This week, we read a Haftorah that was not chosen according to the usual protocol . Typically, the Haftorah reflects the theme of the Torah portion; on special occasions such as holidays, we read a Haftorah which reflects the holiday. The only exception is a day like today, where the Haftorah is chosen based on the Day After. Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh, so we read the story from the prophets that begins with the word, Machar Chodesh – Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh.. (See Bamidbar 5739, Sichos Kodesh v. 2 p. 674.)
The story is part of the saga of King Saul’s rivalry with King David.
After the young David killed Goliath, he experienced a string of successes which brought him widespread popularity. Saul became extremely paranoid, worrying that David would usurp the monarchy, and began a protracted attempt to have him assassinated. Nothing David did was enough to prove his loyalty; ultimately indeed, Saul was killed in battle and David became the reigning monarch.
MERCY FOR AMALEK
The Book of Shmuel relates that G-d commanded King Saul to annihilate the nation of Amalek. These were the quintessential anti-Semites; when the Israelites left Egypt, they immediately came and attacked, despite the fact that the Israelites had no plans of conquest for them, and had no plan of even entering their territory. They were just always ready to attack a Jew. Now, G-d instructed King Saul to annihilate them once and for all.
King Saul waged a successful war against them, but he made two mistakes; he was instructed to kill even the livestock, but that he failed to do, and he also didn’t kill their king, Agag, because he felt bad for him.
G-d was upset with Saul’s decision and sent the prophet Shmuel who asked him. Why did you not carry out the word of G-d? . The response was disappointing; King Saul said that he had planned to carry out his instructions, but the people had wanted those changes. He had submitted to public opinion.
That decision made Saul lose the monarchy. You see, during the single night that he allowed the Amalekite king to remain alive, he managed to impregnate a woman with his progeny, and the nation of Amalek was able to continue. Generations later, the Jewish people were put in grave peril in Persia when the king agreed to annihilate them all—and it was a result of that decision; Haman was a direct descendant of Agag.
King Saul wanted to show mercy to Agag, and ended up (almost) bringing calamity upon the entire Jewish people.
THE NEW MOON
However, my friends, let’s conclude on a positive note:
The Jewish people are compared to the moon and its fluctuations. The moon is at times bigger and at times smaller, but we are always confident that it will shine again. The day before the new month is a particularly dark time; not even a sliver of the moon is visible. But we know, with confidence, that its rebirth is just around the corner. It will reappear the next day, and once again reach its full brightness. So, there is no reason to be discouraged even from a particularly difficult moment for the Jewish people; if things seem particularly gloomy, and we all wonder what the future will bring, it just means that a new stage of illumination is imminent. (Toras Menachem v. 39 p. 380, v. 19 p. 126).