This week’s haftara is the book of Ovadia, the shortest book of the Tanach. Just as two weeks ago our haftara emphasized the tension between Yaakov and Eisav, last week focused on Ephraim, the son of Yosef, and this week we again learn about Eisav. The vision of Ovadia is directed towards Eisav, predicting his ultimate downfall as the children of Israel are at last ascendant and “to Hashem will go the sovereignty” (Ovadia 1:21).
The commentators emphasize that in order for Hashem’s sovereignty to be complete, the nations of the world will have to accept His authority over them. We anticipate that the descendants of Eisav, including Amalek, will be the last holdouts. Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla in his Sha’are Ora notes that in our morning prayers (before Az Yashir), we connect this verse with the prophecy of Zecharia, “And on that day Hashem will be the king over all the earth… He will be one and His name one.” He explains that the victory over Amalek, the judgment of “Har Eisav” (the mountain of Eisav) by those of Israel who were saved, is the great victory to usher in the redemption. He understands this har to be the power in the hands of the wicked to resist the power of good, the will of Hashem, and the destiny of Israel in carrying out His will.
The Zohar on this week’s parsha (I:170-171) connects this nefarious power of Eisav with the experience of Yaakov wrestling the Malach, understood by the Sages to be the Malach of Eisav. The Zohar explains that when Yaakov is injured in his thigh, causing him to limp, this signifies a weakening of the power of the prophets and in particular their inability to foresee and anticipate the ultimate fall of Eisav. The only prophets who are immune to this weakness are Moshe, who is not affected by the curse at all, and Ovadia, who by virtue of the fact that he is a convert from among the descendants of Eisav, is able to overcome this power that is associated with his ancestry.
Ovadia addresses himself to his former kinsmen, the people of Edom, advising them that the day will come when they will be judged and held accountable for all of their misdeeds against Israel and for the long exile that they precipitated. On that day the power of Eisav will be broken, and thus the sovereignty of Hashem over all of His creation can at last be complete for there will be no one left to challenge Him.
There will come a day, Ovadia wants us to know, when only the descendants of Eisav – the heirs to the Roman Empire on the one hand and the Amalekites on the other – will still oppose Hashem’s power and the restored rights of His people Israel. Once their resistance has been broken, then the obstacles that had blocked the process of redemption will be lifted.