This week’s haftorah, read in conjunction with Shabbos Hagadol, depicts the Jewish scene prior to the advent of Mashiach. The last of the prophets, Malachi quotes the prevalent experiences which will transpire in those days. The masses of the Jewish people will reflect upon the financial successes of their generation and conclude that observing Judaism is a worthless experience. They will present their argument in the following manner. “What material gain has ever come from observing His commandments or from walking the path of the downtrodden people for His sake? We find ourselves constantly praising the agnostics and the wicked who have met much success and escaped the wrath of Above.” (3:14, 15) The impressive affluence of the unaffiliated Jews of the times will suggest an indifference on the side of Divine Providence, almost to the extent of condoning their inexcusable behavior.
What will be the response of the righteous? The prophet continues, “Then the G-d fearing people will speak amongst themselves and Hashem will hearken and listen and preserve the comments of those who revere Him and respect His name.” During those dark moments G-d fearing people will unfortunately be rare. However, those who will endure and persevere despite the influences of exile will remain steadfast in their faith. They will gather and strengthen one another sharing their true perspectives on life. They never sought tangible benefits and certainly didn’t anticipate any reward in this finite world (see Malbim 3:16) Their service of Hashem is based on reverence and respect rather than reward or material benefits. Therefore, the absence of fame and financial success will have no serious effect on their commitment to Hashem. They will patiently await the era of redemption with perfect faith, totally confident that the truth will be revealed.
Our Chazal in Yalkut Shimoni (591) explain this unwavering faith with the following parable. The queen was once challenged by her maidservant in the midst of the dark night. The latter argued that she was even more beautiful and attractive than the queen herself! The queen responded calmly, “Say all you wish now because tomorrow, in the light of the day the truth will be revealed.” In the same vein the righteous find themselves during exile in a serious imposition. In the absence of Hashem’s clear revelations anything can be presented or said. Allusions can easily be created to suggest that unethical and immoral paths are truly successful roads to eternal bliss. It requires men of great character and commitment to rise above common opinion and to view matters through the perspective of truth. The prophet says regarding these devout, “And for you who fear Hashem a gracious and healing sun will shine upon you.” (3:20) Those G-d fearing souls who firmly awaited the light of redemption will merit that light, the brilliant radiance of Hashem. The light of day will finally arrive and the clear perspectives of the righteous will become self evident truths.
In truth, these same discussions served as the preservation of the Jewish nation during their exile in Egypt. The Midrash Rabba (Shmos 5:18) informs us that the Jewish people observed Shabbos even during their servitude in Egypt. Moshe Rabbeinu had approached Pharaoh in defense of the Jews and successfully insisted that, for the preservation of any slave a day of rest is required. Moshe then conveniently chose the seventh day of the week as this day. The Midrash adds that the Jewish people efficiently utilized their rest day by studying special scrolls containing the promises of redemption. In the midst of their dark exile and under heavy persecution the Jews maintained their faith in Hashem. Although they saw no trace of Hashem in their personal lives they remained devoted to Him. The righteous didn’t question Hashem’s lack of involvement and were not influenced by the darkness of their exile. Although their wicked taskmasters seemed to be enjoying a comfortable life this did not sway the Jewish people to forsake Hashem. They, like their descendents prior to their redemption, gathered together and the G-d fearing encouraged one another with the truths of Hashem. They knew that the morning would eventually arrive and in the radiance of Hashem the truth would become self evident. And, in fact their belief and trust did produce the long awaited results as the Torah states, “For the Jewish people there was light in their settlement.” (Shmos 10:23) May we merit to experience this light speedily in our days. Chag Kasher V’Sameach!