Jerrold Landau
Genealogical and Translation Services

Haftarah of Shabbat Rosh Ḥodesh

 

              When Rosh Ḥodesh [New Moon or beginning of the Hebrew month] coincides with Shabbat, the regular Haftarah is replaced with a special Haftarah, from Isaiah 66:1-24. This is the closing chapter of the book of Isaiah. As is common with the words of the prophets, the Haftarah contains words of warning intermixed with statements of hope and comfort. The prophet castigates those who fulfil their sacrificial obligations while thinking of harming other people and cursing Gd. The prophet uses strong words against those who eat the flesh of forbidden animals. In the final verse, a picture is painted of the ultimate vindication at the end of days. The righteous will go out and see the corpses of the sinners, “For their worm will not die, their fire will never be quenched, and they will be a disgrace for all beings.”

               The verses of comfort outnumber the verses of harshness. Verse 10 contains words that are familiar from the popular song, “Gladden Jerusalem, and all those who love her shall rejoice with her…”  Gd promises to comfort the nation just as a mother comforts her child. The second last verse predicts a time when all people will come to bow down to Gd on each Shabbat and Rosh Ḥodesh. Since the final verse ends on a foreboding note, the second last verse is repeated as the conclusion of the Haftarah. It is this verse that forms the connection between this Haftarah and Shabbat Rosh Ḥodesh.

               This Haftarah is not read on Rosh Ḥodesh Tevet, Adar (Adar II in a leap year), Nisan, and Av – respectively on account of Ḥanukah, Shekalim, HaḤodesh, and the three weeks prior to Tisha B’Av. If Rosh Ḥodesh Elul falls on Shabbat, the Haftarah of Rosh Ḥodesh is read, and the regular Haftarah of Re’eh is appended to the Haftarah of Ki Teitzei two weeks later, so as not to skip any of the seven Haftarot of comfort. On days where the Haftarah of Rosh Ḥodesh is displaced by a special Haftarah, the first and last verses of the Haftarah of Rosh Ḥodesh are appended to the reading. The exception to this rule is Shabbat HaḤodesh, whose Haftarah mentions Rosh Ḥodesh, making the adding of the verses unnecessary. Given that Rosh Ḥodesh is often observed for two days, and that it cycles through the days of the week as there is a 29-day interval from one Rosh Ḥodesh to the next, the Haftarah of Shabbat Rosh Ḥodesh is read more frequently than that of Maḥar Ḥodesh.

 

 

Haftarah of Erev Rosh Ḥodesh / Maḥar Ḥodesh

               On the eve of Rosh Ḥodesh, the regular Haftarah is replaced with a special Haftarah from I Samuel 20:18-42. It describes an incident in the life of David prior to his becoming king. David had become a member of King Saul’s household, as well as a son-in-law of the king.  King Saul became jealous of David due to his charisma and growing popularity. David had also become a close friend of King Saul’s son, Jonathan. Their friendship was legendary.

               David is convinced that King Saul wishes to kill him, but Jonathan refuses to believe this. David and Jonathan devise a plan to verify the king’s intentions. The next day would be Rosh Ḥodesh. David was to absent himself from the customary feast and remain in hiding. Jonathan would figure out his father’s intentions toward David, and would inform David by shooting three arrows. If the arrows would fall beyond David, David would realize that the king had evil intentions, and that he should escape. If the arrows would fall short, it would be a sign that all is well.

               On the first day of Rosh Ḥodesh, King Saul attributes David’s absence to a mishap. On the second day, he asks about David. Jonathan informs his father that David had asked permission to return to his family for a gathering. King Saul regards this as an act of treason, and says that his son’s own kingdom cannot be established as long as David lives. When Jonathan attempts to defend David, King Saul is overtaken by rage and attempts to spear Jonathan. Jonathan leaves the feast in anger and shoots the arrows. David realizes that he must escape. Jonathan and David embrace and promise eternal loyalty to each other.

