Shabbat Shalom! This week instead of discussing the Torah portion, I have decided to pivot and talk instead about the Haftorah. The word Haftorah itself means to conclude. The Haftorah always comes from the book of prophets. The origin of reading a Haftorah is somewhat obscure, however according to the Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 29b our sages believe that the Haftorah should resemble the message of the parshat hashavuah (the weekly Torah portion). The Haftorah read in each congregation on Shabbat are not necessarily the same, the Ashkenazi Haftorah selection may be different from the Sephardi Haftorah which may be different still from the Chabad Haftorah and so on and so forth…
During the Rabbinic formation, there were some communities that opposed any text outside of the five book of Moses, our Torah. The Rabbis ultimately believed that having the Haftorah facilitated a deeper moral and ethical conversation to take place, which is one explanation for this Shabbat tradition that carries on today. Another explanation for including a Haftorah each Shabbat is in recognition of the times in our history when the reading from the five books of Moses was prohibited by the governing peoples where Jews lived.
In this week’s Haftorah, Mishpatim, we learn that God communicates to the prophet Jeremiah informing him that because the Jews have transgressed His instructions, God will deliver them into the hands of their enemies. This is the first occurrence of the word yehudi (Jew). In Jeremiah 24:9, “That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman go free: that none should make bondmen of them, even of a Jew his brother…” Initially the people adhered to God’s commandment to release servants upon their seventh year of service. However, there was an apparent change of heart as all the servants were called back. This Haftarah parallels all of the rules concerning servants, the rights of people, and terms of release. Though conjecture, it is still important to ponder why this change of heart occurred and why God’s answer was so severe.
Starting the Shalom Home has brought up many discussions on how we treat caregivers. Caregivers are not thought of in our society as skilled workers. There is often very little respect or recognition for all they do. They are paid minimum wage or very close to it for one of the greatest responsibilities that exist – caring for vulnerable individuals. When planning the business, it was a priority to value these caregivers. How do you value employees? Compensation. You give people a living wage and provide them with benefits. It is important that caregivers are treated equitably and fairly. That they feel their work and compassion is valued. This is how Shalom Home treats everyone.
God also speaks about retribution. In this Haftorah he mentions he will allow for Jerusalem to be destroyed and for the Jews to be killed for turning back from allowing their manservants and maidservants to be free. This is the very essence of the prophets, to strive to turn the will of the people back to God. Jeremiah was unsuccessful; he was against the whole nation but he paved the way for Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah. The Book of the prophets is still applicable today. So long as people do not treat one another as human beings, there is a need for Torah and Haftorah in our lives. Shalom Home strives to live the message of the prophets. To be a beacon of freedom in an oppressive world. When one thinks of assisted living it is often thought of as the place people go to die. It is our commitment to the Jewish people and to our employees to offer Shalom Home l’chaim – to and for life. We are meant to live by the commandments, not die by them. Similarly we are charged to be considerate, compassionate, and concerned inhabitants of this world.
Shabbat Shalom – may we heed these words and lessons so that we may live in a world of peace and prosperity for all!