Reuben Ebrahimoff




The Haftorah for Parshat Vayishlach

A Prediction of Edom’s Downfall

Read from the book of Ovadiah, the fourth book in Trai-Assar (Twelve Prophets), 1: 1-21

The connection of the Haftorah to the Parsha: In the Parsha, Yaakov, Jacob, was left wounded and limping as a result of his confrontation with his brother Eisav’s (Esau’s) Guardian Angel. Similarly, Eisav's descendants (the Edomoites) would torture and hurt Bnei Yisrael both in body and spirit. However, just as Yaakov emerged victorious, so will the Jewish people.

Yakov struggling with the angel of Eisav

The storyline of this week’s Haftorah: The Prophet Ovadiah was born an Edomite, an enemy nation of Israel. Ovadiah converted to Judaism and experiences a prophecy concerning the future demise of Edom’s descendants, the Roman Empire. The Edomites were the descendant’s of Jacob’s brother, Esau. Even though Ovadiah was surrounded by both the evil King Ahab & Queen Jezebel, he stayed faithful to Hashem; therefore Hashem blessed him with this prophecy against Edom. Ovadia’s prophecy speaks of how the nations of the world will proclaim war against Edom. As a result of Edom's arrogance, the prophet predicts that they, the Edomites, will eventually be humiliated. In addition, Edom will be deceived by its enemies and then their enemies will plunder them. Edom's land will become desolate, because of the enmity they showed to the descendents of Yakov (Jacob). Edom mistreated its brother nation, Bnei Yisroel, and thus will be repaid measure for measure. Bnei Yisroel will then be freed from their exile, and will return to the land of Israel with all its borders restored. Finally, Hashem's kingdom will be established forever.

The grave of Ovadiah Hanavi (the prophet) in Israel

Ovadia’s Biography:

  • The meaning of his name is "worshipper" or "Servant of G-d".
  • Born a gentile, he was a ger (convert) from Edom. He lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
  • Was a very G-d fearing man. Ovadiah belonged to the court of the evil King Achav and Queen Jezebel who ruled over Israel. It was the King and Queen that brought in Phoenician & Pagan idols to Israel. They also wanted to destroy all the prophets of Israel. Risking his life to save the prophets, Ovadiah hid 50 prophets in one cave. Then he placed 50 more prophets into another cave to protect them. (Lesson: Don't put all your eggs in one basket). Thus, he merited the gift of Prophecy. Ovadiah, being wealthy at that time, tried to preserve the hidden prophets by paying for their food and oil (for light) with his own money. However, he eventually went into debt and had to borrow money from the Royal family. Ovadiah died young. He left a widow, whom we met earlier this year in the Haftorah of Vayeira. Ovadia’s widow was actually the woman that Elisha helped with the miracle of oil, in order to pay off the debts Ovadia had accumulated to the court of the King Achav. The King’s son had come to collect the money that was owed. When she explained she had none, the King’s son mercilessly threatened to take her two children. Elisha’s miracle prevented that from happening.
  • Wrote his own book, the shortest one in the Tanach: It's only one chapter long consisting of just 21 sentences.

Famous phrases: Ovadiah 1:21, “Ve'alu mosheim behar tzion lishpot et har esav v'hayetah laHashem hamlucha.” The final sentence in the book of Ovadiah says, "And saviors will ascend Mount Zion, to judge the mountain of Esav, and the Kingdom will be Hashem's", This is said on Shabbat just after Az Yashir and just before Nishmat Kol Chai.

The Edomites & their Artwork

Credit: Israeli Antiquities Authority

Credit: Israeli Antiquities Authority


Haftorahman’s lesson of the week: The prophet Ovadiah sets an example for all Jews. He was not born a Jew and he worked for the evil royal couple (King Achav and Queen Jezebel). It would have been very easy and natural for him to be influenced by his surroundings. However, he chose not to live his life that way; he chose to convert. Ovadiah demonstrated that whatever the circumstances, every person has the power to realize what is spiritually possible for them. He chose to convert. Then he chose to spend his fortune on supporting the only 100 remaining men that kept alive the Torah as observant Jews. We should stop and think, “Why does it have to be that way?" Ovadiah wasn't limited by the past, so why should we be? So what if he didn't come from a religious background? I can learn to read Hebrew; I can say a blessing before I eat food; I can keep kosher; I can put on Teffilin in the morning; I can go to Services; I can stop speaking Lashon Hara (slander); I can become Shomer Shabbat; I can say Shema Yisrael before I go to sleep; I can go to a Shiur to learn this week's Parsha (P.S. if you have read this far, you already are learning Torah, so give yourself a little credit and keep going). This week, make up your mind that you will pick a mitzvah to work on with the purpose of building your relationship with Hashem.

A scene depicting the Israelite King Ahab & Queen Jezebel taken from the walls of the ancient Duro-Europus Synagogue in Syria

Timeline: This Haftorah happened about 2500 years ago.


Credits: Ephraim Waxman’s Dor L’Dor, Feldheim Publishers 2006


Map: This Haftorah occurs in Northern Israel.

Edom was located to the SE  of Israel
Credits: Holman Bible Atlas 1998

Written by: Reuben Gavriel Ben Nissim Ebrahimoff 5769-2008