That’s how it all began…

Talmud Eser Sephiroth – the beginning of everything….

Talmud Eser Sephiroth is written by Baal-Sulam. It talks about the creation of our Universe and the structure of the worlds that were created to govern it. Amazingly enough our scientists came very close to uncovering this process; it’s known in the scientific community by the name of Big Bang Theory.

The text itself is rather short – the commentaries on it are nearly and endless…

Don’t be in rush to understand what is written in TES – read a sentence,close your eyes and try to connect to this magnificent source of light, that this text brings.

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8 Responses to That’s how it all began…

  1. To understand how it all began we have to answer two very important questions:

    1. What do Creator needs the creation for?

    2. What made the creation to take part( to make Tzimtzum Alef) in the prossess of its Creation.

    If we want to understand the first question more exactly, we should find the way to ask it in a different form which may be for example ” why is no good for a Man to be alone” or why most people see the inability to have children as a most devasteting part of their life.Or why do we want an oppinion of somebody about our “cake”, and who would question your essence if there is nobody but you.

    And the answer is very simple as givven by Kabbalists: Creator is the sourse of the bestowing, and what ‘s the use of it if there is nobody to bestow. Man in Kabbalah is the wish to bestow, so again we need a woman-in Kabbalah the wish to get- to realize our wish to bestow.Children are the result of the intereaction of the wish to bestow with the wish to get, if it is done Kosher way the result is the joy of growing them for Torah and Mitzvot- in Kabbalah for raising the creation on higher level of development, because the more the wish to get we correct the bigger is the Kli the more light can be revealed.

    If there is nodody but I, who would try my cake and how do I know that I am not the only to think that i am the greatest baker ever born, so i have to find you or if and to creat the wish to try my cake in you so to get “asecond” oppinion.And finally if you like my “cake” and say that it is the best cake you ever have eaten, I know that I didn’t waste your time and your wish to enjoy by my imperfect gift to cook.

    So it is wrong to say that Creator doesn’t want anything at all, that He has no wish, He does have it , but it is absolutly different Wish than the wish of the creation, because His Wish is the Wish of Bestowing, while the creation is the wish to get.

    Now if you analyse what we have up to now you will see that on the one side we have Creator +His wish to bestow, on the other side we have only the wish to get + nothing. The fact that we call ourselves Creation is as selfish as the one calling himself artist without being able to show even one picture drawn by him. Actually we call ourselves creation because we like to give ourselves a credit that if we were created by the Creation we must be something more than a pure wish to get.

    So we come to the nessecity to consentrain mostly on what we can do to realize the potential of being able to be called creation, and to understand the fact that it was worth to be created and the only who gain from it is the Creation itself, while the Creator” has” a lot of “trouble and has to work hard and to hear,and not once ,the critics on Himself and His interntions, while when the creation is ready it is as glories as the creator Himself, but the prossess of the Creation may seem very unpleasant and even cruel, if we don’t know what form it has to get and what purpose to reach and how long it will take, in short when we instead of coopereting strugle against the Creator’s wish to help us to make perfect equality: Creator+ the wish to bestow= the wish to get( Ain= not existing in Creator Himself)+Creation-transformed wish to get into the wish to get for the sake of Bestowing.

    So as we see, to be called creation and not the wish to get , I have to have a mechanism of transforming the Hommer= the matter into a desireable form, if I don’t have Hommer there is nothing to transfer, and if I don’t know what to do, or how to transfer the matter, what is the use of having Hommer altogether.

    And the more intresting thing to find out is that if the Hommer was done by the Creator, may it have independent of the Creator existence, and if it may be free from the qualities of the Creator altogether.

    In short what would have happened with me ,if after being born by my parents ,I would be left in jungle to survive, and as Kabbalah showes us it is the way of the development called Din=pure Justice, and there is no way to servive according to this situation, and as we see Malkhut Metzumtzemet pulls the Kav of Light. This Kav of light has nothing to do with the drawings of “line”, but means the possibility of the Connection with the Creator. So the first action to be taken by us to act as a creation and not as a pure wish yo get is to begin to communicated with the Creator, and the communication with the creator is done through the Prayer,

    All you see around should be understood as the Creator’s answer to your prayer, but as you don’t expect to understand russian or swess just because you are in Russia or Sweedseland, the same with the Nivraim and Yetzurim and Brui’im and Ni’azelim, as we have several part of speech in a language, the same we have different forms of creation in spiritual worlds.

    But to notice them we have to follow the actions og Malkhut Ein Sof and Letzamtzem= supress the wish to get in your self, and to let the place form the other forms except you to be seen, which are now “covered” from your eyes and ears by the intensity of your wish to get. and then you will be able to see that by communicating with them you will be able to take piece by piece the supprest wish to get and transform it into the wish to bestow the forms which “happened” to exist near you exept of YOU.

    Now you will see that this forms differ one from the other by the difficulty to get in tough with them and you will see that you will need to learn some skills of comunications and they are taught by those who already learned to communicate with them and it is called that you came to nesseserty of Tzimtzum B- to learn to use the existing knowledge as a starter for you own spiritual “Trek” otherwise you will waste your time on the things that are known to everybody except you, and it is a pity, isn’t it?

    So you already believe in Creator -Kli deKetter, and you alredy understand that that there is a certain amount of Knowledge about effective communicatiom with the Creator existing independently of you wish- you’ve get Kli Hokmma and or Ru’akh= the wish to get this knowledge.

    But you find out that this knowledge is different from the knowledge you ever dealt with, because it may not be get if you don’t undergo qualitative chanches as a personality and it means connecting you wish to get Malkhut with its desired form the wisg to bestow-Binah, and in doing that you get next Kli Binah and Ore Heshama, which is kept in Kli only if it you inrich it everytime, and and while studing what is known to the kabbalaists of the ways to become creation =Yesh out of the wish to get=Ain you will come to the nessesity to pransform all your qualities into the one’s of the spiritual nature and you will have to work with the next six Sffirot from Hessed to Yesod and it is already the work in three lines, because these sfirrot express themselves in endless combination in all kind of situations, and thus little by little we get the Z”A KLi and ORe Hokhma, and when we realized that we are endlessly thankful to the Creator for the creating us= giving the possibility to be a part of the prossess of turning the wish to get into the creation we feel our Kli Malkhut being the children of the Creator and having His qualities and enjoying having them which is the “bonus” which Malkhut deEin Sof made possible by doing Tzimtzum Alef on the wish to get and teaching us that if you are born as a son/daughter of a King you will find the way to servive and suceed in a jungle of Ne;etzalim and Nivra’m and Yetzutim and Btuim,but you need to communicate with the Creator- which is the Kav of Light or as we called it Hoot haHessed meaning do yourself a faivour and start learning and implementing the studed matterial instead of pretending speculating “how it all began” and doing nothing to bring it to the happy end.

    So we came to the answer for the second question of the nessesety of Tzimtzum Alef( and all the rest of similar actions), which are interpretied by us as discomfort or even suffering, while there is a choice in everything, except that if it is a time to grow up and stop being a grown up children, it is better to grow up than to strugle with the prossess of growing.

  2. yehudith says:

    Sometimes people ask each other how they have come to do this or that, be it for better or worse, but what is very important as Ar’i HaKadosh says is to understand what we don’t know it and not always may speak about it in public.

    What is very important to understand why anyway we try to find the beginning of something or at least to connect something with a certain event or point of time or situation, whatever it be.

