Vayishlach – Reality Check

This week’s haftorah for the Torah portion of Vayishlach is the entire book of Ovadiah. Ovadiah was one of the twelve Minor Prophets. The gemara in Sanhedrin 39b says that Ovadiah merited to have prophecy because he hid 100prophets from the evil king Achav. The Gemara also points out that the posuk in Melachim Alef perek 18 mentions Ovadiah as being a very G-D fearing Jew, which is a description better than Avraham merited; he does not have the word very included  when he was referred to as G-D fearing. (Click here for Hebrew text.)

on the first pasuk in Ovadiah asks: “Why does Ovadiah prophesize about Edom and he didn’t give prophesy about anything else? The Sages said that he was an Edomite convert. Hashem said, ‘From them and with them I will bring upon them.’ Ovadiah shall come who lived amongst two wicked people, Achav and Izevel, and did not learn from there ways and he shall pay back retribution from upon the wicked Esav who lived amongst two righteous people, Yitzchok and Rivka, and did not learn from their ways (Sanhedrin 39b).” (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

Measure for measure, Ovadiah was sent by Hashem to prophesize about Edom, for just as he lived amongst a wicked king and queen, Achav and Izevel, and did not learn from their ways, so too Esav, whose descendants are Edom, lived amongst his righteous parents, Yitzchok and Rivka, and did not learn from their ways. Not only that, but the Maharsha in Sanhedrin says: “The fact that Ovadiah was an Edomite convert gave more credence to the prophecy, for Ovadiah was from them to testify
about them.” (Click here for Hebrew text.)

What is quite incredible is that Ovadiah is attributed with the punishment and downfall of Edom, even though it had not happened yet. Rashi on the last pasuk of Ovadiah says that those who will in the future lead Israel out of exile will come to Har Tzion, from which they will complete the conquest of the archenemy, Esav, whose descendants were responsible for the current exile. In fact, Rashi concludes by saying that Hashem’s kingdom will not be complete until He seeks retribution against Amalek. How could Ovadiah have been given credit for Edom’s downfall to the extent that he is even equated in Sanhedrin with King David, who actually defeated Moav, whom King David was descended from? (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)

We see from here a whole new level of belief in prophesy. Not only do we have to believe that Hashem’s prophets are true, as the Rambam said in the sixth of The Thirteen Principles of Faith: “I believe with complete faith that all the words of the prophets are true,” but prophesy is also reality, to the degree that Ovadiah is actually attributed with Edom’s downfall, even if it had not happen yet, because he prophesied about it.

We mention in pesukai d’zimrah by the end of Az Yashir every day the last pasuk of Ovadiah: “The saviors will ascend Har Tzion to judge Esav’s mountain, and the kingdom will be Hashem’s.” We have an opportunity every day in our davening to reinforce this belief and make Ovadiah’s prophesy a reality for ourselves.

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