This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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Haftorah Bo

"The Scream Heard Round the World"

"Her [Egypt's] voice will go forth like that of the snake, for with an army they have come and with axes they will come against you as if they were woodcutters." (Jeremiah 46:22)

An unusual comparison: Egypt, the mighty empire, will scream like the snake. Which snake?

The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 20:8) explains: like the primeval snake in the Garden of Eden.

When the snake caused Adam and Chava to partake of the forbidden fruit, says the Midrash, Hashem sent angels with axes to chop off its legs. From then on, for all of eternity, the snake would have no legs and would have to slither on its belly. At that moment--so we are taught--the snake screamed a scream that was heard round the world.

Similarly, when the mighty empire of Egypt was finally vanquished by Nebuchadnezzar, Emperor of Babylon, the cry of the Egyptian kingdom was heard round the world: "And your cry filled the earth." (Jeremiah 46:12) This is the comparison which is made in our verse.

Perhaps there is a lesson we can take from this Midrash.

Out of all the animals and creatures in Hashem's world, the snake was the one with the highest potential. It was created with an intelligence, and we are taught that it had a special role: it was to serve Adam and Chava and to assist them in their service of Hashem. But the snake misused his abilities, and they were taken from him. In that instant, when he recognized that he had missed the moment and the opportunity had been lost to him forever, the snake cried out, and his cry was heard across all of existence.

Egypt, too, had taken for themselves a special role: they had entered into a treaty with the kingdom of Israel, and henceforth they were pledged to be the protectors of Israel. But they soon showed how unreliable they really were. "And all the inhabitants of Egypt will know that I am Hashem--for they have been a prop of reeds for the House of Israel. When they [Israel] grasped you in the hand you would splinter and pierce through the entire shoulder, and when they leaned upon you, you would break." (Ezekiel 29:6-7)

Egypt had their chance and they neglected to make use of it. "And they shall be a lowly kingdom--no longer exalted among the nations. And I will make them small, that they may no longer rule over other nations." (Ibid, v. 14-15) No longer would Egypt be a world power. The opportunity, once gone, was lost forever. And at the moment that its destiny was lost, Egypt is said to have cried out. "And your cry filled the earth."

Each of us has the potential to accomplish something unique, something that is our very own to achieve. And when the opportunity comes knocking, let's not tarry too long before opening the door. It won't wait for us forever.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Levi Langer

Courtesy of JewishAmerica (

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