This week’s haftorah describes the song King David composed in his old age, echoing the weekly Torah reading, where Moses delivers his parting words to the Jewish nation in song form. David’s song expresses gratitude to G‑d for saving him from all his enemies. He starts with the famous words, “The L-rd is my rock and my fortress.” He goes on to describe the pain and hardships he encountered and reiterates that he always turned to G‑d in his moments of distress. He recounts G-d’s reaction to those who tormented him: “The Lord thundered from heaven; and the Most High gave forth His voice. And He sent out arrows and He scattered them, lightning and He discomfited them. . . I have pursued my enemies and have destroyed them; never turning back until they were consumed.”:
The prophecy begins with the words “Pave, pave, clear the way; remove the obstacles from the way of My people.” A reference to the Yetzer Hara (“evil inclination”) which must be removed to pave the way for sincere repentance. G‑d assures that He will not be forever angry at those who repent, and that instead He will heal them and lead them. The wicked, on the other hand, are compared to a turbulent sea: “there is no peace for the wicked.” G‑d exhorts the prophet Isaiah to admonish the people regarding their fasting ways which G-d finds reprehensible — a message which resonated to this very day:
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Shuva or “Shabbat of Return (Repentance).” The name is a reference to the opening words of the week’s haftorah, “Shuva Israel — Return O Israel.” This haftorah is read in honor of the Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The prophet Hosea exhorts the Jewish people to “Return, O Israel, to the L-rd your G‑d,” encouraging them to repent sincerely and ask for G‑d’s forgiveness:
The haftorah for the second day of Rosh Hashanah talks about G‑d’s everlasting love for His people, and the future ingathering of their exiles. In the last verse of this hauntingly beautiful haftorah, G‑d says, “Is Ephraim [i.e., the Children of Israel] not My beloved son? Is he not a precious child, that whenever I speak of him I recall him even more?” This follows one of the primary themes of the Rosh Hashanah prayers, our attempt to induce G‑d to remember us in a positive light on this Day of Judgment.
Jeremiah begins by affirming G‑d’s love for the Jewish people. “With everlasting love I have loved you; therefore I have drawn lovingkindness over you.”:
The haftorah for the first day of Rosh Hashanah describes the birth of the prophet Samuel to Elkanah and his wife Chanah, who had been childless for many years. This echoes the story discussed in the day’s Torah reading, about Sarah giving birth to Isaac after many years of childlessness. During one of her annual pilgrimages to Shiloh, the site of the Tabernacle, Chanah tearfully and quietly entreated G‑d to bless her with a son, promising to dedicate him to His service. Eli the high priest saw her whispering, and berated her, thinking that she was a drunkard. After hearing Chanah’s explanation, that she had been whispering in prayer, Eli blessed her that G‑d should grant her request:
This week’s parsha raises a question that goes to the heart of Judaism, but which was not asked for many centuries until raised by a great Spanish scholar of the fifteenth century, Rabbi Isaac Arama. Moses is almost at the end of his life. The people are about to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. Moses knows he must do one thing more before he dies. He must renew the covenant between the people and God.
…Judaism is not ascetic. It does not worship pleasure. Judaism is not hedonist. Instead it sanctifies pleasure. It brings the Divine presence into the most physical acts: eating, drinking, intimacy. We find God not just in the synagogue but in the home, the house of study and acts of kindness, in community, hospitality and wherever we mend some of the fractures of our human world:
This week’s haftorah is the seventh and final installment of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah. The prophet begins on a high note, describing the great joy that we will experience with the Final Redemption, comparing it to the joy of a newly married couple. Isaiah than declares his refusal to passively await the Redemption: “For Zion’s sake I will not remain silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emerges like shining light…” He implores the stones of Jerusalem not to be silent, day or night, until G‑d restores Jerusalem and establishes it in glory:
Standard collections of the Mishna include Massekhet Nazir after Nedarim and before Sota in Seder Nashim, even though Nazir has no direct connection to marital issues or family law. Nevertheless, since the parasha that discusses the laws of Nazir appears in close proximity with that of Sota – a wife suspected of adultery (see Bamidbar chapters 5-6) – they were placed next to each other in the Mishna, as well. The entire massekhet focuses on the laws of a Nazir, although some of these laws were already discussed in Massekhet Nedarim and others find their place in the laws of sacrifices and ritual purity
to be continued in the form of the comments
The haftarah opens with Isaiah telling Jerusalem to arise and shine (literally, and not the literally where we mean figuratively, the literally where we mean literally), for the Glory of God will shine upon her. Verses 2 and 3 announce that our light will come at the same time as the non-Jewish nations’ light disappears, leading them and their kings to follow us and our light: