Haftarah for Vayeitzei

The invading Assyrian army is coming to destroy them and the people still can’t decide whether or not they should return to G-d. It pains G-d (metaphorically speaking) to do this to Israel, which is why they will not be completely destroyed like Sodom and Gemorrah, rather a remnant will remain from them. Because He is G-d, He will not go back on His word not to destroy them (see Leviticus 26:44, cited by Rashi).

G-d has caused His Presence to rest in Jerusalem and he will not relocate it to another city. Even though G-d has removed His Presence, the people will turn to Him in their exile. He will roar like a lion that it is time to return and they will follow Him. They will fly swiftly from their places of exile and G-d will place them securely in their land.

Chapter 12

The northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes is full of the lies of their kings and their false prophets, but the kingdom of Judah is still faithful to G-d. The northern kingdom chases their idols, which are insubstantial. They occupy their time with evil and falsehood and they try to curry favor with Assyria and Egypt. G-d is warning Judah about His displeasure with the northern kingdom so that they should not follow in their ways.

Israel’s forefather Jacob held onto his brother Esau’s heel in the womb, and he struggled with an angel and won. The angel begged to be released; he said that G-d would be found in Beth-El and there He would speak with us. (Beth-El, of course, is the place where the idol of the calf was later erected by Yeravam.)

Hoshea tells the people that they will return to G-d by way of G-d, which Rashi explains to mean they can only do so with G-d’s support. He adjures them to practice justice and kindness and to always put their faith in G-d. Right now, however, they are deceitful people with dishonest weights and measures, who live to oppress others. They refuse to recognize G-d because they are too comfortable and complacent from their wealth and power. All of their wealth, however, will not save them from retribution for all of their evil deeds. G-d will cut these evil people off from the rest of the nation, whom He will set up to dwell in tents. (Rashi explains this to be a good thing, referring to our forefather Jacob, who is described by the Torah as a “simple man dwelling in tents” - Genesis 25:27.)

G-d sent many prophets and He gave the prophets many messages and many parables in order to make the message clear to the people. When the coming disasters occur, they can’t blame G-d for not having warned them. They can only blame themselves for their idolatry.

Getting back to the story of Jacob discussed earlier in this chapter, the prophet resumes that Jacob fled to Aram to escape the wrath of his brother Esau. In Aram, he became a goatherd in order to earn his wives. Later, G-d sent a prophet (Moses) to bring His people from Egypt. Moses guarded them like a shepherd, but the nation provoked G-d and is responsible for their own impending disaster. They have followed in the ways of Yeravam, the first king of the Ten Tribes, whose disgraceful behavior (and its emulation) will be revisited upon him (and them).

Chapter 13

Yeravam (Jeroboam), the first king of northern nation of the Ten Tribes, criticized Shlomo (Solomon) sincerely, for the sake of G-d. He did this with great trepidation because Shlomo was a powerful king, but because he did so, he merited a kingdom of his own. However, he soon turned to idolatry and his dynasty was cut short. The dynasty of Yehu continues to sin, making idols of their own and encouraging the worst behavior, up to and including human sacrifices. Therefore, they will be swept away like a cloud that dissipates. (The chapter uses several other similes to describe the manner in which they will evaporate.)

G-d took the Jews out of Egypt. He is the only One they should know; no one can save them but Him. He took care of them in the wilderness and satisfied their needs when they entered the land. But when they became satisfied, they also became full of themselves and forgot G-d. Because they forgot Him, He will let them fall into their enemies' hands. G-d will meet the nation like a bear or a lion; they will be destroyed. The people rejected G-d and requested a human king; where is that king now? Let him save them from their enemies! G-d gave them the king in the first place (even though He was displeased with the request) and now, in His anger, He is taking away the king.

The sins of the nation are before G-d and He will punish them with troubles as sharp as labor pains. If they were wise, they would quickly return to G-d rather than remain in their sins. G-d is the only One Who could save them from death but now He is the one who will bring these tragedies upon them. He will not regret His actions. The wind (referring to the invading army) will come up from the east; they will plunder the nation.

Chapter 14

The northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes has been found guilty of rebelling against G-d and they will be punished very harshly. The invading armies will perpetrate the most heinous acts of cruelty against them. G-d implores the people to return to Him because these troubles have come upon them due to their sins. He’s not asking them for gold or jewels; all He wants is sincere words of repentance. The people should ask Him to show them the proper way and the words of their lips will serve as sacrifices. The people cannot count on Assyria or Egypt to save them, nor can their idols accomplish anything. Only G-d can show mercy, as He did to their ancestors when they left Egypt.

G-d will correct them of their backsliding ways and He will love them unconditionally; His anger will have been turned away. His goodness will never be withheld from them (the chapter uses the simile of dew) and they will blossom like a rose. Their branches will spread out and they will be as beautiful as an olive tree (referring to the menorah of the Temple) and they’ll be as fragrant as the Lebanon (referring to the incense of the Temple). The exiles will return to the land where they will be reinvigorated.

The people of the nation will say, “What do I need with these idols?” G-d will save them from their troubles and all goodness will come from Him. Who is wise enough to recognize this and return to G-d? His ways are straight (not crooked like those of man); the righteous will walk in them and those who reject G-d will stumble.