Vayeitzei (Sephardim)

Hosea is the first of the twelve prophets whose relatively small books (Hebrew: “Trei Asar”) conclude the Bible's prophetic section. A contemporary of Isaiah and Amos, Hosea lived in and preached against the Northern Kingdom of Samaria when its idolatrous kings Jeroboam II (Yeravam) and his successors reigned; he also had sharp words for the Southern Kingdom, Judah. As did his contemporaries, Hosea prophesied that Ephraim - an affectionate nickname for Samaria - would soon be destroyed due to its arrogance, religious and ethical corruption, and lack of faith in God.

In the Haftarah, Hosea emphasizes that God's love for His children is unbreakable despite their sins. God cannot bear to destroy them and awaits their return to Him - but even this patient love will soon give way, and He will destroy and banish them. Ephraim ignores these warnings. Contrary to the prophets’ decrying of its political alliances and their attendant spiritual and political risks, it allies with Assyria and Egypt. Hosea expounds on major events in the life of Jacob, the Parashah’s chief protagonist, encouraging Ephraim to follow their forefather’s just and kind ways instead of the commercial deceit and idolatry of their neighbors.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verse 11:7: Even when facing potential destruction (described in 11:6), Ephraim wavers about returning to God...

Hosea 11:7

הושע י״א:ז

Yet My people are [as if] suspended [in air] about [their] turning away from Me. They called them [the people] up [towards God] but not one would raise himself.

וְעַמִּ֥י תְלוּאִ֖ים לִמְשֽׁוּבָתִ֑י וְאֶל־עַל֙ יִקְרָאֻ֔הוּ יַ֖חַד לֹ֥א יְרוֹמֵם׃

Verses 11:8-11: ...but God's love for His children, greater than any mortal father’s, stops Him from punishing them. Instead God “roars”, calling His people living far from the Land to return to it so He can settle them there.

Hosea 11:9

הושע י״א:ט

I will not act upon My fierce anger. I will not turn to destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not a man- the Holy One in your midst - I will not come into the city [to destroy] as an enemy.

לֹ֤א אֶֽעֱשֶׂה֙ חֲר֣וֹן אַפִּ֔י לֹ֥א אָשׁ֖וּב לְשַׁחֵ֣ת אֶפְרָ֑יִם כִּ֣י קל אָֽנֹכִי֙ וְלֹא־אִ֔ישׁ בְּקִרְבְּךָ֣ קָד֔וֹשׁ וְלֹ֥א אָב֖וֹא בְּעִֽיר׃

Verses 12:1-2: Unlike Judah to its south, Ephraim embitters God by paying tribute to Assyria and Egypt.

Hosea 12:2

הושע י״ב:ב

Ephraim shepherds wind and pursues the east wind. All day, he increases lies and desolation. They make a covenant (alliance) with Assyria, and oil is transported [as payment] to Egypt.

אֶפְרַ֜יִם רֹעֶ֥ה ר֙וּחַ֙ וְרֹדֵ֣ף קָדִ֔ים כָּל־הַיּ֕וֹם כָּזָ֥ב וָשֹׁ֖ד יַרְבֶּ֑ה וּבְרִית֙ עִם־אַשּׁ֣וּר יִכְרֹ֔תוּ וְשֶׁ֖מֶן לְמִצְרַ֥יִם יוּבָֽל׃

Verses 12:3-7: God will also punish Judah for its sins. Both kingdoms should emulate their forefather Jacob's life-long relationship with God by looking to Him while acting kindly and justly...

Hosea 12:5

הושע י״ב:ה

[Jacob] strove with an angel and prevailed. [The angel] wept, pleading to [Jacob]. [God] found [Jacob] in Bethel, and spoke with us there.

וָיָּ֤שַׂר אֶל־מַלְאָךְ֙ וַיֻּכָ֔ל בָּכָ֖ה וַיִּתְחַנֶּן־ל֑וֹ בֵּֽית־אֵל֙ יִמְצָאֶ֔נּוּ וְשָׁ֖ם יְדַבֵּ֥ר עִמָּֽנוּ׃

Verses 12:8-12: ...but Ephraim adopts Canaanite practices of deceitful trade, oppression, and idolatry. God rejects Ephraim’s claim of innocence and will punish them, causing them to dwell in tents as they used to.

Hosea 12:9

הושע י״ב:ט

Ephraim said, “Yet I have become rich and found wealth for myself. In all my labors they shall find no iniquity in me that was a sin.”

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֶפְרַ֔יִם אַ֣ךְ עָשַׁ֔רְתִּי מָצָ֥אתִי א֖וֹן לִ֑י כָּל־יְגִיעַ֕י לֹ֥א יִמְצְאוּ־לִ֖י עָוֺ֥ן אֲשֶׁר־חֵֽטְא׃


The Talmud describes how God entered into exile along with His people, and will not return until they do.

Taanit 5a

תענית ה עמוד א

R. Nahman said to R. Yitzhak: “What does Scripture (Hosea 11:9) mean, ‘In your midst is the Holy One, and I will not enter a city’: because the Holy One is in your midst, He will not enter a city?”

R. Yitzhak said to R. Nahman: “Here is what R. Yohanan said: ‘The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: “I shall not enter Jerusalem above [in heaven] until I enter Jerusalem below [on Earth].”’”

א"ל רב נחמן לר' יצחק מאי דכתיב (הושע יא, ט) בקרבך קדוש ולא אבוא בעיר משום דבקרבך קדוש לא אבוא בעיר

א"ל הכי א"ר יוחנן אמר הקב"ה לא אבוא בירושלים של מעלה עד שאבוא לירושלים של מטה

First used in September 1948, when painted on an Israel Air Force plane carrying Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, a phrase taken from the Haftarah’s opening verse (11:7, above) has long been the name and logo of Israel’s national airline, El Al. 

Thanks to Rabbi Jack Savdie of Congregation Ahaba Ve’Ahava, Brooklyn, NY, for his assistance with Sephardic practices.

With emendations, all translations are from To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email