lofty people – holy ministers!” And He saw fit to punish them severely.
This is the message behind the passage in the haftarah. Yeshayah declares: “Days are coming when Yaakov will take root; Yisrael will bud and blossom and fill the face of the earth like produce.” Hashem waited for the Jewish People leave Egypt, bloom, and become “like a pomegranate orchard laded with luscious fruit,” and then He punished on the Egyptians for oppressing them. Yeshayah goes on to describe the punishment. Yeshayah asks: “Is it with the blow that he [the Egyptians] struck him [the Jewish People] that He struck him? Is it as he slew those that he slew that He slew him?” When Hashem punished the Egyptians for smiting the Jews, did He measure out the punishment to the low level that the Jewish People held when they were being smitten? Yeshayah then answers: “According to the appropriate measure as she was sent out He assaulted her.” It was according to the measure of the Jewish People’s worth when they were sent out of Egypt that Hashem measured out the punishment. And therefore He punished the Egyptians severely, “stripping her barren with His harsh wind on the day of the east wind.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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