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Haftarah: Pinchas
Kings I 18:46-19:21
Shabbat, July 22, 2000 - 18 Tamuz 5760

Torah Outreach Program

The Haftarah describes the aftermath of Eliyahu’s zeal. He temporarily brought the people back to God with his impressive demonstration on Mt. Carmel, killed the Baal prophets, and brought rain to the drought-ridden land; yet he had to flee from Jezabel, since she and her idols retained popular support.

Eliyahu is taken from the world, but will return to herald Messiah--true zealots can’t function in a world so imperfect. Yet Eliyahu bows to King Achav, acknowledging his royal status--Eliyahu, like Pinchas, can’t be a national leader, but an improved Achav can.

Eliyahu is angry and depressed by Israel’s quick reversion; God shows him that his spirit is not found in noise and power, only in the sound of the finest silence. Eliyahu is to appoint Hazael as King of Syria, Jehu as King of Israel, and Elisha, a hard-working farmer, as his successor; only patient leaders, who are both temporal and spiritual, will eventually reconcile God and His creation.

God retires Eliyahu while praising Pinchas--Pinchas makes atonement for Israel, whereas Eliyahu condemns them, proclaiming that they ignored God’s covenant, which the Yalkut Shimoni commentary says refers to circumcision; God then made him attend every future circumcision, to see that all Jews observe it.

Elisha, as Yehoshua, is the man for this hour; he accepts his radical new role without question; he first parts from his parents and throws a farewell banquet for his workers.

The otherwise insular late 17th-century Jewish commentary, the Chatam Sofer, noted that Jews in Israel must fill every profession. A prophet rooted in life, Elisha doesn’t expect such quick results; the ex-farmer is content to plod and plow forward little by little--true God connection must combine agriculture and Torah.

Jeremiah was predestined to be the mocked and despised prophet of the imminent destruction of idolatrous Judah and Jerusalem. He felt inadequate. God promised to back him up and give him great power, despite the fierce opposition of the wicked.

Jeremiah must also keep alive Jewish hope of eventual glorious redemption by God--he remembers their plunge of faith, following God into the bleak desert in their youth; eventually, all their persecutors will themselves be punished, their false claims to be Israel’s replacement exposed.

Torah Outreach Program, based in Jerusalem, provides a study of every Torah reading and Jewish Holiday, giving exact citations and interfacing modern culture and knowledge with the Torah and Jewish tradition. By its own description, Torah Outreach Program is apolitical, open, modern Zionist, and “truly traditional,” believing that the written and oral law are from God. Visit their website at Torah Outreach Program.

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