This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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Haftorah Vayishlach

"And they, the saviors, will ascend Mount Zion to judge Mount Esau, and the kingdom will be Hashem's." (Ovadiah 1:21)

The commentators explain that the last phrase, "And the kingdom will be Hashem's," teaches us that when even the children of Esau accept Hashem's sovereignty over themselves, then will Hashem's kingship be complete.

Our portrait of the ultimate perfection of the world includes not only ourselves. Even the children of Esau, who throughout the ages endeavored to thwart Hashem's plan for the world and to establish instead a world based on their own designs--even they will have their place. Hashem's majesty will be brought out through the very fact that even Esau's descendants will accept His dominion.

Esau's children, though, have their own ideas about their future. "For you have said, 'The two nations and the two lands shall be mine and I will inherit them.' ... But you will know that I am Hashem; I have heard all of your hate-filled statements about the kingdom of Israel, saying, 'They are desolate! They shall be mine to consume.'" (Ezekiel 35:10-12) Esau understands that his future is intertwined with that of Jacob. And in his mind's eye, he sees himself as the victor, dominant over both nations--his own and Jacob's--and both lands.

There is a stark difference between the two visions. Esau's ascendancy comes about by destroying others. If Jacob's ideals are indeed antithetical to his own, then Esau feels that he must lay waste to their land and their people. He sees himself as the sole survivor amid a field of charred devastation, standing alone and hoisting his flag to proclaim himself the victor.

Our Sages have taught in the Midrash that Rome, and all of Western/Christian civilization which is founded upon it, are the succesors to Esau, seeking to perpetuate and actualize his goals. Collectively their civilization is called "the kingdom of Edom" in the Midrashim (cf. Genesis 36:1, "Esau is Edom."). And indeed, history has taught us the extent to which the modern-day Esau is prepared to go in destroying others in order to further his own ends.

We are taught to think and to believe otherwise. The ultimate fulfillment of Hashem's kingship is built not on the destruction of Esau and the other peoples of the world, but rather upon bringing even them within the scope of Hashem's sovereignty.

Copyright (c) 1996 by Rabbi Levi Langer

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