Encouragement from Parashah Vaetchanan
Rabbi Mark Rantz
15th of Av, 5781
Haftorah Vaetchanan (Isaiah 40:1-26) is the first in the series of seven Haftorah readings known as the Haftarot of Consolation, beginning on the first Shabbat following Tisha B’Av and will continue until Rosh Hashanah. So significant, the Prophet Isaiah begins declaring in verse 1,
Nachamu, Nachamu ami Eloheichem, - “Comfort, Comfort my people my people say’s your God.”
Within this powerful prophecy, Isaiah describes some of the miraculous events which will unfold at the coming of the Messianic Age such as the return of the Exiles to Jerusalem, the revelation of God’s glory and the reward for the righteous that is coming and that retribution at that time be removed from God’s people. In conclusion, our Haftorah continues in comforting Israel by describing that Adonai’s power and might and in reassuring them that He has always cared for His people. Comparably, our Haftorah in many ways mirrors Isaiah chapters 40-66, known as “The Rhapsody of Zion’s Redeemed” whereas one Messianic scholar notes, “… the repetition of the divine command to comfort Hashem’s people shows that this is his continual cry; he never ceases to be Israel’s God, even in exile.” From the context of our passage, Haftorah Nachamu, through the divine voice (bat kol) commands Isaiah to speak to Israel with great tenderness, proclaiming that their affliction has end and God’s justice is in fact satisfied. It is noteworthy, as comparable to Tisha B’Av and Lamentations 1:2, 9 declaring, “there is no one to comfort her,” Haftorah Nachamu is in fact a perfect juxtaposition (comparable opposite) of Eikhah in offering not just temporal comfort, but also that which might follow into the olam Haba (Kingdom to Come). Continuing, where Lam. 1:4 states that “the roads to Zion mourn” and the exiles “have fled without strength before the pursuer” Isaiah responds by declaring in 40:3, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God,” and in vs. 29 and 31, He will give strength to the weary and “they who wait for Adonai will renew their strength, They will soar up with wings as eagles. They will run, and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
In perfect order, our Haftorah is also placed, where on the Jewish liturgical calendar it perfectly reflects God’s characteristics of both justice and mercy. Prior, the three Torah portions (Matot, Masei and D’varim all speak of suffering, desolation collide as it were as it were with our previous observance of Tisha B’Av. Yet, as we now transition, looking toward Yom Tov, the attention radically changes from judgment, desolation, and mourning to that of relief, redemption, and comfort. In the end these comparisons all appear to us as a “bridge,” between these passages dealing with suffering and desolation and these seven haftarot of great comfort.
As noted by our aforementioned Messianic scholar, Dr. Vered Hillel, “this bridge is built on two pillars of Judaism: chesed (mercy) and justice. Justice demands punishment for sin. It does not matter whether it is the sin of an individual or the collective sin of a nation or a social group; HaShem holds humankind accountable for our sin and judges it. Yet, HaShem’s chesed, divine mercy, far outweighs his attribute of judgment and justice.”
For us as Messianic believers however, nothing speaks more of God’s mercy and forgiveness of sin than Yeshua and His fulfillment of the Akedah in his perfect redemption for all the world!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
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