               Aside from the reference to the eve of Rosh Ḥodesh in the opening verse, other connections exist. Just as the moon waxes and wanes but never disappears, David’s fortunes wax and wane, as do the fortunes of the Jewish people. Our people may go through tough times, but, like the moon, will always rebound. Verse 27 states, “Why has the son of Jesse not come to the feast yesterday or today?”  At a time when we reminisce about the Temple sacrifices by reciting the Musaf service two or perhaps three days in a row, we have a heightened sense of the absence of the Temple. We too ask the question, “Why has the son of Jesse (i.e. the Messiah) not arrived yesterday or today?” Furthermore, the advent of Rosh Ḥodesh requires a public announcement. The change of Haftarah on Erev Rosh Ḥodesh accentuates this announcement.

               On Erev Rosh Ḥodesh Tevet, Adar (Adar II in a leap year), Nisan, and Elul, respectively – the regular Haftarah is not displaced due to Ḥanukah, Shekalim, HaḤodesh, and the seven Haftarot of comfort. This would also be true for Av and Tishrei, but the calendar configuration makes those cases impossible. According to many customs, the first and last verses of the Maḥar Ḥodesh Haftarah are appended to the regular Haftarah when not displaced.

 

 

Haftarah of Shabbat Ḥanukah

               The Haftarah of Shabbat Ḥanukah (the first Shabbat Ḥanukah in years where there are two) comes from Zechariah 2:14-4:7. This is the same Haftarah as for Beha’alotecha, which opens with the regulations of the menorah. The Haftarah contains an image of the menorah, used as a message of encouragement to the returning exiles and their leader, Zerubbabel.

               There are many connections between this Haftarah and Ḥanukah. The obvious connection is the menorah. Both the Haftarah and the Ḥanukah story have their setting in the Second Temple period. The high priest at the time of Zechariah is mentioned as being open to rebuke by Satan. Gd rebukes Satan instead, and offers encouragement to the fledgling high priest. This renewal of the priesthood after a period of defilement was replayed in the Ḥanukah story. In his words of encouragement to Zerubbabel the guiding angel states, “Not by might and not by power, but with My spirit, says the Lrd of Hosts.”  This approach to warfare has always been the Jewish way, from Biblical times up to the present day. We must fight our enemies when the need arises, but when we do so, we are expected to evoke the spirit of Gd. It is only through the spirit of Gd that we can be victorious.

               As we recite in the Al HaNisim prayer on Ḥanukah, Gd has placed “The mighty into the hands of the weak, the few into the hands of the many, the impure into the hands of the pure, the evil ones into the hands of the righteous…”  By pure military calculation, the Jewish people should have lost the battles of the Ḥanukah story. It is only through Gd’s support from behind the scenes that the weak overcame the mighty, and the few overcame the many. The astute observer may draw analogies to the wars of modern day Israel, most specifically the War of Independence and the Six Day War. Zerubbabel, the Maccabean fighters of the Ḥanukah story, and the armies of the renewed Jewish State in modern times are all greeted with the closing words of this Haftarah, “Shouts of grace, grace, unto it.”

 

 

Haftarah of Second Shabbat of Ḥanukah

                The Haftarah of the Second Shabbat of Ḥanukah is taken from I Kings, 7:40-50. This Haftarah is equivalent with the rarely read Haftarah of Vayakhel. Since Ḥanukah lasts for eight days, and there are seven days in a week, if Ḥanukah begins on a Shabbat it will also end on a Shabbat. In such a year, there are two Shabbatot of Ḥanukah, and this Haftarah will be read on the final day of the holiday. This happens 18% of the time.

               This Haftarah deals with the construction of the vessels of Solomon’s Temple. Rather than the single menorah of the Tabernacle, ten menorahs were constructed for the Temple. Five were on the right side of the Holy of Holies, and five were on the left. The Temple was much larger than the Tabernacle, and the need for illumination was far greater. The Torah reading of the final day of Ḥanukah concludes the offerings of the Nesiim [Princes of the Tribes] during the dedication of the Tabernacle and continues with the first four verses of Beha’alotecha, which describe the daily lighting of the menorah in the Tabernacle. It is most fitting that the Haftarah for that day deals with the menorah of the Temple.

