The haftarah1 for Vayishlach is the entire book of Ovadia (Obadiah), which is the only book of the Tanach that has just one chapter.

The haftarah tells of the terrible fate awaiting Edom, Esau’s children, when Moshiach comes.

Esau, whom we also call Edom, was the father of many nations including Amalek. They deserve this punishment for several reasons. Not only did they stand idly by when their brother Jacob’s children were attacked and exiled during the First Temple era; they pillaged and rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem, and they blocked the way, so that the Jewish refugees had no route to escape, causing the death of countless innocent people. Then Rome, descendant of Edom, attacked Israel approximately 500 years later with extreme hatred and brutality. They sent us into the current exile, the Exile of Edom, which we have been in for nearly 2,000 years.

Who is Edom today? Our sages tell us,2 that the nations of the world are all mixed up. However, it is a culture and an attitude that are clearly discernible. Over the years, we have suffered by the hands of Edom, in many European countries.

The Attributes of Esau

Esau would deceive his father, pretending to be observant, but he was far from it. Esau is compared to a pig. A kosher animal has two kosher signs: They ruminate and have cloven hooves. A pig is one of the only animals that has cloven hooves, but does not ruminate. Yet when it sits, it sticks its feet out in front of him in deceit, as if to say: “Look at me, I have cloven hooves; I am kosher.”

A second attribute of Esau is his coldness towards G‑dliness. This is something we see today as we experience a barrage of godless laws being passed all over the world in the name of progress. G‑d is being erased from everywhere possible, and as a result, morality and decency are being wiped out. We also see how the good people of the world are being treated badly, while governments bend backwards to make evil regimes happy.

Esau is called Edom because edom means “red,” which was the color of the lentil soup he sold his firstborn right for. This also shows his callousness towards G‑d’s values, shaming the right of the firstborn.

The connection to the parshah is clear: It speaks of the confrontation between Jacob and Esau’s angel, and Jacob and Esau’s meeting and departure. The haftarah continues with Esau’s future and tragic end.

Ovadia was chosen to convey this prophecy because he was an Edomite who converted to Judaism. As the expression goes, “From the forest itself comes the handle of the ax.”3 Here, too, Ovadia, who came from Edom, says the prophecy of Edom’s destruction.4 Another reason is because unlike Esau, Ovadia stayed holy even though he was constantly in the presence of two wicked people—King Achav and his evil wife Izevel (Jezebel). Esau, on the other hand, grew up in the presence of two holy people—Isaac and Rebecca—and yet he turned foul.5

Ovadia merited to be a prophet because he saved 100 prophets, hiding them from the wicked Izevel and borrowing money to sustain them.

The haftorah begins with the words “Chazon Ovadia.”6 Chazon means the vision, which hints to the verse telling us that when Moshiach comes, mibesari echezeh Elokah,7 “from my flesh I will envision G‑dliness.” That we will see the G‑dliness in the physical.

Ovadia means “to serve Hashem.” This teaches us that to bring Moshiach, we need to serve Hashem the way Ovadia did, with action and self-sacrifice. Ovadia hid and sustained G‑d’s prophets.8 The story continues that Ovadia met Eliyahu Hanavi,9 who is the one who will herald the coming of Moshiach.

The same is true for us. If we serve G‑d with action and self-sacrifice—especially to support Torah institutions, especially for young children, who like the prophets, ensure the future of Judaism—then we will merit to meet Eliyahu Hanavi as he heralds the actual coming of Moshiach.10

The haftarah continues to tell how G‑d says to Edom: “If you lift yourself as high an eagle, and if you place your nest between the stars, I will bring you down from there … .”11 The Midrash12 tells us that when Jacob had the dream of the ladder, he saw the nations who would exile the Jews climbing up the ladder. First, Egypt went up and came down. Then, Babylonia was followed by Persia, but when Edom started up the ladder, he just kept on going up and up, and wasn’t turning to come down. Jacob understood that every exile has a purpose, but each came to an end. Why then is the exile of Edom taking so long? To this G‑d answered that even if Edom lifts itself as high as an eagle, even if Edom thinks that it is untouchable, He will bring them down, and the exile will come to an end. In other words, we will complete the purpose of this exile, and Moshiach will come.

The difference between this exile and the previous exiles is that the previous exiles were in one basic locale. However, in this exile, the Jewish people have been spread to every corner of the world, and we built Jewish communities and Torah institutions in those places—accomplishing the Jewish mission to turn the world into a dwelling place for G‑d. This is symbolized by the verse in our haftarah, “The exiled army of the Children of Israel with the Canaanites until Tzarfat (France) … .”13 Why France? Because France symbolizes coldness towards G‑dliness, and when France is transformed, our work will be done. This has taken a long time, and our work is done, as we are witness to the explosion of Judaism in France.14

So why hasn’t Moshiach come? I don’t have a good answer to this question because it doesn’t make sense. Perhaps there is something more that G‑d wants—maybe our trust and belief in His purpose, the reality of the coming of Moshiach. We can make it real to us by learning about Moshiach’s era and its laws, making Moshiach part of our daily lives.

Through our efforts to make Moshiach real—and being that our work is complete—we will soon experience the two stages of Moshiach, mentioned in the final verse of the haftarah: “And the saviors will go up onto Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau.” 15 This refers to the first stage, a stage of judgment, where the world will be obligated to follow the judgment of Moshiach. Then the final stage will come, when “G‑d will be King,”16 when everyone will recognize G‑d as their King out of love.17

May it happen soon.