Thoughts and Teachings: Haftarah for Metzora / Shabbat HaGadol

This week’s Parasha is Metzora, Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33, dealing the cleansing of tzara’a,often translated leprosy, however more aptly related to a condition of ritual impurity. I would like to call attention to just one interesting aspect of this Parasha that relates back to an earlier reading, Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36), specifically the anointing ritual that saw Aaron and his sons consecrated for service in the Tent of Meeting. At one point in the ritual we read:

Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. Moses slaughtered it, took some of its blood and put it on the tip of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the great toe of his right foot. Then Moses brought Aaron’s sons and put some of the blood on the tips of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet. Then Moses splashed the blood around on the altar. (Leviticus 8:22-24)

Now to this week’s reading, at the conclusion of the period cleansing for ritual impurity:

Then the kohen is to take some of the blood of the trespass offering and dab it on the tip of the right ear of the one being cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. (Leviticus 14:14)

As this is the same basic ritual, the implication is that the result is the same. Just as Aaron and his sons were ritually pure and able to minister before the LORD, so this one, who had been outside the camp due to his impurity, was brought not only back into the camp but had the same purity quality as the serving priest. His restoration was complete; there was no longer anything separating the restored one from his God.

This Shabbat is Shabbat HaGadol, the Sabbath before Pesach. The special Haftarah for this Shabbat is Malachi 3:4-24 (4:6 in English). The passage begins with a promise, “Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Adonai, as in days of antiquity and years of old,” (3:4) and ends with, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and terrible day of Adonai. He will turn the hearts of fathers to the children, and the hearts of children to their fathers—else I will come and strike the land with utter destruction,” (3:23-24). On the eve of Passover, the sacrifice is the focal point of the evening, with its blood providing the covering of the homes (Exodus 12:7), much like the blood set the priests and the ritually cleansed ones apart. Also, on the eve of Passover, at one point in the service, we open the door, in expectation of the arrival of Elijah the prophet who will prepare the hearts of the families before the final coming of Adonai. The stage for two promises is set in the contextual verse preceding this week’s passage:

“‘Behold, I am sending My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Suddenly He will come to His Temple—the Lord whom you seek—and the Messenger of the covenant—the One whom you desire—behold, He is coming,’ says Adonai-Tzva’ot. (Malachi 3:1)

It is Yeshua, the Messiah, that Adonai-Tzva’ot has sent to Israel, with a zeal for His Temple (John 2:17, Psalm 69:9). And it is Yeshua, whom the nation seeks today, whether they realize it or not. It is Yeshua’s shed blood that has provided a covering on the doorposts of their hearts. And it is through Yeshua that the sacrifices will be approved and the covenant will be affirmed as the prophet stated, “Remember the Torah of Moses My servant, whom I commanded at Horeb—statutes and ordinances for all Israel,” (Malachi 3:22).

While the coming Passover celebration reminds us all of the deliverance that the Lord accomplished with His mighty right hand (Exodus 32:11); it should also remind each of us of the Lamb who was slain (1 Corinthians 5:7) and the coming Messianic kingdom that will be announced one day by the prophet Elijah.

At the beginning of the Maggid, after the breaking of the Middle Matzah and the separation of the Afikoman from the Unity, the Matzah is uncovered and attention is directed to the Matzah while the following is recited:

This is the bread of affliction that our father ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and join the Pesach festival.

As we prepare for the coming celebration, let us prepare our hearts as we may be the ones who are hungry or are in need of what the Deliverer can and will provide, if we but ask Him. We should also be observant and open to the hunger and the needs of others who may not even know what that they need.

Shabbat Shalom