“And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty.
“When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. — Malachi 1:13
The Torah portion for this week, Toldot, which means “offspring,” is from Genesis 25:19—28:9, and the Haftorah is from Malachi 1:1–2:7.
Rabbi Yisrael, a renowned sage in the 18th century, said, “If once in your lifetime you gave one thirsty man a glass of water, that is enough reason to dance for 70 years.” Rabbi Carlebach, a famed 20th century teacher, added, “Did you do something good one time in your life? You did? Unbelievable! Did you ever blow your mind over this one good thing that you did?”
The privilege of serving God by doing good deeds or any sort of service should bring us incredible joy. If only we so rejoiced in our acts of service and sacrifice! How different life might be.
This week’s Haftorah reading echoes a theme we witnessed in the Torah reading. In the Torah portion, we learned that “Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25:34). Esau took no joy in the privilege of being the firstborn, which entitled him to a greater level of service to God. He could have been one of the Patriarchs, a foundational stone for the nation of Israel. But Esau wasn’t interested in giving up his life of pleasure and instant gratification for a lifetime of self-sacrifice and service. It wasn’t something that he enjoyed.
Similarly, in this week’s Haftorah reading, God called out the priests who were given the privilege of serving God in a greater capacity than the rest of the nation, but who took little pleasure in this honor. God said, “And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously . . .” The priests served God, but with half a heart. They went through the motions, but their hearts weren’t fully in the service. There was no love and no joy. This isn’t the kind of service that God desires!
Friends, there can be no joy in serving God when there is no wholehearted commitment to Him. It’s only when we are fully committed to serving God and living His Word that we can find joy in our service and even in our sacrifices.
The people in the Haftorah reading weren’t wholly committed. Scripture tells us that a person would mark one fine animal for a sacrifice and then substitute one of lesser quality (worth less money) when the time came to bring the animal as an offering. That’s serving the idols of gold and silver while trying to serve God. That’s not commitment. And when we aren’t fully committed to God, we will suffer inner turmoil and conflict. There can be no joy.
Today, let’s fully surrender to the Lord. Let’s give ourselves to Him wholeheartedly. Let us rejoice in our service and even in our sacrifices. Let’s say as Joshua once proclaimed, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President