    As Ar’i haKadosh says the only useful point of looking for how it all began is to understand that everything is under the influence of cause and effect order and each and every step be it for good or ,G-d forbid, not, will have its effect on us and the surrounding.

    As Ar’i HaKadosh says we may not think of ourselves as worth knowing how it all began, but it is a great priviladge we are told a little bit of the great plan of the creation, but we should know that nothing is told to us without giving us a serious exam later.

    So as we may understand from Ar’i HaKadosh explanation on why he found it nessecary to give us the highest spiritual information is to show that each and every soul, no matter what its spiritual root starts from, and as we know all the jewish souls have their root in the world of Atzillut, we are all connected with the very first point of creation and the highest world of Ein Sof.

    Which means what for us to pass the exam on the learned spiritual information we should remeber that it will be checked on te highest spiritual levels and the higher informantion is given to us the higher demands will be applied to the exam.

    We hope for each and every part of the creation that the infromation given to us by our Sages will make us to understand the reponsibility for the time life we spend in this world and instead of outter pretence we will make a setrious inner spiritual work, which will be a certain mark on the way of the creation to the spiritual purpose of being created.

  3. I would like to adress to those who still looking for the places to study Kabbalah, no matter where and how you have started learning it, the most importsnt thing to undestand is that you have to take a complete restonsivility for your study process ,to to work day by day to orginaze your day study and the search for the group and Rav to teach you, don’t wait till you find place and Rav, but start today already.

    If we look at the story of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yokhai we will see that he inclosed himself ( his present spiritual state)and his son( his future spiritual state) into the cave from the danger of being killed by Romans( our go’im our wishes of the ego) and dedicated his time to study Torah day( in ascends) and night( in descends).

    And the Light=Zohar of Torah was opened to him for the readiness to study It no matter what the conditions are and exactly this readeness and dedication made the Kli for receaving the greatest Light and bringing it to the world.

    Remember that your wish to know and to use the knowledge for the correction will determine your spiritual level and the place and Rav you study with will always will be secondary to your personal efforts in studing Torah and perfroming Mitzvot.

  4. Exploring the meaning of God’s two most essentials names: An excerpt from R. Weisz’s new book PrayerWorks.

    by Rabbi Noson Weisz

    One of the more bewildering aspects of praying from the Jewish prayer book is the number of names for God that you encounter. Why is there a need for all these names? Are they inserted simply at random or is there any relation between the context in which the name appears and the name selected? The following excerpt from Rabbi Weisz’s new book, PrayerWorks: How the Words of Prayer Move the World, examines part of this issue.

    God’s Names

    What’s in a name? Usually, a name contains encapsulates our knowledge of the person or entity being named. If you are well acquainted with “Jack,” and he is a friendly, tall, redheaded man of about 30, then the name “Jack” conveys all that knowledge to you. When someone tells you, “I saw Jack today,” the speaker does not have to describe him to you. The name carries within it the many traits you associate with Jack.

    In our relationship with God, however, the Name is not the summary of all we know; rather, the Name is the source of all we know. God is so far removed from any frame of reference that we, as human beings, can relate to that at the end of the day, His nature is totally mysterious to us. Finite man cannot conceptualize the infinite, the eternal and incorporeal God.

    We cannot fulfill our purpose on earth without establishing a relationship with God, and it is impossible to relate to a mystery. To solve this problem God gave us His names. None of these names are man made; they are terms God uses to describe Himself in the Torah. And they are a user friendly interface that eliminates the mystery and allows us to relate to God in ways we are familiar with from our every day relationships. Having said that, does this imply that in reality the names have nothing to do with God and they are given to us as a sort of substitute for the real thing?

    A good metaphor for understanding this is to imagine a person meeting with the President. The visitor privileged to have such personal access will find himself actually sitting face-to-face with the President; and yet he will barely be able to grasp a wisp of his true personality. From his brief, well-choreographed encounter, he will not be able to determine if the President is kind or hard-hearted, charitable or stingy, insightful or benighted. The encounter would be too brief and controlled to render an accurate picture.

    His names are His office – the place where we cross His path and glimpse a fleeting hint of His essence.In the same way, when we interface with the Almighty through His names, it is really the Almighty Himself we are communicating with, but we can only meet Him in His office, as it were. His names are His office – the place where we cross His path and glimpse a fleeting hint of His essence.

    The two most important of these names, taught to us by God in the Torah, are the names mentioned in the first verse of the Shema – Elokim and YHVH, or the Shem.

    Elokim: The Name of Power

    When we call God “the Almighty,” it is the English translation of the name Elokim, says the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, 5). But we must put in a little work into what the name Almighty implies to benefit in relationship terms. Let us first state what we mean by Almighty and then proceed to explain it. Through this name, we acknowledge that God is not only the Creator, but the Master of all the power and energy in the universe.

    What does this mean in plain English? In his book Nefesh Hachaim, Rav Chaim of Volozhin explains how to understand God’s power in relation to our own: Human beings can be creators. For instance, man can create a massive edifice. Once he finishes his creation, though, the creation can exist without its creator. The building – barring unusual circumstances – will stand long after its architects and construction crew have faded from the world. Even a child, once created and borne by his parents, can exist independent of them.

    On the other hand, Elokim creates, but His creations have no independent existence outside of Him. He is the power that not only brings them into being, but also enables them to continue existing.

    As an illustration of this idea, imagine a cup suspended in the air. If the force that keeps the cup in the air is withdrawn, the cup will crash and fall to earth, driven by gravity back to its natural state. The Almighty’s creation – the entire universe and everything in it – is exactly like this suspended cup. Without the Almighty’s hand constantly supporting the cup of existence, the reality He created would simply vanish, leaving the nothingness that preceded Creation.

    In the Torah’s account of Creation (Genesis 1), the Almighty is referred to as the Elokim 32 times. In fact, no other holy name appears in the entire Chapter. The number 32 corresponds to the numerical value of the Hebrew word for heart – lev. This correlation teaches that the role of Elokim in creation is like the role of the heart in a human being. The pulse of the Elokim power keeps creation in existence, just as the ceaseless beating of our hearts keeps us alive. In His persona as the author, planner and continuous power-source of all existence, God is named Elokim.

    Tzelem Elokim: God’s Image

    Everyone is familiar with the idea that man was created in God’s image. The Torah, however, is more specific, for it is not God in general whom man resembles, but rather, God in His role as Elokim. In other words, as “tzelem Elokim,” we somehow share in providing the continuous flow of sustaining power that Elokim supplies to creation.

    God has placed in human hands the control switch that regulates the flow of the Elokim power into the universe.What role could man possibly play in the flow of this uniquely Divine power? Man is the tzelem Elokim because God has placed in human hands the control switch that regulates the flow of the Elokim power into the universe. While man cannot produce the power, he can influence its quantity, intensity and brightness. Through his influence, the world can be vibrant with Godly energy, or shrouded in a state of dreary darkness.

    It is man’s free-will decisions that regulate the flow of Elokim power into the world. The words we choose to utter, the actions we choose to perform, and the things we elect to think about all act to dim or intensify the force of the Almighty’s sustaining power as it expresses itself in our world.

    Electricity is a perfect metaphor to envision the process: When we turn the lights on or off, we are merely closing or opening the circuit that allows electrons to flow through the conductor. Nevertheless, we think of ourselves as creators of the current. In the same manner, we control the quality of existence throughout the universe through our actions.