 

 

Haftarah of Shabbat Shekalim

               Shabbat Shekalim marks the first of the four special Torah portions that begin either on, or just preceding Rosh Ḥodesh Adar (Adar II in a leap year). The Haftarah comes from II Kings 12:1-17. In some communities, the Haftarah begins from 11:17.

               This Haftarah tells the story of King Jehoash (or Joash) who became king at the age of seven. His grandmother Athaliah, a daughter of the wicked King Aḥab of the Kingdom of Israel, had usurped the Kingdom of Judea. She killed all the male descendants of the House of David, including her own descendants, and ruled for six years as a despot. Jehosheba, the daughter of the deceased King Aḥaziah and wife of the high priest Jehoiada, rescued her month-old brother from the carnage and hid him in the Temple. Seven years later, Jehoiada orchestrated a revolt, had Athaliah killed, and coronated Jehoash as king. The rule of the line of David was restored.

             Jehoash followed the path of his mentor and brother-in-law Jehoiada. In the 23rd year of his reign, he was concerned that the Temple was not being maintained properly, and that the priests had agreed to not take money from the people. Jehoiada took a wooden chest, cut a hole in the top, and placed it beside the altar so that donations could be accepted. He thereby invented the first pushka, or charity box. The connection to Shekalim is clear. The special Torah reading consists of the law of the annual donation of the half shekel. This is in accordance with the first Mishnah of Tractate Shekalim, which states that proclamations are made on Rosh Ḥodesh Adar that it is time to give the half shekel. This is one month before the new fiscal year of the Temple, which begins with Nissan.

             Jehoash is described as a righteous king. In the analogous story in Chronicles, we learn that his ways changed after the death of Jehoiada. (Note: a study of any king of Judea is incomplete without reading the story in both Kings and Chronicles). Jehoash was swayed by his advisors to abandon the ways of Gd. When Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, warned the people to mend their ways, he was killed with the approval of his uncle King Jehoash. According to the Midrash, Zechariah was killed in the Temple on Shabbat that coincided with Yom Kippur. His blood began to froth some two centuries later, near the time of the destruction of the Temple. It only stopped bubbling when Zechariah’s death was avenged by King Nebuḥadnezzar’s bodyguard, Nebuzaradan. Nebuzaradan killed members of the Sanhedrin, young priests, and schoolchildren. Reference is made to this Midrash in the dirges (Kinot) of Tisha B’Av.

               On Shabbat Shekalim, we recall the favourable aspects of King Jehoash. We especially recall the first pushka, an object that has become iconic within Jewish tradition. Tzedakah [charity] is a fundamental Jewish concept, for without tzedakah, the institutions needed to run society would be unable to exist.

 

(See additional note: Four Special Sabbaths.)

 

 

Haftarah of Shabbat Zachor

               The Haftarah of Shabbat Zachor comes from I Samuel 15 2:34. King Saul, the first king of Israel, had established his position. The prophet Samuel bids him to fulfill the commandment of eradicating Amalek. The Torah reading of Zachor outlines the two commandments regarding Amalek. We are bidden to remember what Amalek did to us as we left Egypt. Amalek was the first nation to attack the Children of Israel in the desert. We are also commanded to wipe out any trace of Amalek. Shabbat Zachor is the Shabbat preceding Purim, when we read of the downfall of Haman, a descendent of the Agag of Amalek described in this Haftarah.

               The concept of a Biblically mandated genocide runs contrary to our modern sensibilities. All rabbinic authorities agree that this commandment no longer has any practical ramifications, since we cannot trace any specific individual to the Amalekites. In current thought, the concept of Amalek has morphed from a specific nation to any group or individual dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish People. When the man chosen by the State of Israel to be the executioner of Adolf Eichmann visited Rabbi Ovadia Yosef after carrying out the execution, he was told “You hanged this son of Amalek, burned him to ashes, and utterly erased him from under the Heavens. You did more than even Samuel or Mordecai.”

