|December 18, 2009
Haftarah for the Second Shabbat of Hanukkah
1 Kings 7:40-50.
This is the second Shabbat during the festival of Hanukkah and warrants a special Haftarah selection. An explanation of the Haftarah for Miketz follows the one that will be read this week.
1 Kings 7:40-50
Religious institutions are expertly woven together on this special Shabbat. At the time when we remember the re-dedication of the Temple as a result of the Maccabean victory, our Haftarah connects us to the construction of the Temple under the guidance of Hiram
King of Tyre and King Solomon. The thread that connects the Haftarah to the second Torah reading is the story of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Holy places this week are bound together by a connecting thread that stretches more than one thousand years.
The special Torah/Haftorah relationship challenges us to consider the nature of sacred spaces and it causes one to wonder if our religious institutions would qualify to join the club? I wonder how the concept of sacred space has changed over the years.
Most of us have visited magnificent awe inspiring sanctuaries but do they motivate us to pray? Some of us have found it much easier to create sacred spaces in our homes through the meaningful and easily accessible Shabbat and holiday rituals. Most of us instinctively know when they enter a Jewish home. Something just feels very special.
How many of you, dear reader, have thought about how to create those special places in your homes and in your lives? Sacred spaces don’t have to inspire fear and trembling. They don’t have to feel awesome. They could just make one feel “Heimish”.
“Heimish” can mean many things but I suspect most would agree that it can refer to a specific type of atmosphere, a warm and loving one that you/we can create anywhere. Perhaps we need more “Heimishness” in our shuls and in our communities. I recall a few decades ago when my late teacher, Rabbi Simon Greenberg once told me that he didn’t go to shul on Shabbat to speak to God. He could do that anywhere. He went to speak to Jews! Our shuls our gathering places also need to be places where we come together to think, to learn, and to share and perhaps if that happens they can become more sacred to us.
Miketz 1 Kings 3:15-4:1
“Then Solomon awoke: It was a dream!”
“And it came to pass at the end of two years that Pharaoh dreamed”
Could the connection between Haftorah and Torah portion be more obvious!
Joseph and Solomon, two men of wisdom each displaying different gifts each connected to one another by the word “dream”. In the first instance, after all else has failed, Pharaoh summons Joseph to interpret his dreams. Joseph’s success and his subsequent rise to a position of authority are attributed to God’s plan; it paves the way for his family’s entrance into Egypt. The story of Joseph is part of our larger story that prepares us to receive revelation at Sinai and to learn the message of freedom.
Solomon is a compassionate leader and the text’s choice of an example to demonstrate it suggests a model of behavior which we could emulate. Effective leaders either need to be compassionate leaders or servant leaders. I think that the model of the compassionate leader represents an archetypal quality of leadership that is first demonstrated in Torah and is further developed in the prophets, writings, Talmud and into the modern period. Solomon, the compassionate leader, demonstrates a practical wisdom and a respect and understanding of all people. Instead of providing us, the readers, with a conflict that needs to be resolved between people of wealth and power, the text deliberately positions Solomon as being sensitive to people with significantly less status.
In the Haftarah Solomon’s leadership is tested by the way he responds to a claim from a prostitute. While we have other examples of prostitutes in our texts, one suspects that even if prostitution was considered to be a recognized legitimate profession, I sincerely doubt it would be equated with that of landowner or financial maven. The text wants us to understand that the type of leader that the text wants us to be is the person who is sensitive and engaged with all people, regardless of their social status.
The Haftorah from Miketz challenges us to consider the nature of leadership and the manner we wish to handle situations and to be viewed by others. Leaders can be dynamic or manipulative. Leaders can inherit positions or be elected to them but the leader who demonstrates a compassionate and practical wisdom is the one we should emulate.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon,
Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish"
Jewish Lights Publishing.
Translation of the Haftarah may be found here: http://www.jtsa.edu/PreBuilt/ParashahArchives/jpstext/
The FJMC weekly haftarah commentary is one of the few haftarah commentaries available on line. The USCJ through its Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem has also been posting a weekly haftarah commentary for a number of years. We highly recommend it. If you are interested you can find a link on the left side of our weekly commentary and click through.
In 2003 the FJMC commissioned a Sefer Haftarah, a scroll consisting of all the Haftarot which follows the Haftarah order that appears in the USCJ and Rabbinical Assembly Torah translation and commentary Etz Hayim. The FJMC Sefer Haftarah visits a different synagogue in North America every week.This scroll contains vowels and cantillation and allows the haftarah reader to experience the Haftarah in a more personal way. FJMC also produces individual personalized Haftarot for those who wish to recognize a special occasion. Scrolls of Haftarot have been in use since the early middle ages.