    The word Elokim and the Hebrew word hateva, meaning “nature,” have the identical numerical value – 86. In Jewish thought, nature includes all the phenomena that were created in the seven days of creation described in Genesis 1, metaphysical as well as physical. The entire created universe and everything in it is powered by the name Elokim. The Elokim power that sustains the universe runs from the source, the Almighty, down to nature using man as the conduit. Man is the circuit breaker that allows the energy to flow.

    The Shem: YHWH

    But nature has fairly fixed rules. The laws of nature do not seem to be sufficient to account for the flexibility that prayer assumes. After all every prayer is a request to change the world just for me. To account for the assumptions about our relation ship with God implied by prayer we have to learn to relate to God’s other name YHVH.

    In Jewish tradition, YHVH God’s personal name, so to speak, as opposed to Elokim which refers to the Almighty more in terms of the presidential functions of His office. Descriptions of the Almighty’s feelings, character traits and motivations are always associated with the name YHVH, never with the name Elokim. Literally, the Shem identifies the Almighty as independent of time and as the source of all existence. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid) translates this: “He was, is, and will be – the author of all being.” He is the source of everything – past, present and future.

    Each tiny increment of being is separately produced by God.What does this name teach us about the nature of the Almighty’s connection to the universe? As we recall, all of existence is only a manifestation of the energy which is emitted by God constantly, from moment to moment. That energy has no momentum of its own. It is not like a ball that is thrown in one direction and keeps traveling that way until something stops it. There is no continuum from one moment to the next. Each tiny increment of being is separately produced by God. Each is a unique, discrete packet of existence, independent of whatever preceded it.

    We perceive these increments as a flow along a linear time-line. We perceive cause and effect in the way God knits these moments together. However, in reality, the universe that we perceive as set and unchanging is actually more like a movie – a series of still pictures spliced together, moving past our vision too quickly for us to distinguish between the individual frames. In actuality, the Almighty is constantly renewing existence. One nano-second of being has no causal connection with the next.

    For example, if a person reaches down to put on his shoes, completes the task, and then stands up wearing his shoes, we would perceive the reaching down and donning the shoes as the cause for him to be standing in his shoes. From God’s perspective, however, each of those moves was a separate expression of His will, and the only reason the man is wearing shoes is that God willed it to happen at that moment.

    In other words, nothing has to happen as a result of a previous occurrence. The man could have been combing his hair, and then appeared in his shoes. Had we witnessed this, we would conclude that the cause – hair-combing – leads to the effect – appearance of shoes on one’s feet.

    Just as a movie can be spliced together in many different ways according to the whim of its editor, so can reality be spliced together in many different ways by the Almighty. In the case of the movie, the audience perceives the flow arranged by the editor as the actual story. Likewise, no matter how the Great Editor arranges events, we see them as a continuous progression of the past into the future. Whatever we see, we interpret in terms of cause and effect.

    The dimension that YHVH brings into our relationship with God arises from this transcendence of time. While Elokim represents a system of laws that remains relatively stable, providing us only with the ability to influence its intensity, YHVH is totally interactive with us from moment to moment. The Almighty splices together the moments of our existence as He sees fit, in whatever order or manner He chooses to arrange them. We, the observers, automatically assume that this proceeds according to the unchangeable laws of nature, cause and effect. But this assumption is only a means by which our minds grasp reality, not an accurate portrayal of reality itself.

    The Need for a Screen

    Imagine that your heart, rather than operating involuntarily, required someone else’s active participation to work. From minute to minute, the operator had to deliberately make it pump. Were that the case, you would feel that your life hung by a thread at each moment, for if the operator should forget or fall asleep on the job, you would die. Under such circumstances, it would be impossible to function.

    Hearts beat, lungs breathe, stomachs digest, brains run the body’s circuitry, all without anyone’s direct effort. To have someone else in charge of our physical survival from moment to moment would put unbearable stress upon us. In the spiritual world, the same is true. Were we conscious of the moment-by-moment Divine will that directs our lives, we would feel like helpless puppets, constantly aware that our Master holds the strings. For us to function, we cannot constantly feel our vulnerability to God’s control over our lives.

    The natural world, represented by the name Elokim, provides a protective screen by which man can achieve the awareness of God.This is why, according to the commentators, we cannot interface with the YHVH aspect of God directly. The awareness of His Presence on this level is too overwhelming. Under its intense light, we would lose the sense of ourselves as entities separate from God, for it would be clear to us that there is nothing other than Him. That would leave God’s Creation empty of any intelligence that could appreciate it, thus defeating its purpose.

    God desired that man successfully perceive his Creator without being overwhelmed and subsumed. The natural world, represented by the name Elokim, provides a protective screen by which man can achieve this awareness. Otherwise, we could not survive interfacing with the Shem.

    King David declares (Psalms 84:12) “YHVH Elokim is like the sun and a shield.” The Tanya (Ch. 4) explains that, just as it is impossible to look directly at the sun without going blind, it is impossible to interface directly with the Shem YHVH and survive as separate entities from Him. In order to look at the sun, we must do it through a thick screen that shelters our eyes from ultraviolet rays. To accomplish that same protective purpose on a spiritual level, the Almighty inserted the reality described by the name Elokim between the Shem and ourselves.

  5. yehudith says:

    Parashat Shoftim
    Seven Weeks of Consolation (I)
    by Rav Yitachak Etshalom


    We are currently in the middle of the 7 Shabbatot of consolation, known as Shiv’ah d’Nehemta, following Tish’ah b’Av and concluding just before Rosh haShanah. What marks these Shabbatot is the public recitation of a special Haftarah each week; the seven of them are all thematically related and taken from one section of T’nakh. The common theme which runs throughout all seven is the consolation of the nation in the shadow of the destruction of the Mikdash and the exile from Yehudah. All seven Haftarot are taken from the latter half of Yeshayah (Isaiah), beginning with chapter 40 (the first is “Nahamu”). Although much has been made of the possibility of a later prophet – or several – being the author of this second half of Yeshayah (see Ibn Ezra’s esoteric comment at Yeshaya 40:1 as well as Abravanel’s introduction to his commentary on Yeshayah; see also Rachel Margaliot’s “Ehad Haya Yeshayahu”) we will not explore that dispute in this essay. We will, rather, devote our ana lysis to understanding the establishment of the Shiv’ah d’Nehemta, including the various themes and the prescribed sequence.

    In order to treat the subject with the necessary breadth and appropriate depth, we will divide the analysis into two issues. This first half will focus on the development of the practice of reading the Haftarah and then segue into an overview of the seven Haftarot of consolation and will conclude with a few general questions. In the conclusion, I will propose a theory as to the sequence and selection of these passages, demonstrate it with selections from each Haftarah, and explain the underlying rationale behind this sequence.



    Although there is little information in Rabbinic literature regarding the historic development of the public reading of the Torah, there is even less regarding the public reading of selections from the prophets at the conclusion of some public Torah readings, referred to as Haftarah (more on this sobriquet later). Three things becomes clear from the primary sources:

    1) The Haftarah was instituted after the institution of K’riat haTorah.

    2) The institution of the Haftarah was well-known and universally practiced (although not necessarily at the same occasions as we practice it today) by the early Mishnaic period (1st century CE).