               In the Haftarah, King Saul wages war and comes close to finishing the deed. He has mercy on Agag, King of Amalek, as well as the finest cattle and sheep, which he intended to offer as sacrifices. Samuel upbraids King Saul for failing to carry out the command. King Saul first denies any wrongdoing, apparently not understanding his failure. Samuel informs the king that Gd prefers obedience to sacrifices. Some interpret this as a rejection of the concept of sacrifices – but that is a distortion of the meaning of these words. The true meaning is that one must beware of inventing one’s own modes of worship, even if seemingly spiritually uplifting, if they violate the dictates of the Torah. This concept is echoed numerous times throughout the prophets (see Haftarot of Tzav and Devarim for examples).

               Samuel then informs King Saul that Gd has rejected him as king. King Saul admits his guilt, and attempts to save face. As he grabbed on to Samuel, he inadvertently tore Samuel’s cloak. Samuel treats this as an omen, declaring, “Just as the cloak was torn, so will the kingdom be torn from you.” Samuel proclaimed, “The Eternal One of Israel does not lie, for He is not a human being to change His mind.” The Haftarah concludes with Samuel killing Agag, stating, “Just as your sword has made women lose their children, so shall your mother be childless among women!” Incidentally, this verse was handwritten by Israeli president Yitzchak Ben Tzvi on Eichmann’s final appeal for clemency.

              Tradition tells us that King Agag impregnated a woman on the final night of his life. This perpetuated the seed of Amalek, and led to the birth of Haman many centuries later. Mordecai and Esther, descendants of King Saul, rectified the failings of their ancestor in carrying out the commandment to wipe out Amalek.

 

(See additional notes: Four Special Sabbaths, Purim on Shabbat.)

 

 

Haftarah of Shabbat Parah

               The Haftarah of Shabbat Parah comes from Ezekiel 36:16-38. The special Torah portion deals with the purification ceremony of the Red Heifer [Parah Adumah], which is mandated before a person who has been in contact with a dead body may enter the Temple. As Pesaḥ approached people who had come in contact with a corpse would carry out this ceremony so that they could participate in the Paschal Offering, for which ritual purity is an absolute requirement.

               According to some authorities, the reading of Parashat Parah may be a Torah obligation. Several reasons are given. On the simple level, the first two verses of the Torah reading (Bamidbar 19:1-2) contain a double indication of speaking. One is that Gd spoke to Moses, and the other is that the entire edict requires a declaration. On a deeper level, some see the law of the Parah Aduma as a means of atonement for the Golden Calf. When a child makes a mess, its mother is called to clean up. We sinned with a calf, so the mother of the calf is used to remove the sin. There is a Torah commandment to remember how we angered Gd by worshipping the Golden Calf in the desert (Deuteronomy 9:7). A formal act of remembrance would be unseemly, but some formalization of this commandment is necessary. According to many opinions, the reading of the portion of the Red Heifer was instituted as a roundabout way of fulfilling this commandment. On many years, Shabbat Parah occurs on the week of the Torah portion of Ki Tisa, which contains the story of the worship of the Golden Calf and its aftermath.

               The Haftarah amplifies the concept of spiritual purification. We are told that the house of Israel had angered Gd, and therefore Gd poured His wrath out against them and dispersed them throughout the earth. This was a desecration of Gd’s Name. Gd will ultimately have mercy on His violated Name, and gather the people in. In a prophetic metaphor, we are told that Gd will pour purifying waters on the Children of Israel to remove their sins. This will not be for their own sake, for the people had sinned and must always remember their evil deeds. Gd will ultimately redeem the Jewish people to vindicate His own Name. While this may be a discomforting thought, it is also reassuring. Even though the Jewish people sinned and have spent centuries in exile, Gd will ultimately bring the final deliverance for His own sake, even if the people are not deserving. The deliverance is assured, and is to some degree independent of the behaviour of the Jewish people. It goes without saying that following in the ways of Gd will hasten the deliverance.

