The haftarah for Va’eira has two prophecies from our prophet Ezekiel, plus two verses from a previous prophecy.1

The first prophecy is about the destruction of Egypt. G‑d says that He will lay waste to Egypt; it will be uninhabited for 40 years, and then they will return, but Egypt will never be a superpower again.

G‑d gives a reason for its downfall: Egypt hadn’t kept their word and come to Israel’s aid when they needed it most. They were a “prop of reeds,”2 meaning that when Israel was being attacked by Sennacherib, and later Nebuchadnezzar, and needed to lean on Egypt, it folded as a prop made of weak reeds and did not come to Israel’s aid.

But then, a few verses later, He gives what seems to be a totally different reason: Pharaoh’s arrogance and denial of G‑d’s providence, saying, “The river is mine, and I made it.”3

The prophecy of the destruction of Egypt fits in with the message of this parshah, which tells of the devastating plagues that G‑d brought on Egypt. It was even for similar reasons: First, for the suffering they wrought on the Jewish people; and second, that Pharaoh be humbled from arrogance and denial of G‑d, as he said: “Who is G‑d, that I should listen to his voice?” This attitude was common by all the Egyptians of his time, as we see from the reason G‑d gave Moses for bringing the plagues: “And Egypt will know that I Am G‑d.”4

What connection is there between denial of G‑d because of arrogance and treating the Jewish people badly?

The question itself is the answer. When a person is arrogant, his ego is so great that there is no room for G‑d, let alone another person, so he treats others badly.

The second prophecy in the haftarah is about Nebuchadrezzar (another name for Nebuchadnezzar). G‑d says that He will give Egypt into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and that his army will enjoy the spoils as a reward for capturing the city of Tzur (Tyre). They put so much effort into the siege of Tzur, but aside for its capture, the soldiers came away with nothing. All this because “the action which he carried out”5 was what G‑d wanted to be done.

The haftarah is meant to resemble the parshah and bring out its theme. The first prophecy about the destruction of Egypt fits in nicely as explained earlier. But how does the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s reward express the message of the parshah? True, his reward was the taking of Egypt, but that is merely a detail. What’s more, our parshah doesn’t mention anything about another empire conquering Egypt.

If we take a closer look at our parshah, it becomes clear. The parshah opens with Moses’ complaint to G‑d. Moses had done what G‑d asked him to do. He went to Pharaoh, and asked him to allow the Jewish people to go and serve G‑d. And ever since then, the servitude only got worse. So he asked G‑d: “Why did You make things worse for this nation?”6

G‑d answers: “I also heard the groaning of the Children of Israel, that the Egyptians are enslaving them . . . Therefore tell the Children of Israel ‘I Am G‑d, and I will take you out ... I will save you ... I will redeem you ... I will take you ... and I will bring you to the land... .’ ”7

How does this answer the question? He already heard their groaning before Pharaoh made things worse. Why didn’t G‑d save them then?

We must conclude that the harsh servitude was somehow necessary and that it needed to get even worse before G‑d could save them. What could possibly be the reason for this?

The purpose of our descent to Egypt was for us to receive the Torah. In order for the Torah to come down into the physical world, two things had to happen. First, we needed to become fitting vessels to receive the Torah. The main idea of the Torah is to do G‑d’s will, and to do that, our will had to be nullified; that was done through the servitude in Egypt. This last blow, making it even harder for them, completed the process; now, we were ready.

Second, just as it was necessary for the Jewish people to be prepared for receiving the Torah, so did the world need to be prepared. Since Egypt was the superpower that ruled the world, it needed to recognize G‑d. As mentioned above, the Egyptian attitude was one of arrogance and denial of G‑d. This attitude needed to be broken for the Torah to be given because the Torah is about the subjugating our will to do G‑d’s will. Therefore, G‑d sent the plagues to break Egypt—and it worked, as Pharaoh said at the end of the parshah: “G‑d is the Righteous One, and me and my nation are the wicked ones.”8

So the theme of the parshah is getting ready to receive the Torah. And our main goal is that through our actions, through doing the mitzvahs, we become connected to the One who commanded us to do them: G‑d.

Now we can understand how the second prophecy aligns with the message of the parshah. Nebuchadnezzar did just that—he did what G‑d wanted, and he was rewarded.

You may be wondering. Tzur was a port city on the Mediterranean, and it was also along the road to Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to capture Tzur for his own selfish reasons; he wanted to rule the world, and Tzur was a strategic asset. Indeed, the prophet says that he was being given Egypt merely for “the action which he carried out,”9 which implies that it just was something he did, not that he did it for G‑d. So why is he being rewarded?

It’s a lesson to us here: That the most important thing is the action, to do what G‑d wants. Even when the intentions are not perfect, the reward is deserved.

This is in line with the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching10 that we should love every Jew, even those who are at the ends of the earth, whom we have never seen. Because every Jewish person has done many good deeds, as our sages tell us: “They are full of mitzvahs like a pomegranate [is filled with seeds].”11 Every good deed has an effect on the whole world, as the Rambam says with regards to someone who does a mitzvah: “He tips himself and the whole world to the side of merit and causes for himself and for them redemption and salvation.”12 So it turns out that we each receive redemption and salvation from every Jewish person, even those we have never met.13

Now that I am unable to do things, I see how special it is. I used to do so much, and I miss helping people the most. There is nothing better than being there for others. At least I am able to lift others spirits with my smile, my heart and my writings. For these things, I am grateful.

May we merit to see the ultimate transformation of the world with the coming of Moshiach. When we will see how our actions—mitzvahs and good deeds—brought salvation and redemption. May it happen soon.