Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Death of King Uziahu

One of the features in the weekly Toronto Torah produced by our Beit Midrash is a column on the haftorah. We begin with a description of the featured prophet or the author of the book from which the haftorah is drawn, and then we explain the haftorah's message, and its relationship with the parshah. Then, if there is more space, we discuss some unique aspect of the haftorah.

I wrote this week's column, and for the "unique aspect" I noted the death of King Uziahu, and its message for us:

The message in our haftorah dates itself to "the year of the death of King Uziahu." (Yeshayah 6:1)  What was the significance of the death of this king, in relation to Yeshayah's vision?

Divrei haYamim II 26 describes Uziahu as a righteous king of Yehudah, the southern Jewish kingdom. He sought out G-d, battled the foes of the Jews, and built up the city of Yerushalayim. However, Divrei haYamim continues to describe him as becoming arrogant in his success, to the point that he sought to bring incense upon the altar himself, despite the fact that he was not a kohen. Tzaraat broke out upon his forehead, and he left the Beit haMikdash in shame.

Amos 1:1 and Zecharyah 14:5 make reference to an earthquake which occurred in the time of King Uziahu. Bringing in midrashic passages (see Seder Olam Rabbah 20, Radak Amos 1:1 and Rashi Yeshayah 6:1, for example), the earthquake, the tzaraat, and the death of King Uziahu are all referenced at the start of our haftorah.

At this time, when one of our greatest kings overreached in his arrogance, violated the sacred space of the Beit haMikdash, and was punished, Hashem showed the prophet Yeshayah a vision of His throne room. Gd then warned Yeshayah, and through him the Jewish nation, of the impending devastation at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. The link between Uziahu's death and Yeshayah's message is clear: Without proper leadership, our chances for repentance and growth are slim indeed.


  1. Although, if I remember correctly, that wasn't exactly when Uzziah died. There is a contradiction between Melachim and Divrei HaYamim and it is explained that he lived for some time after but was removed from his kingly office because of the tzara'as and was therefore considered as if he were dead.
    Thus the message could also be: a temporal king can't be sure he'll rule until he dies, unlike the King o' Kings.