               The final verse portrays a picture of the population increase of the house of Israel, who will be as numerous as the sheep in Jerusalem during the festivals. This is a lovely image as we enter the season of preparation for Pesaḥ.

 

(See additional note: Four Special Sabbaths)

 

 

Haftarah of Shabbat HaḤodesh

               The Haftarah of Shabbat HaḤodesh comes from Ezekiel 45:16-46:18. The purpose of the special Torah portion is to proclaim the month of Nisan as the first month, in accordance with the second verse of the portion. It is interesting that in the Jewish calendar, the beginning of the year does not coincide with the first month of the year. Rosh Ḥodesh Nisan is observed in the same manner as any other Rosh Ḥodeh. The Or Haḥaim commentary notes that the Torah uses both terms rosh [head] and rishon [first] to highlight the special status of the month of Nisan, the month marking the birth of the Jewish people as a nation. For this reason, a special proclamation is in order.

               This Haftarah comes from the latter section of Ezekiel, which outlines the construction and procedures of the Third Temple. The Haftarot of Tetzaveh and Emor also come from this section. The Haftarah outlines the purification ceremony that is to take place annually on the first of Nisan, in preparation for Pesaḥ. This special sacrifice is to be repeated on the seventh of the month. Ezekiel then outlines the special offerings of the nasi [prince – i.e. the leader of the Jewish people] to be brought on Pesaḥ and Sukkot. The Haftarah describes the protocol to be followed when the Nasi visits the Temple on Shabbat and Rosh Ḥodesh. The procedure for entering and exiting the Temple for a common person is also prescribed.

               The final three verses outline the checks and balances to be followed if the nasi wishes to make a gift to his children or his servants. The Haftarah ends with the prohibition of the nasi from stealing from the people to give a gift to his children. The fascinating implication of this ordinance is that even during the Messianic era, leaders are not above the temptation toward graft and misappropriation of property.

               Many of the ordinances outlined in this latter section of Ezekiel have no basis in the Torah. The sacrifices mentioned are different in number and composition. The special annual purification procedures have no precedent in the Torah, where the only annual purification ceremony takes place on Yom Kippur. It is clear to all commentators that Ezekiel is looking forward to the Temple that will be rebuilt in the End of Days. Throughout the long exile, the Jewish people have been comforted by this clear, detailed outline of the way things will be after the final redemption. The Haftarah for Shabbat HaḤodesh introduces the month of Nisan, and serves as a preface to Pesaḥ. On Pesaḥ we were redeemed, and, as Pesaḥ approaches, we look forward to the final redemption.

 

(See additional note: Four Special Sabbaths)

 

 

Haftarah of Shabbat HaGadol

               The Haftarah of Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat before Pesaḥ, comes from Malachi 3:4-24. It marks the end of the Book of Malachi, of the Twelve Minor Prophets, and of the entire Prophets section of the Tanach. These are the final words of prophecy before the closing of the era of the prophets of Israel.

               The identity of Malachi is shrouded in mystery. Some commentators claim that Malachi is the name of the prophet. Others consider the name to mean “My Messenger,” which is the literal translation of the name. Some identify Malachi with Ezra, the great spiritual leader of the returnees from Babylonian exile.

               The Haftarah opens with the statement that the offerings of Judea and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Gd as in former times. Similar to other prophets, Malachi then castigates the Children of Israel for failing to live up to their duties. They did not bring their tithes appropriately, and they spoke harshly about Gd. Malachi’s statements are presented in the form of rhetorical questions and answers. This is the unique style of Malachi. It is also reminiscent of the question and answer format of the upcoming Seder night.

