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The Haftarah for the Parshat Chukat 5764
The Haftorah is read from the book of Shoftim (Judges) 11:1-33
The Judges Yiftach Fights against Amon
The Storyline of this week's Haftarah: Yiftach is expelled from his home by his brothers and becomes a warrior outside Eretz Yisrael. 4-10 The Jews are attacked by the Ammonim, and the elders of Gilead ask Yiftach to become a leader. Yiftach responded by asking, “What has changed that now I am good enough for you?”11:11 Yiftach agrees to lead on condition that if he wins, the Elders must make him the leader of the Israelites. Yiftach asks Hashem to help him, and if he is victorious, Yiftach vows he will bring a sacrifice to Hashem of the first living thing he sees upon his return. This took place in the town of Mitzpah. 11:12-27 Yiftach tries to negotiate a peaceful settlement with the King of Amon. He sends a delegation to the king proposing that their forces be withdrawn. In response the Ammonite king laid claim to all Israelite land east of the Jordan River. To the south of Gilead between the Arnon and Yabok rivers, that had been occupied by the tribes of Gad and Reuben. 11:28 The settlement is rejected. Yiftach sends his envoys back with proof showing that this land was captured from King Sihon, who had banned the Israelites transit. The King of Amon didn’t agree with him and Yiftach therefore went forward into war. 11:29-33 Yiftach triumphed in battle, and to his horror upon returning home the first living being that he saw was his only daughter. She was dancing with tambourines and celebrating her father’s victorious return. Realizing that he must now sacrifice his daughter to Hashem, Yiftach tore his clothes and cried out in grief. Even his daughter agreed that his sacred oath could not be broken. At her request she departed to the mountains with her companions and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. On her return the sacrifice was carried out. For this tragic episode the custom arose for young women to go out each year, and for four days mourn for Yiftach’s daughter.
The connection between this week's Parasha and the Haftara: In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Chukat, the nation of Israel does battle Ammon in order to conquer the land of Israel. In this week’s Haftorah, Yiftach is called upon by the elders of Israel, also to do battle with Ammon, only this time it was Israel who was being attacked.
Haftorahman's Lesson of the week: When Yiftach was given the task of battling with Ammon, he immediately realized that the only way he could be victorious was through divine intervention. In order to receive the help of Hashem, Yiftach could have simply prayed for victory. Instead, he offered to bring a sacrifice to Hashem. Yiftach did not merely come to Hashem empty handed; he was willing to give up something of value. Granted he probably should not have sacrificed his daughter, but the sentiment remains the same. Yiftach was so indebted to Hashem for providing him with a victorious battle that he gave up the most valuable thing in his life. His daughter. Perhaps we should take Yiftach’s example to heart. Just as a guest would brings a gift for a host. So too when we are standing before Hashem in prayer and asking Hashem for anything, we too should come with something. Historically, we would bring offerings of fruit or animals to the temple. Unfortunately today, we do not have a temple, but we can still offer something to Hashem. We have both our time and our money to offer Hashem. Money can be donated to charity, to supporting education by giving to schools, or by donating to hospitals. Time can be given to shuls, schools, hospitals or yeshivas, to help in any capacity, or but simply being a good person, and creating a sanctification of Hashem with our actions.
Yiftach's Biography: The meaning of Yiftach-iel is “Hashem opens”. He was born in the land of Gilead. Yiftach’s mother was referred to as a harlot. His father was called Gilead and his stepbrothers ostracized him, and did not provide him with any share any of the inheritance left from their father. He therefore moved away to the land of Tob. He was an Israelite military leader. He became known as a mighty warrior who was a skilled and daring fighter. His mobilized a resistance and led a counter offensive defeating the Ammonites of Trans-Jordan. He made a promise with Hashem that if he were to win the war he would sacrifice to Hashem the first living thing that came out from his gates when he came home. Unfortunately his only daughter, Seila came out dancing and singing with tambourines and ribbons to welcome home her victorious father and as a fulfillment of a vow he sacrificed her. Yiftach’s life ended tragically he wasn’t buried but his limbs would fall from his body and were scattered around the land of Israel.
Timeline: The story of Yiftach happened in the time of the Judges about 3200 years ago.
Map: The Haftorah took place east of the Jordan River.
Written by: The Haftorahman - Reuven Gavriel ben Nissim Ebrahimoff 5762-2002
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