Rabbi Oury Cherki
Va'era (Haftarah) - Kingdoms at War
Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.
The main message of the Haftarah for this week’s portion (Ezekiel 28:25-29:21), aside from the discussion of the punishment that will befall Egypt which is similar to the plagues in the Torah portion, is the lesson it teaches us about international struggles. This includes the story of the rise and fall of various empires. In ancient times, the status of Babylon and Egypt were similar to the current positions of Europe and the United States. The final form of human civilization as a whole depended on which one of the two nations would be victorious. Soon after the events described in the Haftarah, Persia would reshuffle the deck and completely change the situation in the Middle East, but at that time the great struggle was between Babylon and Egypt.
The Holy One, Blessed be He, is "the master of dreams" That is, He utilizes historical events as a way to advance the broad events in the world on the way to "tikun", moral improvement. He is not interested in having wars, which cause the greatest destruction that has ever been designed by man in his evil ways, but after the fact the Divine guidance utilizes them to build up a more advanced stage (see Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Orot, page 13).
Egypt was the arch-type of a rich world power which makes a political and military covenant with the nation of Israel. The prophets are united in their opposition to the idea of depending on "reeds for support" (see 29:6), insisting that Egypt will not be reliable during a crisis. Egypt maintains an unchanging form of human society and thus blocks the way for a new world to develop. However, the Babylonian alternative is not very encouraging from the moral point of view. Babylon conquers other nations in order to satisfy its own needs, so much so that the prophet paints a sarcastic picture of the conquest of Egypt by the King of Babylon as financial compensation for the conquest of Tzor! (29:18-20).
With the success of Babylon in the background, the alternative of Israel breaks out and rises up, a possibility that is very necessary in order to bring humanity back to an ethical basis. The prophet predicts what will happen when Babylon is victorious: "On that day I will cause the strength of the House of Israel to blossom, and your speech will be heard among them, and they will know that I am G-d" [29:21]. And in fact Babylon was conquered by Persia, and Koresh made his declaration, which established the return to Zion during the days of the Second Temple.
Only prophecy that is necessary for later generations is written down, and Ezekiel’s prophecy is relevant for our time. As our exile came to an end, we saw how the Balfour Declaration was given as huge empires fell, when the other nations formally recognized our right to return to the land of our fathers and to establish our country, as in ancient times. This is an example of what we were taught by the sages: When you see governments struggling against each other, know that the feet of Messiah are not far behind (Bereishit Rabba 42:4).