We often sit through the haftorah without understanding what it is all about. “Why do we read the haftorah anyway?” we sometimes think. Krias HaTorah of the parsha makes sense—we read a portion of the Chumash each week so that over the course of the year we have completed the entire Torah. But what is the goal of reading the haftorah? We know that it is not so we can finish Navi on some kind of schedule. What then is the purpose of the haftorah?
The Levush (284:1) writes that Chazal enacted the obligation to read the haftorah during the time of Antiyochus who forbade reading the Torah in public. As he had not forbidden them from reading the Navi, Chazal instituting reading a portion of the Navi which related to that week’s parsha. They divided it into seven aliyos, like Krias HaTorah, so that Jews would study some aspect of Torah in public and the practice of reading from the Torah should not be totally forgotten. Even after Antiyochus’s decree was annulled, Chazal maintained the practice.
Sefer HaPardes writes that Jews used to learn Chumash and Navi immediately after davening every day, but poverty and people’s work schedules kept them from being able to devote so much time to learning. As a result the study of Navi was neglected. On Shabbosim and Yomim Tovim, when there is more time, Chazal instituted that Navi be studied after the reading of the Chumash. Though Sefer HaPardes does not mention the importance of a link to the parsha, it would seem that in this way people would study it with greater attention and interest.
What then is the goal of the haftorah? According to the Levush and Sefer HaPardes, the purpose is for us to become familiar with the insights and themes contained in Navi. Unfortunately, we don’t always get the opportunity to study and understand the haftorah properly even when we follow the reading closely. Thus, this column is meant to help us understand, learn, and know Navi- and not merely superficially read or listen to the reading.
Lessons The haftorah of Parshas Naso relates the story of the birth of Shimshon the nazir, which obviously relates to the halachos of nazir mentioned in the parsha.
Almost the entire Shimshon story occurs in the area of Eretz Yisrael called Aza, now known as Gaza.
The Tzitz Eliezer (Volume 7, siman 48, perek 12) discusses whether Gaza is including in the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael and is surprised that anyone would have any doubts. He cites a Gemara in Shabbos (145b) where it is taken for granted that Gaza is part of Eretz Yisrael.
“Rav Chiya bar Abba said to Rav Assi, ‘Why are the birds in Bavel fatter [than the ones in Israel]? Rav Assi replied, ‘Come to the desert in Gaza and I’ll show you how fat they are!’”
Rashi explains that the Gemara is clearly affirming Gaza’s status as part of Eretz Yisrael. Therefore, says the Tzitz Eliezer, the halachos of teruma, maaser, shemita and all other agricultural mitzvos relate to Gaza. The atonement one gets by being buried in Eretz Yisrael applies to Gaza, as does the mitzvah of yishuv ha’Aretz.
The Arvei Nachal (Parshas Shelach 26b) explains that successfully conquering the land of Israel does not depend on brute strength or military prowess. Rather, when Hashem created the world, he looked to the Torah as His blueprint. As the Zohar says, “Histakel b’Oraysa u’bara alma.” This means that every single part of this earth was created through an aspect of Torah. In order to take complete and permanent possession over any land, one must first study, relate to, and master the Torah which is specifically tied to that portion of land.
Although this concept is true about the entire world, Eretz Yisrael was given a much more powerful connection to the Torah. Given that the Torah in its highest form can be observed only there, every inch of Eretz Yisrael is securely tied to a specific section of Torah. One needs to master that section of Torah in order to conquer that part of Eretz Yisrael.
In this light, let us discuss what parts of Torah that Gaza profoundly relates to and how Shimshon’s struggles focused on Gaza’s role in Torah.