Weekly Cycle

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Week 52 (Book 2): Esther and Bringing Redemption to the World

HAAZINU: For from afar, you will see the land, but you will not come there, to the land I am giving the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:52)

HAFTORAH: And these are the last words of David; the saying of David the son of Jesse, and the saying of the man raised on high, the anointed of the G-d of Jacob, And the sweet singer of Israel. (II Samuel 23:1)

PIRKEI AVOT QUALITY: Whoever relates a statement in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world, as it says (Esther 2:22): And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai.

PROPHET: Esther[1]


Week fifty two, the last week of the year, is also the week of Rosh Hashanah. In the portion of Haazinu, Hashem tells Moshe that he will see the land he is giving to the children of Israel from afar, but that he will not enter it. (On Rosh Hashanah we envision the potential of the entire new year, before even “entering” it. We should look at it with Moshe’s eyes, elevating it.) Once we do enter the new year, then we leave the old one behind, and start completely a new, Hashem gives us a new lease on life.

The Haftarah for Haazinu has only 51 verses, which would then leave one missing for this week. However, the following verse in the Book of Samuel II appears to be quite appropriate as a summary and conclusion to the Haftarah, and to King David’s life as well (just as this week serves as both a summary and conclusion of the entire year): “And these are the last words of David; the saying of David the son of Jesse, and the saying of the man raised on high, the anointed of the G-d of Jacob, And the sweet singer of Israel.”

During this week, the quality needed to acquire the Torah is not only related to the previous week’s, relating a statement in the name of one who said it, but is also includes an additional quality of bringing redemption to the world. (On Rosh Hashanah, the fate of the world is determined)

The prophetess for this week is Esther, which is quite appropriate, given that Esther is specifically mentioned in Pirkei Avot’s description above, which shows how she exemplifies this quality. Esther is the last of the prophets, and she is also a queen. Her relationship to the king reflects our relationship with the King of the Universe. Our sages teach us that in the Megillah itself, whenever the word “king” is used by itself, it is actually a reference to G-d.

This week’s levitical city is Jazer. It was a land that was good for pasture, it was in the land of Jazer, as well as Gilad, that the tribes of Reuben and Gad chose as the land to settle on the other side of the Jordan river. Simlar to Moshe himself, these tribes do not settle in the Land of Israel proper. Instead, they choose to elevate the land outside of it, in this way expanding the Land’s borders.

Jazer was good for pasture; it was regarding this land that the Torah describes the discussion between these tribes and Moshe, at the very end of the Book of Numbers, at the end of their journey of forty years in the desert. That discussion involves the need to judge others favorably, and to set a good example, thereby making it easier for others to judge you in that light.[2] It is not always easy to do that, and perhaps that is a reason that land is called Jazer, which can also be read as “Yud” Ezer. Yud is a reference to Hashem. Ezer means “help.” In other words, “G-d will help.”

The Midrash states that the spies of Jazer had so much faith in Hashem and in Moshe’s prayers, that not only did they succesffuly spy the city, they went ahead and conquered it as well.

[1] This week would is also related to Sarah, and Rebbetzin Shterna Sarah, wife of the Fifth Lubbavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe Rashab. Shterna means star, and Esther also means star, as does Ayelet haShachar.

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