Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26.

In this week's haftorah, Jeremiah describes the punishment that would befall the Jews because they continued enslaving their Hebrew slaves after six years of service—transgressing the commandment discussed in the beginning of this week's Torah reading.

King Zedekiah made a pact with the people according to which they would all release their Jewish slaves after six years of service—as commanded in the Torah. Shortly thereafter, the Jews reneged on this pact and forced their freed slaves to re-enter into service. G‑d then dispatched Jeremiah with a message of rebuke: "Therefore, so says the Lord: You have not hearkened to Me to proclaim freedom, every one to his brother and every one to his neighbor; behold I proclaim freedom to you, says the Lord, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine, and I will make you an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth." The haftorah then vividly depicts the destruction and devastation that the Jews would experience.

The haftorah concludes with words of reassurance: "Just as I would not cancel My covenant with the day and night and I would not cancel the laws of heaven and earth, so too I will not cast away the descendents of Jacob . . . for I will return their captivity [to their land] and have mercy on them."

Nutshell for Parshat Shekalim Haftorah

II Kings 11:17-12:17.

The Parshat Shekalim Torah reading discusses the annual obligation for every Jew to give half a shekel to the Temple coffers. The haftorah discusses the efforts of King Jehoash (9th century BCE) to earmark these communal funds for the upkeep of the first Holy Temple.

Background for this haftorah: Because of an alliance with the Northern Kingdom of Israel, idol worship had become rampant in the erstwhile righteous Davidic dynasty-controlled Southern Kingdom. When the king of the Southern Kingdom, Ahaziah, was killed, his mother Athaliah murdered the remainder of the royal family and seized the throne. During her brief reign, she actively promoted idolatry. Unbeknownst to her, one of Ahaziah's sons, a small baby, was hidden and survived. When he became seven years of age, Jehoiada the High Priest led a successful revolt against Athaliah, and installed the child king, Jehoash, as the new King of Judea.

The haftorah begins with the new king renewing the people's covenant with G‑d. They destroyed all the pagan altars and statues and appointed officers to oversee the Holy Temple. Jehoash then instructed the priests regarding all the funds that were donated to the Temple. According to his plan, all the funds would be appropriated by the priests. In return, the priests would pay for the regular maintenance of the Temple. In the 23rd year of Jehoash's reign, the priests neglected to properly maintain the Temple. Jehoash then ordered that all monies should be placed in a special box that was placed near the Temple altar, and these funds were given directly to the workers and craftsmen who maintained the Temple.