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Toledot: Malachi 1:1-2:7

With seventy years of Babylonian exile receding into history, the second and third generations of Jews living in Judah and Jerusalem, along with the partially rebuilt Temple at their center, were losing spiritual steam. The grand redemptive promises of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah had not been fulfilled; God’s presence was not palpable.

The Bible’s final prophet, Malachi, begins his book and this Haftarah by reminding the Judeans that, as described in the Parashah, God lovingly and eternally chose them, the descendants of Jacob, over his brother, Esau, and his descendants, Edom, whom God hates and destroys.

Although the people question His providence, the present decline is not His responsibility but theirs. Malachi focuses strongly on priestly misdeeds. The people and priests disrespect God, the Temple, and its altar by sacrificing stolen and inferior animals even as they expect God’s favor. In contrast to these dismal priestly realities, the Haftarah concludes with a stirring vision of how the exalted tribe of Levi ought to behave in light of God’s special covenant of peace and life with them.

The prophet’s repeated literary pattern reflects the confusion of his time: [A] a complaint is lodged; [B] a reply, often sarcastic, is offered; [C] one side elaborates its point; [D] the prophet concludes with a rebuke or promise.

Haftarah Breakdown 

Verses 1:1-2: Although God loves Jacob’s descendants over Esau’s, Israel questions His love.

Malachi 1:2

[A] "I have loved you [Israel]," said the Lord.  [B] You said, "How have You loved us?" [C] "Was not Esau a brother to Jacob?", says the Lord, [D] "yet I loved Jacob."

אָהַ֤בְתִּי אֶתְכֶם֙ אָמַ֣ר ה' וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֖ם בַּמָּ֣ה אֲהַבְתָּ֑נוּ הֲלוֹא־אָ֨ח עֵשָׂ֤ו לְיַֽעֲקֹב֙ נְאֻם־ה' וָאֹהַ֖ב אֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃

Verses 1:3-5: God detests Esau’s Edomite descendants, cursing them with eternal destruction even if they rebuild. This destruction will allow Israel to see God’s power over the entire world.

Malachi 1:4

[A] Edom will say, "We have been destroyed but we will return and rebuild the desolation!" [B] [But] the Lord of Hosts declares, "They shall build, but I will throw down! [D] They shall be called, ‘The Border of Evil, the people whom the Lord has forever cursed’!"

כִּֽי־תֹאמַ֨ר אֱד֜וֹם רֻשַּׁ֗שְׁנוּ וְנָשׁוּב֙ וְנִבְנֶ֣ה חֳרָב֔וֹת כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ ה' צְבָקוֹת הֵ֥מָּה יִבְנ֖וּ וַאֲנִ֣י אֶהֱר֑וֹס וְקָרְא֤וּ לָהֶם֙ גְּב֣וּל רִשְׁעָ֔ה וְהָעָ֛ם אֲשֶׁר־זָעַ֥ם ה' עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

Verses 1:6-10: God expects respect from the Temple’s priests. Their physically defective sacrifices would be disgraceful as gifts for a powerful official. God prefers closing the Temple over such defilement of its altar.

Malachi 1:8

[C] "When you present a blind [animal] to sacrifice, is there nothing wrong? When you present a lame or a sick [animal], is there nothing wrong? [D] Offer it to your governor! Would he accept you or would he favor you?" says the Lord of Hosts.

וְכִֽי־תַגִּשׁ֨וּן עִוֵּ֤ר לִזְבֹּ֙חַ֙ אֵ֣ין רָ֔ע וְכִ֥י תַגִּ֛ישׁוּ פִּסֵּ֥חַ וְחֹלֶ֖ה אֵ֣ין רָ֑ע הַקְרִיבֵ֨הוּ נָ֜א לְפֶחָתֶ֗ךָ הֲיִּרְצְךָ֙ א֚וֹ הֲיִשָּׂ֣א פָנֶ֔יךָ אָמַ֖ר ה' צְבָקוֹת׃

Verse 1:11-14: The rest of humanity who fear God and constantly offer pure, perfect sacrifices to Him. Yet the Judeans and their priests desecrate God, the Temple’s altar and its service by sacrificing animals that are blemished, stolen, or that reflect their owners’ disrespect for God’s greatness.

Malachi 1:14

[D] "Cursed is a deceiver whose flock has an male yet vows and sacrifices a blemished one to the Lord.  For I am a great King," says the Lord of Hosts, "and My Name is feared among the nations."