    3) For the most part, the public recitation of the Haftarah did not have a specific text assigned to each occasion; i.e. the Haftarah of a given Shabbat was not designated to be a particular passage from the N’vi’im. Even in those cases where the primary Rabbinic sources refer to such an assignation (e.g. the holidays – see BT Megillah 29a), it is clear that there were other customs extant, as prevalent custom does not always follow those dicta.

    Haftarah literally means “conclusion”, referring to the placement of this reading at the end of the reading of the Torah (some have posited that at some point it was the ending point of the worship service – see Rapaport, Erekh Milin, p. 167 ff. – this approach has little to recommend it and no basis whatsoever in any of the sources). [Some alternate meanings include, curiously, “opening” (as in Peter Rehem), meaning that at this point a member of the attending congregation may begin discussing certain matters otherwise forbidden during the K’riat haTorah [L’vush OC #282]. The alternate name found in Rabbinic and Geonic sources, Ashlamta, (completion) however, supports the first translation].

    As mentioned above, there is little information as to the development of the Haftarah; we can’t even be too sure as to when the practice was first ordained. That it was established after the institution of the public reading of the Torah is clear from several perspectives, not the least of which is its name, indicating that it was introduced as an “epilog” to the K’riat haTorah. In addition, the Halakhah that the Maftir must first read from the Torah before commencing the selection from the N’vi’im (on account of K’vod haTorah – respect for the supremacy of Torah – BT Megillah 23a, MT T’fillah 12:13). The fact that the selection must bear some similarity (“d’dami lei” – BT Megillah 29b) to the associated Torah reading further bolsters this notion. There are those who argue that the practice of reading a Haftarah pre-dates the canonization of T’nakh (somewhere between the 1st century BCE and 1st century CE).

    Before presenting their arguments, one preface is necessary: The essential Halakhah demands that the Haftarah be read from a properly written scroll which includes the entire book from which the passage is being read (e.g. Yehoshua, Yeshayah, T’rei ‘Asar). The contemporary custom in many congregations to read from a printed book (T’nakh or “Sefer Haftarot”) is viewed by many Poskim as less than ideal and a concession to the poverty of the Jewish community that cannot afford to have these scrolls commissioned.

    Those who claim that the establishment of the Haftarah pre-dates canonization (see Elbogen, haT’fillah bYisra’el, p. 132) argue as follows:

    1. There is no demand that the Haftarah be read from a complete compilation of the N’vi’im, rather from a scroll including just the book in question (e.g. Yehoshua, Yeshayah);

    2. Haftarot are not read in any sequential order,

    3. nor is there a demand for sequential reading within one Haftarah – one may skip from section to section (albeit within certain strict parameters).

    The conclusion is sound. As mentioned above, it is abundantly clear that the institution of the reading of the Haftarah predates the turn of the millenium; it is equally clear from the report in Massechet Shabbat that the Prophetic canon wasn’t closed before that time; Rav (3rd century) relates:

    In truth, that man, Hananiah son of Hezekiah by name, is to be remembered for blessing: but for him, the Book of Yehezqe’el would have been excluded from the canon, for its words contradicted the Torah. What did he do? Three hundred barrels of oil were taken up to him and he sat in an upper chamber and reconciled [the contradictions]. (BT Shabbat 13b)

    Hananiah b. Hezekiah b. Gurion, the sage in question, lived during the early first century – and issues of inclusion in the canon were still being debated. Thus, Elbogen is correct in stating that the institution of the Haftarah predated the closing of the prophetic canon; yet, his arguments fail once we understand the reason for the original establishment of the public reading of a selection of the N’vi’im, one that will easily explain the three observations noted above.



    There are two major schools among the Rishonim as to the origins of the public reading of the Haftarah.

    One maintains that it was the outgrowth of a more intense learning experience which took place in the synagogue. Here is the report of R. Tzidkiyah b. Avraham haRofe (1230-1300, Italy) in his classic Shibbolei haLeket (#44):

    [quoting Rashi, who describes the common custom of studying Torah, N’vi’im and oral law immediately after morning T’fillah;evidently this custom was prevalent during the Second Commonwealth]…once poverty increased and the people needed to work, they could not engage so intensely in the study of Torah and they abandoned the Torah in its place save for the recital of Sh’ma which includes the acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Decalogue and the responsibility for fulfilling Mitzvot – this they didn’t abandon. Nonetheless, they would read these two verses from the N’vi’im: uVa l’Tziyyon and va’Ani Zot B’riti…which is a sort of K’riat haTorah – and these are still recited by us every day. On Shabbat and Yom Tov, which have no hindrance from work and are leisurely days, they restored the crown to its former glory, instituting the reading and translating of the N’vi’im in matters relating to the day. Therefore, we do not recite uVa l’Tziyyon in the morning T’fillah of Shab bat and Yom Tov because they have already read from the N’vi’im…(the same explanation can be found in Rashi’s name in Sefer haPardes. The explanation proferred here for the recitation of uVa l’Tziyyon can be found as early as the Geonic period; cf. Teshuvot haGe’onim Sha’arei Teshuvah #55 and Teshuvot haGe’onim Lik #90. We will not analyze the implications of this approach for understanding the public K’riat haTorah – but it is quite intriguing and somewhat novel).

    The other explanation suggested by the Rishonim shares one feature with the first – they both see the Haftarah as the result of less-than-ideal circumstances. The Abudraham (R. David Abudraham, 14th c. Spain) explains:

    Why do we read from the N’vi’im? Since there was a decree against Yisra’el preventing them from reading from the Torah, corresponding to the seven who would come up to read from the Torah – and no one reads fewer than three verses per Aliyah – they ordained that 21 verses from the N’vi’im should be read… (this approach can also be found in Tosafot Yom Tov, Megillah 3:4 – he cites the Sefer haTishbi who maintains that the aforementioned decree was passed by the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes IV).

    Note that Abudraham makes no mention of when this decree was promulgated – but, just as the vague mention of the onset of poverty in the first explanation, we must assume that it took place during the Second Commonwealth, likely before the end of the Hasmonean dynasty (37 BCE).

    As we noted earlier, Elbogen’s arguments in favor of a pre-canon date for the establishment of the Haftarah led him to an accurate conclusion. Nonetheless, the arguments themselves are wanting, as follows:

    His second and third arguments (the lack of any demand of sequential integrity), are easily dismissed. Since the institution of the Haftarah was passed to “make up” for something missing in Torah engagement, it stands to reason that it would not have its own independent scheme of study, rather it would parallel the Torah reading which it was meant to amplify (first explanation) or for which it wouild substitute (second explanation). This response is, of course, much more persuasive if we accept the Abudraham’s explanation; to wit, the weekly (and holiday) Haftarah were meant to “make up” for the missed Torah reading. As such there would be no reason to follow some serial or sequential reading instead of an independent reading each week. Although weaker, the same argument might be made for the first explanation. Since the Haftarah was intended to serve as a mini-restoration of the glory of studying after T’fillah, there would be no need for it to follow some serial format.

    Elbogen’s first argument, (since the Haftarah need not be read from an entire compilation of N’vi’im, rather it is sufficient to read from a proper scroll which includes that entire Sefer, thus proving that it was instituted before there was a canon of N’vi’im), rests on an assumption without support. His analogy purports to equate the five books of the Torah with the eight books of the N’vi’im (or perhaps he would be satisfied with the four literary N’vi’im and the four historic books of the N’vi’im as units). There is no reason to assume this equation; the five books of Torah are presented, within the Torah itself, as an integrated unit – Mosheh wrote a Sefer Torah at the end of his life and gave it to the children of Levi (D’varim 31:9). Although the Torah covers a long time period (Creation through the end of the desert wanderings), it was given and completed during one short period and by one Navi – Mosheh. Contradistinctively, each book of the N’vi’im is its own wor k, by its own author (see BT Bava Batra 14b) and focused on its own unique theme and era. Why would there ever be a desideratum to have a scroll of all of the N’vi’im from which the reading must originate?

