April 10, 2014 · 2:01 am
Malachi 3:4 – 24
Prophet- Malachi is the last of the prophets. He is thought to have lived around 500 – 480 BCE after the construction of the Second Temple.
The Shabbat right before Pesach is called Shabbat HaGadol- The Great Sabbath. One interpretation is that “Moshiach”- the Messiah- will come on Passover, so this is the Great Shabbat, the one before that great redemption.
Another idea is that the days leading up to the Exodus from Egypt were days of unusual and overwhelming preparation for the Israelites. Those preparations not only affected sacrifices and food but defined faith and self identification. That concept holds true today. Those who choose to prepare for Pesach and change their diet and behaviours for an entire week are declaring their faith in the God of Israel and defining themselves as Jews.
The haftarah begins by recognizing the transgressions of the Jews. God, through Malachi, lists the sins committed by the Jews- theft, lying, cheating, adultery and more. The Jews ask about certain accusations and God answers them. Throughout there is a path of forgiveness with the simile that as a man spares his son the Jews will be spared.
Verse 23 is read twice. It is the second last verse of this reading. “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.” That verse is read again at the very end of the portion. That phrase was the catalyst for the image I painted for this haftarah.
After the dinner we read the phrase “Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that do not know you…” We open our door to allow Eliyahu (Elijah) into our home to drink some wine. In some haggadot there is a picture of Eliyahu riding a donkey and blowing a shofar- announcing the Messiah. There are some lovely woodcuts and paintings in haggadot from the 15th – 17th centuries.
This woodcut is from a haggadah published in Prague, 1526.
I chose the image below for my illustration of Shabbat HaGadol. It is from Mantua, 1560.
Other notable haggadah illustrations of Eliahou are from Germany, c. 1425 ; the Washington Haggadah from Italy, 1478; and one from Venice 1609.
The end of the haftarah is lovely. Malachi says, “…he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the childen, and the heart of the children to their fathers:” It’s a beautiful idea. It makes me think of the 4 children in the haggadah. Whatever else is happening in their relationships, at the Pesach seder they come back home to sit and discuss and debate with their family- those they love.
Filed under Uncategorized
Tagged as 4 sons, art, bible, biblical art, Bnei Yisrael, dvar Torah, Egypt, Eliahou, Elijah, Elijah the prophet, Eliyahu, Haftarah, Haftorah, Israel, Israelite, Jewish Art, Jews, Judaism, Land of Israel, Lord, malachi, Moshiach, Parasha, parsha, Passover, Pesach, prophet, Shabbat, Shabbat HaGadol, The Great Sabbath, torah, Torah study, Yisrael
March 26, 2014 · 2:03 am
II Kings 4:42 – 5: 19
Elisha – (prophet) c. 720 BCE
The haftarah for “Tazria” tells two great stories about the prophet Elisha.
In the first story (Kings II 4: 42, 43) a man brings Elisha fruit, barley and corn. Elisha tells him to feed the community with the food but the man protests that there is too little. Elisha responds that there will be enough, and miraculously there is enough to feed the all the people.
The second story is more involved. A commander of the Aramean army had “tza’arat” (leprosy). When he returned from war he brought back a young Jewish maiden to be his wife’s slave. The girl told her mistress that Naaman should go to Elisha to be cured of the leprosy.
Elisha told him to go to the Jordan River, wash 7 times, and then he would be cured. Naaman was angry and insulted because the advice was so simple. He expected spells or special medicines- just to go to a small river in Israel was an affront. His servants told him to stop being so proud. Naaman was cured after following Elisha’s instructions. He then proclaimed, “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel”.
The story points out a number of interesting things. It reminds us of the continuing wars and famine in the times of the prophets. We read how Jewish men, women, and children were taken for slaves. It gives a young Jewish girl a key role in a story of the prophet. The narrative also shows how non-Jews believed in the abilities of Jewish prophets and the Jewish God. It also indicates the desire for Elisha to help and cure anyone who came to him.
I decided to paint the two stories one beside the other. It looks like two frames from a comic book strip but actually the format is far older than the comic book world. You can see this same layout in manuscripts dating back to the 13 th century.
Elisha lived in Samaria (Shomron) and succeeded Elijah, a solitary and forceful leader. Before Elijah was taken to the heavens in a whirlwind he asked Elisha what Elisha would like to have. Elisha asked to inherit a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit.
Indeed, in his life, Elisha performed 16 miracles and brought two people back to life, whereas Elijah performed 8 miracles and brought one person back to life. Elisha lived and prophesied in difficult times. There was drought, famine, attacks from surrounding armies; and corruption and warring in the Israelite monarchy. Elisha wasn’t as forceful a personality as his teacher. Rather he was known for his desire to help others in need.
Enjoy your week, enjoy the stories (Kings II, 4:42 to 5: 19).
Share this with your friends on Facebook. ”Follow” this blog and invite your friends to “follow” it too. If you have a comment we’d love to hear from you. If you click on the picture at the top it will enlarge.
Filed under Uncategorized
Tagged as art, bible, biblical art, Bnei Yisrael, dvar Torah, Eliahou, Elijah, Elisha, God, Haftarah, Haftorah, Israel, Israelite, Jerusalem, Jewish Art, Jewish stories, Jewish story, Jews, Judaism, Land of Israel, leprosy, Lord, Naaman, Parasha, Parashah, parsha, prophet, Shabbat, Tazria, torah, Torah study, tzaarat, Yisrael