וְאָר֣וּר נוֹכֵ֗ל וְיֵ֤שׁ בְּעֶדְרוֹ֙ זָכָ֔ר וְנֹדֵ֛ר וְזֹבֵ֥חַ מָשְׁחָ֖ת לַֽאדֹקי כִּי֩ מֶ֨לֶךְ גָּד֜וֹל אָ֗נִי אָמַר֙ ה' צְבָקוֹת וּשְׁמִ֖י נוֹרָ֥א בַגּוֹיִֽם׃

Verses 2:1-3: The priests’ disrespect prompts God to disrespect them and to curse their blessings.

Malachi 2:2

[A] "If you will not hear, and if you will not lay it to heart, to give glory to my name," says the Lord of Hosts, "then I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. [C] Indeed, I have cursed them already, because you do not lay it to heart.”

אִם־לֹ֣א תִשְׁמְע֡וּ וְאִם־לֹא֩ תָשִׂ֨ימוּ עַל־לֵ֜ב לָתֵ֧ת כָּב֣וֹד לִשְׁמִ֗י אָמַר֙ ה' צְבָקוֹת וְשִׁלַּחְתִּ֤י בָכֶם֙ אֶת־הַמְּאֵרָ֔ה וְאָרוֹתִ֖י אֶת־בִּרְכֽוֹתֵיכֶ֑ם וְגַם֙ אָרוֹתִ֔יהָ כִּ֥י אֵינְכֶ֖ם שָׂמִ֥ים עַל־לֵֽב׃

Verses 2:4-7: God will keep His covenant of life and peace with the Levites and priests as long as they act as His angelic messengers, live according to His word, and inspire others to avoid sin and seek Him.

Malachi 2:7

[D] For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge and they should seek teaching from his mouth, for he is a messenger of the Lord of Hosts.

כִּֽי־שִׂפְתֵ֤י כֹהֵן֙ יִשְׁמְרוּ־דַ֔עַת וְתוֹרָ֖ה יְבַקְשׁ֣וּ מִפִּ֑יהוּ כִּ֛י מַלְאַ֥ךְ ה'־צְבָקוֹת הֽוּא׃


Maimonidies derives the proper manner to rejoice on major festivals from the Haftarah.

Mishneh Torah, Rest on a Holiday 6:18

While eating and drinking [on Yom Tov], one must feed the stranger, orphan, widow, along with other poor unfortunates. But one who locks his courtyard doors, eating and drinking with his wife and children but not giving food and drink to the poor and to embittered souls - this not rejoicing in a commandment but rejoicing in one’s stomach… Such joy is a disgrace for them, as stated (Malachi 2:3), "I [God] will spread dung on your faces, the dung of your festivals."

וּכְשֶׁהוּא אוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה חַיָּב לְהַאֲכִיל לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה עִם שְׁאָר הָעֲנִיִּים הָאֻמְלָלִים. אֲבָל מִי שֶׁנּוֹעֵל דַּלְתוֹת חֲצֵרוֹ וְאוֹכֵל וְשׁוֹתֶה הוּא וּבָנָיו וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֵינוֹ מַאֲכִיל וּמַשְׁקֶה לַעֲנִיִּים וּלְמָרֵי נֶפֶשׁ אֵין זוֹ שִׂמְחַת מִצְוָה אֶלָּא שִׂמְחַת כְּרֵסוֹ... וְשִׂמְחָה כָּזוֹ קָלוֹן הִיא לָהֶם שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלאכי ב ג) "וְזֵרִיתִי פֶרֶשׁ עַל פְּנֵיכֶם פֶּרֶשׁ חַגֵּיכֶם":

The Talmud describes the proper persona of a Torah teacher from the Haftarah’s final verse:

Chagigah 15b

Rabba bar bar Ḥana said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: “What is the meaning of (Malachi 2:7), ‘For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek Torah from his mouth; for he is an angel of the Lord of hosts’? It teaches: If a rabbi is similar to an angel of the Lord of hosts, they should seek Torah from his mouth; but if not, they should not seek Torah from his mouth.”

אָמַר רַבָּה בַּר בַּר חָנָה אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: מַאי דִּכְתִיב: ״כִּי שִׂפְתֵי כֹהֵן יִשְׁמְרוּ דַעַת וְתוֹרָה יְבַקְשׁוּ מִפִּיהוּ כִּי מַלְאַךְ ה׳ צְבָאוֹת הוּא״. אִם דּוֹמֶה הָרַב לְמַלְאַךְ ה׳ צְבָאוֹת — יְבַקְּשׁוּ תּוֹרָה מִפִּיהוּ, וְאִם לָאו — אַל יְבַקְּשׁוּ תּוֹרָה מִפִּיהוּ