  6. yehudith says:

    by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom


    Since we have no hard evidence about the time and circumstances which led to the establishment of the public recitation of passages from N’vi’im, our only recourse is to investigate the framework of the institution to glean some clues as to its purpose.

    As Abudraham points out, the minimum requirement for a reading of the Haftarah is 21 verses – although there are exceptions to this rule (generally, if the entire theme is exhausted in fewer than 21 verses). This does seem to suggest a correlation to the Torah reading (7 aliyot times 3 verses at minimum), although, following this logic, there should be a requirement of 18 verses on Yom haKippurim (when there are 6 Aliyot) and 15 for Yom Tov (when there are five). In addition, this does not explain why Haftarot are not recited at every occasion of the public reading of the Torah.

    The first challenge is easy to defend against: Once the ordinance was established regarding the public reading of the N’vi’im, the standard limit of 21 verses was attached to the ordinance and didn’t vary from holiday to Shabbat. It is the general rule of Takkanot (ordinances) of Haza”l not to establish varying norms for what is essentially one act.

    The second challenge might be defended, if we suggest that a Haftarah is read on each occasion of K’riat haTorah that was in practice at the time of the decree. Although this is reasonable, it leaves us with isolating the Torah reading on weekdays, Rosh Chodesh, Purim, Hanukkah and fast days (except for Tish’ah b’Av) in the morning as being the latest stratum of enactment of Torah reading – after the decree and the subsequent ordinance of Haftarah. This is difficult, especially in light of the passage in Bava Kama 82b which assigns credit for the weekly readings on Monday and Thursday mornings to none other than Ezra (5th century BCE), who certainly predated the establishment of the Haftarah

    The Babylonian tradition (which we follow) of the annual cycle of Torah reading has a general principle which supports Abudraham’s approach – although it might be marshaled on behalf of the explanation favored within the school of Rashi (as reported in Shibbolei haLeket above). That principle, succinctly summarized in two words, is “d’Dami Lei” (BT Megillah 29b). To wit, the Haftarah must have a thematic resemblance to the associated Torah reading. This would seem to suggest that the Haftarah was originally intended to substitute for the K’riat haTorah and, as such, must communicate the same ideas or relate similar narratives.

    The principle which governed the custom of Eretz Yisrael (the triennial cycle), conversely, focused on word-association. Any passage from the N’vi’im which began with the same word with which the associated Torah reading began could be used as the Haftarah for that Shabbat. This tradition, as well, supports Abudraham’s explanation.

    Both, however, could also fit within the scheme suggested by the school of Rashi. If the Haftarah was formulated in order to preserve some study of the N’vi’im, it would be reasonable that that study would be related, thematically or (at least) philologically, to the mandated Torah study which precedes it.

    One feature of the Haftarah which is readily apparent from the two traditions related above – and which quickly emerges from even a casual perusal of the primary sources – is that there were no assigned texts for Haftarot at the time of the establishment of the practice. Indeed, the Mishnah makes no mention of designated readings for Haftarot; the only related codification is two passages, both from Yehezqe’el (1 & 16), which are deemed inappropriate to be used for a Haftarah. (Megillah 4:10) The Tosefta (Megillah 3:1) does list the appropriate Haftarot for the Four Shabbatot (from Shabbat before/on Rosh Chodesh Adar through the Shabbat before/on Rosh Chodesh Nisan). The Gemara (BT Megillah 31a) quotes a Baraita which lists the Haftarot for the various holidays, Shabbat Rosh Chodesh and, curiously, Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Av. The Gemara (31b) relates a dispute as to the proper Haftarah for Tish’ah b’Av itself; there is very little else discussed in the Gemara relating to spe cific Haftarot and absolutely nothing regarding the assignment of Haftarot for “regular” Shabbatot.

    This is not to say that the rules regarding the regular Haftarah are not found in the Talmud – here are three examples:

    One who reads the Torah (i.e. K’riat haTorah) should not read less than three verses and he should not read to the translator more than one verse [at a time]. In a Navi, however, [he may give him] three at a time. If the three verses constitute three separate Parashiot, he must read them [to the translator] one by one. The reader may skip [from place to place] in a Navi but not in the Torah…(Mishnah Megillah 4:4)

    He who says the Haftarah from the Navi should read not less than twenty-one verses, (BT Megillah 23a)

    The reader may not skip from one Navi to another. In the T’rei Asar, he may skip, provided only that he does not skip from the end of the book to the beginning. (ibid. 24a)

    As can be seen, there were general rules covering the choice of material (“d’Dami Lei” or word-association), the length, the style of reading etc. all of which point to the obvious conclusion that there were no set Haftarot during the Talmudic period. To what extent was the selection the “reader’s choice” and how much input was given to the community to determine the appropriate reading is unclear. What is very clear is that, with the exception of the holiday readings, the choice of material for the Haftarah was not globally mandated nor made in a universal manner.

    This explains why there are so many Shabbatot wherein there are multiple traditions (Russian, German, Yemenite, Italian etc.) as to where to begin and end the text or even which text to use. Evidently, over time, particular Haftarot became regional “favorites” and were the norm for a set of communities who shared other traditions, customs and interacted with each other on a regular basis.

    …all of which brings us to the seven Shabbatot of consolation.



    As mentioned above, the Gemara provides us with no list of Shabbat-Haftarot, and many of the Haftarot which we regularly read only became “fixed” in medieval times. The seven Haftarot of Nechamah, however, are clearly from an early period; this can be seen by their usage as headings in the P’sikta d’R. Kahana dating from the 5th century in Eretz Yisra’el. It can also be seen by the universal adoption of these Haftarot; there are no communities that do not read these seven Haftarot on these seven Shabbatot, using the same texts.

    The texts used are all taken from the latter half of the book of Yeshayah, as per this chart:

    1 – Va’Et’hanan – 40:1-26* – 26 – Nahamu, nahamu ‘ami

    2 – Ekev – 49:14-51:3 – 27 – Vatomer Tziyyon

    3 – R’eh – 54:11-55:5 – 12 – ‘Aniyah So’arah

    4 – Shof’tim – 51:12-52:12 – 23 – Anokhi Anokhi

    5 – Ki Tetze – 54:1-54:10 – 10 – Roni ‘Akarah

    6 – Ki Tavo – 60:1-22 – 22 – Kumi Ori

    7 – (pre-Rosh haShanah) – 61:10-63:9** – 23 – Sos Asis

    * the Yemenite tradition adds 40:27 and 41:17 at the end

    ** the Yemenite tradition begins at v. 9

    As can be seen from the chart, the series of seven Haftarot recited during this period is uniform throughout Israel, with a nearly-total absence of deviations from community to community. What can also be noted from the chart is that the Haftarot are not loyal to the sequence within the book of Yeshayah, nor do they all conform to the minimum of 21 verses.

    I would like to raise four questions about this series of Haftarot; we will address these questions, along with a brief review of each selection, in next week’s issue.

