Shabbat Parashat Metzora| 5764
Checking the Pocket for Next Year’s GrainHarav Yosef Carmel
Chazal instituted to read, as the haftara of Shabbat Hagadol, the prophecy of Malachi, which contains the following famous pasuk. “Behold, I am sending to you Eliya[hu] the prophet before the coming of the great and fearful day of Hashem” (Malachi 3:23). There is no need to explain the connection between the upcoming redemption and Pesach. However, another connection between the haftara and Pesach can be found in the siddur of Rav Yaakov Emden (pg. 226a).
Another pasuk in the haftara is: “Bring the ma’aser (tithes) to the storage house … and test Me in this … if I will not open up the windows of the heavens and pour out for you blessings with no limits” (Malachi 3:10). The navi’s words are highly unusual in two aspects, as pointed out in Ta’anit 9a. One is the invitation to test Hashem to see if He will “deliveron” His promise, which is normally forbidden (see Devarim 6:16). The other is the scope of the blessing, which is without limit.
It is perhaps for this reason that Chazal spoke in such strong terms about the mitzva of tzedaka, which is so closely related to ma’aser. “One who does charity is greater than all of the sacrifices” (Sukka 49b). “R. Akiva said … Ma’asrot are a protection of wealth” (Avot 3:13). Even the entry of the kohen gadol into the Holy of Holies was in the merit of ma’aser, as both our pasuk and the one in Acharei Mot, which introduces the description of the kohen gadol’s entry, use the word “b’zot” prominently.
Chazal teach us that one of the four times a year that the world is judged is on Pesach, in regard to grain (Rosh Hashana 1:2). Grain is the symbol of livelihood, and indeed a person’s livelihood depends on the tzedaka he gives. Tosafot (Ta’anit 9a) cites a midrash which says: “‘Give ma’aser from all the grain of your planting, which goes out from the field year by year’ ” (Devarim 14:22). This means that your field will only produce according to the way you gave ma’aser in the previous year.
According to all of this, we see that there is an additional level of preparation for the period of Pesach, for which the haftara prepares us. If we desire that the great task of ensuring our livelihood will be successfully accomplished, we should remember that we can test Hashem by giving charity appropriately and waiting for the very special blessings to shower down upon us.
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