               Toward the end of the Haftarah, Malachi foresees a day that will be burning as hot as an oven. The heat will burn the evildoers, but will be healing to the righteous. In the closing words of prophecy, Malachi summarizes the totality of the message of all prophets by reminding the people to remember the Torah of Moses as it was commanded on Mount Sinai. He then promises that Elijah the Prophet will  return before the Great Day of the Lrd. This reference to Elijah forms the connection to the upcoming Pesaḥ festival. As our sages state, on Pesaḥ we were redeemed, and on Pesaḥ we will ultimately be redeemed. Toward the end of the Seder, we open the door to welcome Elijah. As we anticipate Pesaḥ on the preceding Shabbat, we read about the eventual return of Elijah to herald the ultimate redemption.

               The name of Elijah is spelled without the final vav. The Midrash notes that there are five times where Elijah is spelled without the final vav, and five cases where the name of Jacob is spelled with an additional vav. According to this Midrash, Jacob took a vav from Elijah’s name as a pledge that he will ultimately return to bring the final redemption.

               The chapter ends with a note of destruction, “Lest I come and strike the land with destruction.” As it is considered unseemly to end a book of the Tanach on such a harsh note, the second last verse is repeated. This occurs in the books of Kohelet [Ecclesiastes], Eicha [Lamentations], and Yeshayahu [Isaiah] as well.

 

 

Haftarah of Public Fast Days

               Following the Minḥa Torah reading on fast days, a Haftarah taken from Isaiah 55:6-56:8 is read. This Haftarah is read five times a year – on the fasts of Tisha B’Av, 10 Tevet, Taanit Esther, 17 Tammuz, and Tzom Gedalia. This Haftarah is a call to repentance, as the purpose of a fast day is to encourage us to draw nearer to Gd. The Haftarah opens with a call to seek out Gd when He can be found, followed by an appeal to the wicked person to abandon the path of evil and return to Gd. The Haftarah reminds us that Gd’s thoughts and ways are higher than man’s thoughts and ways. Man’s thoughts and desires may not be actualized, but those of Gd always will be.

               The prophet exhorts the people to perform justice and righteousness. There is a reminder to keep the Sabbath and to refrain from doing evil. This dual  exhortation to follow both the laws between man and Gd, and between man and man is a recurring theme in the prophetic writings. It can be also seen in the Haftarah of Yom Kippur morning, which also deals with the theme of repentance.

               The prophet offers words of comfort to the gentile who wishes to fulfill the word of Gd, as well as to the childless individual who may regard his or her future as being compromised. The childless individual is promised an eternal place in Gd’s kingdom that will be better than sons and daughters. The righteous gentile is promised a place in the Temple in Gd’s Holy Mountain The term used to offer assurance to those who lack physical progeny is Yad Vashem – literally a Hand (or Monument, i.e. a sign of strength) and a Name. The prime Holocaust memorial institution in Jerusalem has, very poignantly, taken its name from this verse. The lives of those who perished in the Holocaust bear ultimate meaning even when entire families were wiped out. The eternity of their souls under Gd’s Divine protection is guaranteed as part of Jewish destiny.

               The second last verse, which is the assurance to the righteous gentile, forms an integral part in all Selichot services, and is repeated numerous time throughout Yom Kippur: “I will bring them to My Holy Mountain and gladden them in My house of prayer. Their sacrifices and offerings will be desired upon My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Judaism has a universalistic outlook regarding the ability of any human being to build a sincere relationship with Gd. This contrasts with the outlook of many other religions. The final verse of this emotionally laden Haftarah offers a promise of ingathering of the Jewish exiles.

 

 

Haftarah of Tisha B’Av Morning

               The Haftarah of Tisha B’Av morning comes from Jeremiah 8:13-9:23. The Minḥa Haftarah is that of the other fast days. The Haftarah is read to the tune of Eicha [Lamentations], except for the final two verses. It serves as an introduction to the lengthy kinot [dirges or elegies] service that follows. Many of the themes touched on in the Haftarah are expanded upon in the kinot.