    1) Why are there Haftarot of consolation at all? None of them relates, in any straightforward way, to the Torah reading of the respective Shabbat.

    2) What is the reason for seven such Shabbatot? If there is a desire for a Haftarah of consolation, one should suffice.

    3) Why does this series continue until the Shabbat just prior to Rosh haShanah? If Haftarot can be utilized to establish and emotional/spiritual ambience (as in our case), wouldn’t we expect Haftarot of introspection and Teshuvah to be read during the final days before the Day of Judgment?

    4) Why do these Haftarot violate the sequencing within Sefer Yeshayah? If we want to publicly read seven prophetic selections relating to the consolation of Am Yisrael, we could certainly find seven such passages in contiguous Parashiot – or, failing that, reorder the seven listed above to reflect their position within the book (#1,2,4,5,3,6,7) – all it would take would be taking the Haftarah of R’eh and moving it to Parashat Ki Tetze. There must be a wisdom informing the series – what is it?

  7. yehudith says:

    Seven Shabbatot of Consolation (II)
    by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom


    In the previous essay, we presented a limited overview of the theories as to the origin of the public reading of the Haftarah, as well as several suggestion and general parameters as to the date of its establishment.

    At the end of the shiur, we noted that although the customs of which selections from the N’vi’im would be read was community-based (if that) and it was only in the middle ages that set selections emerged (albeit with variations from community to community). With the exception of the Haftarot for the holidays, all that is provided in the Talmud is a series of rules concerning the size and method of the text – with an allusion as to the guiding principle in choosing a text. The Babylonian custom was to find thematic connections between the K’riat haTorah of that Shabbat and the selected text; the Galilean custom was to identify the first key word in the Torah reading and find a passage in the N’vi’im with the same opening word.

    It is, therefore, surprising that the seven Shabbatot immediately following Tish’ah b’Av (of which this is the third) are graced with the universally practiced reading of the “seven Haftarot of consolation”, all taken from the latter half of the book of Yeshayah (Isaiah). In last week’s essay, we presented a chart of the Haftarot, noting that there is only the slightest variation in customs – there is near-unanimity throughout the Jewish world regarding the selection of texts used on these seven Shabbatot. What is even more remarkable is that the tradition of ignoring the theme (or key words) of the Torah reading in favor of the seven-fold message of Nechamah (consolation) is so global; this means, undoubtedly, that the tradition is an old one, dating back to end of the Talmudic period (note our observation about the Pesikta d’R. Kahanah in last week’s essay). We were left with four questions:

    1. Why are there Haftarot of consolation at all?

    2. What is the reason for seven such Shabbatot?

    3. Why does this series continue until the Shabbat just prior to Rosh haShanah?

    4. Why do these Haftarot violate the sequencing within Sefer Yeshayah?

    We were left wondering as to the wisdom which informs the sequence, but, beyond that, the establishment of such a custom to begin with, its duration, selection and message.

    We will begin by briefly noting two approaches taken by the commentators to explain the sequence – and then reassess the entire institution of Shiva’ah d’Nechemta, using our general analysis as a point of departure for suggesting a third solution to the sequence.



    The Mahzor Vitri, one of the oldest commentaries on liturgy in our literature, was composed by a student of Rashi, R. Sh’mayah. He briefly notes that the order of the Haftarot of consolation are similar to the manner of “personal consolers”, who bring consolation in stages, beginning with simple and understated comfort and ending in grander visions of solace.

    Although this approach has much to recommend it, it is difficult on two counts. First of all, one needs to demonstrate that, indeed, each successive Haftarah contains greater terms of consolation. Second, there are surely other passages which would offer “the next stage” in comfort. For instance, the fifth Haftarah (Roni Akarah), relates the nation coming home – and the next one, (Kumi Ori Ki Va Orekh) has a significantly grander scheme laid out for Am Yisra’el.

    Beyond that, the premise is as yet unsubstantiated. Why should it be assumed that the Haftarot of consolation should be patterned after the stages of consolation proffered to a mourner by his or her friends?

    R. David Abudraham, who lived in the 14th century in Seville, composed one of the most comprehensive commentaries on T’fillah. In his magnum opus (commonly referred to as “Sefer Abudraham”), he notes that the order of the Haftarot represent a three-way dialogue (I would studiously avoid the use of “polylogue”) between G-d, the prophet and Am Yisrael, as follows:

    a) G-d tells the prophet Nachamu Nachamu Ami – bring comfort to My people;

    b) Am Yisrael then declares vaTomer Tziyyon Azavani Hashem – G-d has abandoned me and I am not satisfied with the consolation of the prophet

    c) The prophet then returns to G-d and says Aniyah So’arah Lo Nuchamah – to wit, the impoverished and persecuted nation refuses to be comforted

    d) G-d then responds Anokhi Anokhi Hu Menachemkhem – this it is I, says G-d, who comfort you.

    e) He then continues Roni Akarah, abjuring Am Yisrael to rejoice,

    f) Followed by Kumi Ori, after which

    g) Am Yisrael responds “Sos Asis”, – I will, indeed, rejoice in G-d.

    This is an interesting observation, but it only goes as far as the opening line in each Haftarah (and it would have worked out so much “cleaner” if the fifth and sixth had involved the prophet and the people, such that each Haftarah was a new voice).

    These are the two conventional explanations suggested by the Rishonim for the order of Shabbatot Nechamah.

    I’d like to propose a new explanation of the Shabbatot of Nechamah, one which we will discover to have its roots in the approach presented in the Mahzor Vitri. In order to demonstrate the appeal of this suggestion, we need to review – and perhaps reassess – some of our conclusions regarding the inclusion of Eikhah in T’nakh (“canonization”).



    In our brief overview of Megillat Eikhah (available on the Mikra homepage – ), we raised the question of canonization; what justifies the inclusion of Megillat Eikhah in the T’nakh. Since there were, according to the Rabbinic tradition, myriads of prophets who prophesied on behalf of and concerning Am Yisra’el, the selection of prophetic works worthy of inclusion in the canon was predicated on some message or value that transcends the primary target audience:

    Only those prophecies that had eternal significance were preserved. (BT Megillah 14a)

    In answering it, we noted that the dramatic development within Eikhah, which reaches its apex at the end of the fourth chapter, is presented as a series of dialogues between the Meqonen and the city. The ultimate goal of the Meqonen is achieved in the fifth and final chapter, when, in one voice, the people pour out their hearts before G-d, beginning the process of Qiunnah (dirge). Besides the direct and eschatological modes in which the text operates on a national scale, the emotional/psychological realities which unfold in the area of dealing with tragedy are most illuminating. We see how the Meqonen, who is ultimately charged with getting the city (and her children) to accept what has befallen her and to acknowledge her own culpability cajoles, encourages and pushes the city to cry out to G-d – which is the only path through which consolation can even begin. This is strikingly similar to the process of accepting personal tragedy, wherein denial, anger and hopelessness ( read: helplessness) are nearly inevitable prerequisites to the process of healing. In that essay, I suggested that part of the “ongoing value” of Megillat Eikhah is its guidance to the Menachamim (consolers) on how to utilize various methods and approaches to bring the mourner to a state of acceptance and back into dialogue with G-d.

