Understanding the Special Haftarah for Parashat Miketz in a Time of War

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

The special Haftarah (Melachim 1 3-15) for this week’s Parashas Miketz is rarely read due to its unique timing requirements, yet it offers profound insights that resonate particularly during this time of war. For this special Haftarah to be read, two conditions must be met: 1) the first day of Rosh HaShanah (and Shemini Atzeret) must fall on Shabbat, and 2) Cheshvan and Kislev must both be 29 days long. This rare alignment won’t occur again for another seventeen years, making the Haftarah’s message all the more compelling.

Connecting Wise Leaders: Yosef and Shlomo

The Haftarah narrates the famous story of King Shlomo’s wise judgment between two women claiming motherhood of a baby. This choice of Haftarah, on the surface, seems to compare the wisdom attributed to Yosef by Pharaoh in Parashas Miketz (“There is none as wise and discerning as you”) with that of Shlomo (“the wisest man ever”). However, a deeper connection lies in the context of Shlomo’s own request for wisdom.

In a dream, God offers Shlomo any wish. Unlike Pharaoh, who dreamt of wealth and sought its interpretation, Shlomo asks for “wisdom to judge Your people justly.” This aligns with the Haftarah’s opening, “And Shlomo awoke, and behold, it was a dream,” echoing Pharaoh’s experience: “And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream”. This contrast highlights the difference between seeking worldly riches and pursuing Divine guidance for leadership.

The Significance of Shlomo’s Wise Judgment

The story of Mishpat Shlomo is significant for its depiction of the complexities of leadership. Without reading the first half of the story (not included in the Haftarah), we miss the crucial point: leaders often face tough choices, and they require wisdom in choosing correctly. Though leaders may not receive Divine pronouncements like Shlomo Hamelech, they can still pursue wisdom through prayer, surrounding themselves with capable advisors, and seeking counsel beyond political interests.

Davening for Wisdom and Right Choices

Wisdom was Shlomo’s reward for recognizing its crucial role in leadership. When we value wisdom, we learn from our experiences and make better choices, leading to personal and national redemption. This prayer for wisdom, woven into “Atah Chonen” (“Grant us from Your wisdom, understanding, and knowledge”) in the Amidah, extends to all facing difficult decisions, from formal leaders to families and individuals. It becomes particularly relevant for leaders in these times of war, where Divine guidance is most needed. In difficult times we should add onto our prayer ותקנם בעצה טובה מלפניך.

Seeking Divine Guidance in Times of Challenge

This Haftarah, rarely read and this week to be read during war time, emphasizes wisdom as a Divine gift, reminding us to value it for navigating life’s challenges and contributing to positive outcomes. As we face unprecedented challenges, our leaders, and all of us, must rely on Hashem for guidance to make the right choices that lead to personal and national redemption. It’s crucial to remember the word of Hashem to Zerubbabel: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit —said Hashem of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). With Hashem’s help we shall succeed בע”ה נצליח וננצח.  

As this week’s special Haftarah reminds us through Shlomo Hamelech’s example, true leadership requires humility before Hashem and commitment to act with wisdom and justice – may we be blessed to have wise leaders with humility before Hashem.

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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