               Jeremiah was not the only prophet to predict the upcoming destruction. However, he is unique in having predicted the destruction, lived through it, and authored the elegies of the destruction that are recorded in the book of Eicha. He ultimately died in exile in Egypt. The Haftarah opens with the statement, “I will utterly destroy them – the words of Gd…” The people then decide to gather together to bemoan their fate, and admit that they have sinned. Many rhetorical questions are asked: “Is there no Gd in Zion?” Is there no balm in Gilead?” The prophet laments: “If my head could be turned into water and my eyes a source of tears, I would weep day and night over the victims of my nation.” Jeremiah declares in frustration that he would prefer to escape to the desert and abandon his people, for they are all adulterers and traitors.

               The destruction is referred to very directly: “I shall turn Jerusalem into mounds of rubble and a den of snakes. I shall destroy the cities of Judea, so they will no longer have inhabitants.” The wise men then ask, “For what reason was the land destroyed and turned into a desert?” Gd responds by declaring that the destruction occurred because they have “forsaken My Torah,” followed the emptiness of their hearts, and worshipped idols. The situation will reach such devastating proportions that “Corpses will fall like dung in the fields.”

               The final two verses, chanted with the regular Haftarah melody, warn the wise not to boast about their wisdom, the strong person about his strength, and the rich person about his wealth. The only thing worthy of boasting about is the knowledge of Gd, for Gd does kindness, justice, and righteousness. On Tisha B’Av we mourn the tragedies of our people by analyzing the loss, and contemplating the causes. We work toward a rectification of the national flaws that led our people into exile and dispersion. The day is a day of tragedy and lamentation, but with the seeds of hope for a brighter future.

 

 
 

Prophetic Reading for Yom Ha’Atzmaut

               Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, occurs on the Fifth of Iyar. In most years, it is moved a day or two earlier or one day later to avoid a conflict with Erev Shabbat, Shabbat, or Motzaei Shabbat. The day has no intrinsic holiness, and therefore no Torah reading or Haftarah. Nevertheless, those that follow the tenets of Religious Zionism have imbued the day with religious significance. The status of the Jewish People changed fundamentally on May 15, 1948, with the birth of the first independent Jewish State in the Land of Israel in two millennia. Hallel is recited, generally without its blessings, but not without its significance of marking a miraculous occasion. In addition, even without the reading of the Torah, a prophetic reading has been assigned, without the usual blessings being recited. Even though a Haftarah is never part of the services outside of a Shabbat, Yom Tov, or a fast day, a prophetic reading was considered appropriate, given the overriding theme of Jewish destiny and redemption throughout the prophets. It is a way of acknowledging that the miraculous events surrounding the founding of the State of Israel are part of the redemptive process of the Jewish People. This prophetic reading is equivalent with the Haftarah of the Eighth Day of Pesaḥ in the Diaspora -- Isaiah 10:32-12:6.  (Note: in the heading, I use the word “Prophetic Reading” rather than “Haftarah” for this entry.)

               The normative path of Religious Zionism recognizes that the rise of the State of Israel is a great benefit to the Jewish people. It marks the beginning of the dawn of our deliverance, but by no means the completion of the process of redemption. The ultimate aspirations of the Jewish people have still not been achieved. This message is echoed by this prophetic selection, which depicts the Messianic ruler as being imbued with justice and righteousness. There will be no more shooting and injury on the Holy Mountain, and peace and brotherhood will prevail among all segments of the Jewish people and the entire world. One need not look too deeply into current events or recent history to realize that the present situation falls short on all counts.

               On Yom Ha’Atzmaut, we celebrate the partial but significant deliverance. At the same time, we acknowledge that the ultimate Messianic aspirations have not been met. We continue to look forward to the complete redemption, which remains elusive at the present. Like most aspects of Judaism, Yom Ha’Atzmaut is complex. We recite Hallel to mark the miracles that brought us to this point, and we read this selection from Isaiah to express our yearning for the geula shleima, the ultimate redemption.

 

              It is with this hope for the ultimate redemption that I conclude my commentaries on the Haftarot.

 

 

 

© 2019 by Jerrold Landau

 

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