    There is an additional value to the interplay between personal “fresh” Avelut and that experienced by all members of the nation on an annual basis. All of us learn how to mourn from youth – when a personal tragedy strikes, we have memories upon which to draw which help to anchor us in the rituals and emotions of mourning. When faced with the personal loss of a loved one, all of those feelings which we have learned to internalize on a yearly basis – even if somewhat distant – become part of a more intense feeling. Finally, and perhaps most pointedly, when the formula of consolation “May the Omnipresent One console you among the mourners of Tziyyon and Yerushalayim” is declaimed, the mourner truly understands that he or she is not alone in the experience of mourning, as we are all Avelim for Yerushalayim and the Mikdash.

    I would like to suggest that much the same can be said for the active process of Nehemat ha’Am (the consolation of the nation) which takes place subsequent to Tish’ah b’Av. For all that Eikhah contains the seeds of comfort, it only goes so far as to open up the doors of dirge – comparable to the status of Mi sheMeto Mutal l’Fanav (one whose deceased relative is still lying before him, awaiting burial) – Rabbinically referred to as Aninut. Thus, there is no real consolation which can take place – as yet – on Tish’ah b’Av (we do beseech that G-d comfort us in the Nahem paragraph added in at Minhah, but that is our request which remains unfulfilled by the end of the day). The process of national consolation begins after the day (and its 18 hour “trailer”, during which time the Beit haMikdash was still ablaze) is over.



    Tish’ah b’Av can never violate the redemptive and other-worldly reality of Shabbat – if need be, it is postponed until Sunday. How can one mourn the terrible distance between the nation and our G-d on a day in which His presence is immanent? (Interested readers are encouraged to pay close attention to the interwoven themes present in L’kha Dodi.) Conversely, consolation belongs primarily to the realm of Shabbat. As such, the process of national consolation begins on the Shabbat following Tish’ah b’Av and continues, each new step introduced on the successive Shabbat. Just as it is the N’vi’im who warned us of impending disaster if we don’t mend our ways and repair our relationship with G-d and each other, similarly it is their task to console us and assure us of a speedy and safe return to our Land, to our G-d and to our prior glory.

    This process, following the lead laid out above, is also modeled after the stages of interpersonal consolation. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the consolation is presented to us in seven steps – much as the mourner experiences seven days of (the primary level of) Avelut. I will demonstrate that each of the Haftarot, in succession, mirrors one of the days (read: stages) in consolation with which the Menahamim console the mourner.



    What is curious about the first Haftarah (Yeshayah 40:1-26) is that after the first command to the prophet to comfort the people, the theme of consolation – which we would expect to be the leitmotiv in the entire passage – disappears. In its place stands a beautiful testament to G-d’s everlasting greatness against which Man’s temporary and paltry existence is measured. Here are a few selections from the passage:

    1. Comfort my people, comfort them, says your G-d.

    2. Speak comfortably to Yerushalayim, and cry to her, that her fighting is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from Hashem’s hand double for all her sins…

    6. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all its grace is as the flower of the field;

    7. The grass withers, the flower fades; when the breath of Hashem blows upon it; surely the people is like grass…

    21. Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

    22. It is He who sits upon the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are as grasshoppers; Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in;

    23. Who brings princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth as vanity.

    24. Scarcely are they planted; scarcely are they sown; scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth; and He merely blows upon them, and they wither, and the stormy wind takes them away as stubble.

    25. To whom then will you liken me, that I should be his equal? said the Holy One.

    26. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold Who has created these things; Who brings out their host by number, He calls them all by names by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing.

    Wherein lies the consolation here?

    Returning to the process of personal mourning and consolation, we see, at least, the template upon which this selection can be seen.

    The first day of Avelut is the day of burial – from the completion of burial until the end of the day. As soon as the grave is filled in, the assembled become Menahamim, form two lines and, as the mourners pass between them, recite the familiar formula mentioned above. During the burial itself, there are three critical passages which are said:

    1) El Male Rahamim – acknowleding the death and asking G-d to protect the soul of the deceased;

    2) Tzidduk haDin – accepting the truth of G-d’s judgment (the verses which are included in the Tzidduk haDin extol not only G-d’s greatness, but the wispy existence of every man.)

    3) Kaddish – an expanded version which is said only at graveside (and at the celebration of the conclusion of a book of Talmud – notice again how the rebuilding of Yerushalayim is inextricably tied into the powerful moments of personal mourning).

    This is the necessary prerequisite of consolation. Once the mourner has accepted the reality of his tragic loss (El Male), he must realize the “bigger picture” (Kaddish) and even if he cannot internalize it as yet, G-d’s greater “view” (Tzidduk haDin), it needs to be stated. Similarly, Yerushalayim will begin to take solace once it realizes in Whose hands its fate rests and that all men wither and blow away as the grass. As the mighty Bavel rested on its ugly laurels, taunting the Levites to “sing to us of the songs of Tziyyon” (T’hillim 137:3), we remembered that all men have their limited time to crest (see Eikhah 4:21) and that G-d’s will is unstoppable.



    One of the overwhelming feelings that the Avel feels once the first day – with all of its “reality therapy” – has gone, is that of isolation. After all of the hustle of the burial, the first meal (brought by others) etc., he finally sits alone (even if there are other mourners!), lower than everyone else, silent and desolate. This mirrors the tragic picture of the first chapter of Eikhah – “all of my friends have betrayed me…”. The necessary consolation for this step is to show the mourner that he is yet surrounded by friends; if he cannot see it now, he must think back to those glory days of the past and take solace in their memory.

    Note how the second Haftarah (49:14-51:3) follows and responds to these sentiments:

    14: But Tziyyon says, Hashem has forsaken me, and Hashem has forgotten me.

    15. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, even they may forget, but I will not forget you.

    16. Behold, I have engraved you upon the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before me…

    18. Lift up your eyes around, and behold; all these gather themselves together, and come to you. As I live, says Hashem, you shall surely dress yourself with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on you, as a bride does.…

    51:2. Look to Avraham your father, and to Sarah who gave birth to you; for he was only one when I called him, and blessed him, and increased him.

    3. For Hashem shall comfort Tziyyon; He will comfort all her ruins; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of Hashem; joy and gladness shall be found in there, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

    Note the unique reference (not found in any of the other Haftarot in this series) to Avraham and Sarah. The father of our people, the archetype of the isolated hero, enjoyed the blessing (realized only generations later) of a tribe mure numerous than the stars in the heaven. What powerful solace for the city in mourning – her children will, as promised in v. 18, return to her and adorn her as an ornament. The bright future is, however, presented in broad strokes, utilizing vague terms to paint a glorious picture which is, as yet, unanchored in specific realia.

  8. yehudith says:

    Parshas Shoftim
    Seven Shabbatot of Consolation (II)
    by Rav Yitzchak Etshalom


    Although we are generally familiar with 7 days as the primary unit of Avelut and that which defines the first stage of mourning, there is a subset of days within the first week:

    Three days for weeping and seven for lamenting and thirty [to refrain] from cutting the hair and [donning] pressed clothes (BT Mo’ed Katan 27b)

    The third day is the end of the most intense period – that of B’khiyyah. Weeping is always associated with the past – with losses and unrecoverable glory. The refocusing on the past at the end of the previous Haftarah is the final touch with days gone by – from here on, the emphasis of consolation will be on the future, which begins in the third Haftarah (54:11-55:5)

    Even the opening line turns the unwillingness of the nation to be comforted into a presentation of a bright future:

    54:11. O you afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors, and lay your foundations with sapphires.

