On Sunday, July 9, Rabbi Reuben Ebrahimoff, speaker, author, known as the haftarah man, shared an enlightening shiur on the haftaros of the three weeks.
Rabbi Stuart Verstandig, President of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, welcomed everyone. He shared that this shiur was part of the Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld zt”l Education Center.
Next, Rabbi Ebrahimoff shared that if you can engage others in doing mitzvos, you will continue to accrue merits even after you are no longer physically in this world. He has been teaching about haftaros for the past 25 years.
He then displayed a map and explained how you can see Jewish history chronologically and geographically. He spoke about the history of why we read the haftarah. In the time of Antiochus IV, the Syrian-Greeks forbade Jews from learning Torah, so the Jews got around this by learning the section in the Prophets that corresponded to the Torah reading. Thus, every haftarah is thematically connected to the Torah portion of the week, except those that are connected to holidays or specific times of year like the three haftaros that are read between the 17th of Tamuz and Tish’ah B’Av, or the four haftaros between Purim and Pesach, and the seven haftaros of consolation between Tish’ah B’Av and Rosh HaShanah.
He taught that each haftarah has seven important aspects that you need to know. These include the following: What is its connection to the Torah portion, which Navi is it from, where did it take place, what time period, what are some famous phrases in it, what is the story line, and what is the lesson we learn from it.
The Three Weeks commemorate a time of calamity. The time between the 17th of Tamuz and Tish’ah B’Av is called Bein HaM’tzarim and the root of the word “m’tzarim” is like Mitzrayim, whose root means bitterness and sorrow. The first two haftaros are from Yirmiyahu and the third is from Yeshayahu.
Yirmiyahu lived in Yerushalayim prior to the Churban, and he was a kohen. He didn’t want this job of being a Navi. Prior to the Churban, the Beis HaMikdash was referred to as the House of G-d. Yirmiyahu only lived to the age of 52. The lesson we learn from him is to make sure you deliver what you need to communicate without fear of the response.
The second haftarah starts where the first one left off. In this haftarah, G-d asks, “What wrong did your fathers find in Me? They were worshiping idols.” Hashem asks, “Why didn’t you ask, ‘Where is G-d?’ I’m the constant. I’m always here. You drifted away and you worship false gods.” Hashem tells the Navi that it is going to be a very dangerous time. You forget who you are: the prince, the chosen people. Why do you think of yourself as subservient? Hashem is telling the people that they have to stop worshiping idols. G-d says that there is k’dushah in the land of Israel, where Hashem connects the Heavens to Earth. We have to show appreciation of G-d’s gifts. It concludes with Hashem saying that if you return to me, you will return to your former glory. You won’t have to wander about. G-d is saying: Do fewer sins. Don’t desecrate the Temple. Focus on the absence of negatives. Eliminate bad behavior.
The third haftarah is called Chazon Yeshayahu, which means “prophecy of Yeshayahu.” Rabbi Ebrahimoff noted that there are 80 haftaros, and 17 out of the 80 are from Yeshayahu. He has the most. All of the seven weeks of consolation haftaros come from Yeshayahu. “His eloquence is unparalleled.” He speaks about Yerushalayim in anthropomorphic terms. He predicted the time of the Churban. Yeshayahu lived in the time of four kings of the Kingdom of Judah. G-d says: I am the Father and this is how you rebel against me? A donkey knows that if you go in that direction it follows. This is not so for Jews. They don’t listen. He says we are a nation heavy with sin. These are corrupt children who abandoned G-d and provoked G-d. G-d says: Why should I beat you anymore? There is no place left to beat. Your land will be desolated. They’ll torch the city of Yerushalayim. Babylonians will take your food and your riches. You will be like a hut. Hear words of G-d, Jewish rulers. Your deeds are as evil as the people of Sodom; you must listen. What use are your sacrifices to me? They are disgusting to me. Learn what you should do. Stop fighting with me. Stop rebelling against me.
I am willing to forgive you, Hashem says. If you remove your sins, I will restore your righteous judges, your counselors, like at the beginning. You’ll be a city of righteousness, a city of people who have emunah. Tziyon has the shoresh of m’tzuyan, so it is a city of excellence.
Rabbi Ebrahimoff taught that haftaros never end on a down note. The last word is that if you do t’shuvah, you always have a chance to turn things around.
He stated that so many people don’t know the value of the Jewish people. We need to get that message across. The Navi says to share with the world the good things G-d gave to us. Jews are good people. We need to understand our great history. We need to know and to share the worth of our people, our land, and what we bring to the world.
Rabbi Ebrahimoff shared that he feels it’s a responsibility and a privilege to share Jewish history and the destiny of the Jewish people.
The community thanks the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills for this outstanding program.
By Susie Garber