Bar-Ilan University

The Faculty of Jewish Studies

The Office of the Campus Rabbi


Daf Parashat Hashavua

(Study Sheet on the Weekly Torah Portion)

Basic Jewish Studies Unit


Daf Shvui , Number 107

Parashat Toldot, 5756

I Have Loved You (Malachi 1,2) -

The Haftarah of Parashat Toldot

The haftarah (prophetic reading) of Parashat (=weekly portion) Toldot is from the Book of Malachi 1,1 - 2,7. The connection of the haftarah to the Torah reading becomes clear from its first two verses: in parashat Toldot the struggle between Jacob and Esau occupies the central position while Malachi reflects the historic conflict between Israel (Jacob) and Edom (Esau) during the Second Temple period[1], as it is stated in verse 2: "was not Esau a brother to Jacob..." and in verse 4: "for Edom says - we are made destitute".

Malachi [2] concludes the era of written prophecy in Israel which lasted about three hundred years, from the time of Amos in the mid-eighth century b.c.e., till the Second Temple period in the mid-fifth century b.c.e.,[3] and also the era of prophecy altogether.

The outstanding literary form in the book is debate - the prophet presents those arguments of his people which were commonly accepted in his time. Thus, for example, we find in verse 2 : "and you said: in what way have You loved us?". Subsequently he answers them in the name of G-d: "Was not Esau a brother to Jacob, says the Lord, yet I loved Jacob. And I hated Esau..."(2.3). The arguments of the people and the answers of the prophet also appear in verses 6-7 and 13.

The initial prophecy in chapter 1, verses 2-5 deals with the difference in the attitude of the Lord towards Israel (Jacob) as opposed to his attitude toward Esau (Edom). To the question of the people: "... in what way have You loved us?" the prophet replies in the negative: it is well known that Jacob and Esau were brothers but the Almighty loves only Jacob, while he hates Esau, the father of Edom. This expresses itself in the prophecy of the severe punishment which will befall Esau - Edom.

The meaning of the verb "ahav" which appears in verse 2 ("ahavti etchem = I have loved you) describing the relationship of the Lord to Israel manifests itself in the establishment of the covenant between the Lord and Israel. A comparison to the forms of the establishment of covenants in the ancient Near East reveals that the love of a subject for his master amounts to an expression of loyalty to him and to his service. This interpretation coincides with the demand which appears in Deuteronomy 6,5 - in the Shema Israel - Hear, o, Israel : "and you shall love the Lord, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul ..." (compare also the the statement of the slave in Exodus 21,5: "I love my master"). Love of the Lord in the Bible means exclusive loyalty to the G-d of Israel, and the acceptance of the yoke of His kingship, as the People of Israel undertook to do at the time of the establishment of the covenant at Mt. Sinai. The People of Israel must know that "only the Lord, your G-d, is G-d, the faithful G-d who keeps the covenant and the favor to those who love him and keep His commandments ... and repays those who hate him to their face to destroy them" (Deut. 7,9-10).

A parallel can be found in letter no. 286 from El Amarna: "Why do you love the Apiru and hate the local rulers?" (Rainey-Artzi Edition, Tel Aviv, 1970); and in the treaty between Esarhaddon, king of Assyria and his subjects; "If you do not love Ashurbanipal, son of the king, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, as your souls..." ( M. Weinfeld Edition, Jerusalem, 1973, p.17).

Let us return to the book of Malachi: the covenant to which Malachi refers in his first prophecy (1, 2-5) is the one established at Mt. Sinai, as stated in Deuteronomy 5,2: "The Lord our G-d made a covenant with us at Horeb". In this covenant the people undertook to observe and keep the commandments given to them by Moses. The Almighty, on his part, promised to guard and defend the People of Israel and to bring them to the Promised Land in order to fulfill his promise to our forefathers, on the condition that the people keep His covenant. However, the people violated the covenant of the Lord. In accordance with the special terminology of the covenant, the Lord is the "Master" and the "Father" and the People of Israel are the "servant" and the "son". For this reason the people should have honored the Lord and preserved his covenant. From here the prophet goes on to specify who were those who violated the covenant of the Lord.

Malachi quotes the false claim of innocence on the part of the Priests who are accused of despising the name of the Lord: "And you say - in what way have we despised Your name ?"(verse 6). To this Malachi answers that the priests violate the covenant by offering imperfect sacrifices in the Holy Temple: "and if you offer a blind animal as a sacrifice ... and if you offer a lame or sick animal..." (verse 8). The Almighty does not desire sacrifices which cause desecration of His name, for the concern for the proper respect for the name of the Lord is a central theme in the Book of Malachi as indicated by these examples: "My name is great among the nations"(1,11);" "My name is feared among the nations" (1,14); "Those who fear My name" (3,20).

The terminology of the covenant continues in chapter two. Verses 1-3 recall the curses which will fall upon those who violate the covenant, as stated in the chapters specifying the blessings and the curses in Deuteronomy, chapter 28. If they do not listen to His chastisement and correct what they have done wrong, the Almighty, is liable to cause damage to agriculture which was the main source of income in ancient Israel: "Iýf you will not listen ... then I will curse the seed because of you".

At the conclusion of the haftarah Malachi recalls another violation of the covenant by the priests: the violation of the covenant of the Levites (2,5-9). The priests are accused of not having fulfilled their roles as teachers of the ways of the Lord to the people.[4] This being so, the status of the tribe of Levi as messengers of the Lord and His servants, will be damaged and the tribe will be despised. In contrast, if this intolerable situation is corrected, Malachi, in the name of the Lord, promises in chapter 3, verse 10: "... I will surely open for you the windows of Heaven and pour out to you immeasurable blessing".

Michael Avioz

Department of Bible

[1] In later periods Esau - Edom became identified with Rome. In Bereshit Rabbah 65, 21 the verse "The voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau" (Gen. 27,22) was explained as the voice of Jacob crying out at the murderous deeds of Hadrian Caesar.

[2] For a summary of the various opinions as to the name Malachi see: M. Zer Kavod, Sefer Malachi, Da'at Mikra edition, pp. 7-8.

[3] On the cessaton of prophecy see the article by E. E.Urbach, Tarbitz 17 (1946) , pp. 1.-11

[4] There is a dispute among commentators as to the identity of this covenant. Some see it as the covenant established by the Lord with Pinchas after his act of zealotry at Ba'al Pe'or (Numbers 25), others who believe it to mean the blessing of Moses in Deuteronomy 33,9: "for they have observed your word and kept Your covenant". The above blessing of Moses probably refers to the zealous behavior of the tribe of Levi at the incident of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32, 26-29). Aside from that the blessing of Moses also mentions the functions of the Levites: "They shall teach Jacob Your Judgements and Your Torah to Israel" (Deuteronomy 33, 10).

Translated by: Phil Lerman

Kibbutz Beerot Yitzchak