    12. And I will make your windows of rubies, and your gates of beryl, and all your borders of precious stones.

    13. And all your children shall be taught of Hashem; and great shall be the peace of your children.

    Attend to the greater specificity here regarding the future – and how the future is not only a restoration but brighter and more glorious than ever (v. 12).

    Just as with the conclusion of the three days of weeping, the mourner can start looking ahead and understanding how the future may, indeed, hold days not only unmarred by tears but also be celebrated as never before. This is, of course, only theoretical and cognitively perceived while unintegrated at this point.



    It is often the case that the myriad of visitors during the initial period can overwhelm the mourner; even if the numbers are small, the shock and dissonance brought on by the burial can often prevent real interaction with real comforters. Words float on the air, spoken by ghostly visitors with no real presence (from the perspective of the mourner). The next step, so to speak, is for the comforters to begin the process of personal interaction with the mourner in a “real” way. In addition, the objective anchors and hopes which are presented in the first three days must give way to subjective, personal words of comfort.

    After the city has heard the prophecies of grand future, rooted in a glorious past, it is time for G-d to speak directly to the heart of the city. The fourth Haftarah (51:12-52:12) introduces this direct and personal consolation:

    51:12. I, I myself, am he who comforts you; who are you, that you should be afraid of a man who shall die, and of the son of man who shall be made as grass…

    15. And I am the Lord your God, who stirs up the sea, whose waves roar…

    52:5-8. Now therefore, what have I here, says Hashem, that My people is taken away for nothing? …for they shall see eye to eye, when Hashem returns to Tziyyon.

    9. Break forth into joy, sing together, you ruins of Yerushalayim; for Hashem has comforted His people, he has redeemed Yerushalayim.

    10. Hashem has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our G-d…



    Once the personal connection has been established between mourner and consoler, the bright future (which is the ultimate ray of hope for anyone bewailing a tragedy) must be restated. As the first intense week of mourning wears on, as the sharp shock of death and immediate awareness of loss give way to the fears about the empty future and the irreplacable seat at the table, the closest friends must bring hope to the Avel.

    The fifth Haftarah refocuses attention on the future – but, unlike the second Haftarah which was as yet “cognitive” and distant, this Haftarah (54:1-10) is designed to bolster the faith that it will, indeed, be good:

    1. Sing, O barren, you who did not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who did not labor with child; for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says Hashem.

    2. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations; spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes;

    3. For you shall break forth on the right hand and on the left; and your seed shall possess nations, and make desolate cities to be inhabited…

    7. For a small moment have I forsaken you; but with great mercy will I gather you…

    10. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall the covenant of My peace be removed, says Hashem who has mercy on you.

    Note the continued emphasis on the personal connection with G-d – will I gather you…

    Note also the wife/mother metaphor, stressing the personal and intimate relationship with G-d, as yet undeclared (in the previous passages).



    One of the most powerful feelings, often subconscious but powerful nonetheless, experienced by the mourner is utter powerlessness. This is proper and even encouraged by the Halakhah (the inability to leave the house, to prepare food, to sit up) which enforces the feeling of ultimate impotence we all experience when facing the ugly countenance of death. Important as it is to give voice to this frustration, it is the job of the consolers to begin to empower the mourner.

    As the city begins to shake off her dust of desolation and anticipates a bright future promised by her Comforter, she is riddled with the self-doubt brought on by this impossibly powerful blast to her self-esteem.

    The response comes in kind in the sixth Haftarah (60:1-22):

    1. Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of Hashem has risen upon you…

    3. And the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.

    4. Lift up your eyes around, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side.

    5. Then you shall see, and be filled with light, and your heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you…

    20. Your sun shall no more go down; nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for Hashem shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.

    K’vod Yisra’el is the main feature of this Haftarah, not found in any of the others. As the comforters begin to prepare the mourner to arise and rejoin the world – and greet the brighter future as promised, he needs their support to embrace his own glory.



    Because the mourner has been so reliant on others (for food, for company – even for the quorum necessary to say Kaddish), the main feature of the final day of mourning is the first step of reintegration into the world. Because of the Halakhic dictum Miq’zat haYom k’Khulo (parf of the day is considered a full day), immediately after Shaharit, the comforters escort the mourner out of his house – as it were, to rejoin the world. One of the salient effects of this reintegration – notably the process by which it is initiated – is the public awareness of this “reborn” citizen in their midst.

    Am Yisra’el was never intended to live in a cocoon. Much as this is “a nation that dwells apart”, that only refers to a level of spiritual and (perhaps) material self-sufficiency to be found in our nation. Quite the opposite is true, however, when we look at our purpose vis-à-vis the nations of the world. It is quite clear that from the time of Avraham, our purpose has been to “be a blessing unto all the families of the earth” and to inspire, teach and lead the children of Noach to a proper relationship with G-d and with each other.

    This can not be accomplished while we are closed within ourselves, trying to decide who we are and what our mission is. It can certainly not be realized while we stagger in the self-doubt brought about by disaster; it is only after we have completed the process of mourning and fully allowed ourselves to be consoled that we can step out into the global community, walk among the nations and inspire them in such a manner that the nations will call us “the Kohanim of Hashem”.

    The final Haftarah (61:10-63:9) focuses on the esteem with which the rest of the world will regard us:

    10. I will greatly rejoice in Hashem, my soul shall be joyful in my G-d; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

    11. For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so Hashem G-d will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

    62:1. For Tziyyon’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Yerushalayim’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth like radiance, and her salvation like a burning torch.

    2. And the nations shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of Hashem shall express…

    6. I have set watchmen upon your walls, O Yerushalayim, who shall never hold their peace day nor night; you who make mention of Hashem, take no rest.

    7. And give him no rest, until he establish, and until he makes Yerushalayim a praise in the earth…

    The final step in consolation comes when the whole world recognizes the intimate relationship between G-d and His people; this is when Hashem walks us outside, completing the process of consolation.



    These past two essays have been devoted to a unique series of Haftarot which has ancient roots and is practiced with near uniformity throughout Am Yisra’el. We raised several questions about the Haftarot, all of which we can answer now:

    The Haftarot serve as the “response” to Eikhah; much as the public reading on Tish’ah b’Av expresses the feeling of helplessness so common among mourners, similarly the Haftarot express the stages of consolation which the nation experiences in coming out of that mourning. Just as Tish’ah b’Av cannot take place on Shabbat, a day of redemption and other-worldliness, so Shabbat is the most fitting time for these readings.

    There are seven Haftarot to correspond to the seven steps of consolation which the mourner experiences through the help of his fellows. The sequence, though nearly true to the selections from Yeshayah, follows the sense of those stages.

    We read these Haftarot until Rosh Hashanah because we cannot properly fulfill our mission on that great Day of Remembrance – declaring G-d’s Rule over all – if we are still coping with our own tragic circumstances. There is no better preparation for Rosh haShanah than to remind ourselves of the great mission to which Avraham was called and with which we were charged, our ability to fulfill that mission and G-d’s everlasting love for us.

    In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bore them, and carried them all the days of old.



    This essay was chiefly written in Yerushalayim (and on various airplanes) 11 years ago; before its completion, our city and our heart was torn apart by the horrendous act of terror at Sbarro’s in the center of the city. At that point, our sense of consolation was dwarfed by the communal mourning for the fifteen victims, for their families and for all of Am Yisra’el…and we continue to look to G-d for our consolation.

    For Tziyyon’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Yerushalayim’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth like radiance, and her salvation like a burning torch.

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