Haftarah of Parshat Noach - 5761
of Parshat Noach, according to the Ashkenazic
community consists of two selections from the Prophet Yeshayahu;
namely, the section beginning with "Sing O Barren Woman," taken
from Yeshayahu (54:1-10), followed by the selection, beginning with "O
afflicted, storm-tossed, unconsoled one," that appears in Yeshayahu
(54:11-17, and 55:1-5). Sefardic
communities read only the first selection.
At first glance, it is somewhat surprising that the selection that
suggests a major storm; namely, the one beginning, "O afflicted,
storm-tossed one," which seems to have a natural relationship with the
"Mabul," the Great Flood of today's Parshah, is omitted by the
The First Selection
"Sing O Barren
Woman, You Who Could Not Bear"
selection, the "Navi," or Prophet, portrays HaShem
as the "husband" of Israel, and Israel as a wife who has long been
barren. HaShem tells this
"Wife of His Youth," who has for so long been banished and cloaked
in misery, to sing out with joy, for her time of Redemption is approaching.
Then she will have a hard time keeping track of all her children, for so many will return by means of a mighty wave of "Teshuvah," Repentance, that will sweep over the world, bringing her children home. And many more will flock to her from the surrounding nations, who will have come to recognize the "Holy One of Israel" as the "King over all the Earth."
more will return by the miraculous route of "Techiyat HaMetim,"
"Revival of the Dead,
which I believe is alluded to in the Haftarah.
And "Techiyat HaMetim," a fundamental Jewish Belief (the
thirteenth of the RAMBAM's
list of such beliefs) may in fact not work in an altogether miraculous
fashion, although it is totally beyond our present
understanding. I say
this based on the fact that the Talmud compares the phenomenon to the
seasonal regeneration of a kernel of
wheat (and there is in fact a Midrashic
source that in the time of the "Mashiach",
the "nature" of wheat will change, such that it will no longer
have to be replanted in order for regeneration to occur).
Translation and Commentary on the Haftarah
Yeshayahu 54:1 - Image of the Barren Woman
barren woman, you who could not bear,
that was once densely populated, had become like a barren woman, who had
never experienced the pangs of labor (RADAK), based on similarity of
"lo cholah" used here,
to "chil ka-yoledah," a
definite reference to a woman in labor.
Now, at the time of her Redemption, due to her Repentance, children
again would overflow her boundaries.
Yeshayahu 54:2 - Image of the Tent
the place of your tent,
The image of
a "tent" is used perhaps because Israel had returned to its modest
ways that were noticed and praised by the Prophet Bilaam, when he
prophesied, "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob!" (Bamidbar 24:5)
strengthen your stakes" - The stakes that are planted firmly in the
ground, so that they cannot be moved. Strengthen
them further, so that they may never
be moved, representing the promise by HaShem that Yerushalayim will
never be destroyed again. (Metzudat David)
Yeshayahu 54:3 - Image of Expansion in all
you shall spread to the right and to the left;
the Midrash, the boundaries of Yerushalayim will expand at the time of the
Mashiach. RADAK mentions
similarity to phrase "U-faratzta yamah va-kedmah tzafonah va-negbah!"
"And you will burst forth to the west and to the east to the north and
to the south!" a theme song of Lubavitch Chassidut (RADAK doesn't
mention that fact), a definitely Messianically oriented Jewish
- Image of the Abandoned Wife
Metzudat David have somewhat different approaches to this "Passuk"/Verse;
I'll present both, beginning with the RADAK:
not!" - Do not be afraid that you will once again experience the
troubles that you experienced in the Land of Israel, when you came back from
Exile after the First Temple and the Second Temple.
you will not be put to shame" - When a person returns to greatness
after a fall, and again experiences defeat, he can be permanently scarred.
you will forget the shame of your youth" - the experiences already
referred to; and they are referred to as "of your youth" because
they will have happened long ago.
the embarrassment of your widowhood" - The troubles that afflicted you
when you were in Exile, like a "widow;" you will be able to forget
all those troubles because of all the blessings that HaShem will shower upon
not!" - essentially same as RADAK, except that that he seems to be
picturing the source of the fear as the presence of the
"Babylonians" still around in Eretz Yisrael.
don't be embarrassed" - Don't be afraid to raise your head and seek
positions of power, as Senator Joe
Lieberman (the Metzudat David doesn't discuss his candidacy)
has raised his head and is currently seeking the second-highest
Office in the Land, for fear of
stimulating the resentment of the non-Jews, and inviting further Exile.
You will have nothing to fear!
will not be found wanting" - You are promised by HaShem that you need
not fear seeking high status.
the shame of your youth you will forget" - The embarrassment you
experienced in your "youth" as a nation, when you had to play the
role of the "Wandering Jew" in Exile, will never again be allowed
embarrassment of your widowhood" - The shame of being without a king,
like a widow without a husband. That
loss of independence, you will never
again have to experience, and this confidence is crucial for us to
maintain in these extremely perilous times, where by the ordinary rules of
history, with the forces arrayed against us, we shouldn't but we always have survived!
your Maker is your Husband
your Maker is your Husband" - Your Creator will be your Master; not as
in the Exile, when you had other masters.
L-rd of Hosts is His Name" - And the Power is in His Hands; for He is
the Master both Above and Below.
of all the Earth" - He will be, then.
the L-rd has called you,
wife as-if abandoned" - You aren't like a woman whose husband has died,
for your "Husband," so to speak, is Alive and In Existence
Forever; rather, you are like a wife whose husband got angry with her and
left her for a long time.
the wife of One's Youth be rejected?" - And if you think for a moment
that He will abandon you forever, it is not so, because are
you not the Wife of His Youth, to whom He will give Eternal loyalty? (RADAK)
Yeshayahu 54:7-8 - Image of Brief Anger and
small moment have I forsaken you;
was a little angry I hid My Face
and Metzudat David are together here in their explanation that these
"P'sukim" express the idea that all the suffering that the
People of Israel experienced throughout the years of Exile will, from the
perspective of Eternity, be perceived as
suffering for only an instant, when compared to the Great Good with
which HaShem will reward us.
It seems to
me that all of these commentators are here making an unspoken assumption -
that the "P'sukim" have invoked the idea of "Techiyat HaMetim," "Resurrection of the Dead,"
one of the Fundamental Beliefs of Judaism.
For how else
can we dismiss as inconsequential even just the following four points of
Jewish suffering: the destruction of the two Temples with the City of
Jerusalem each time, the destruction of Beitar
and the Holocaust? Doesn't the Mitzvah to
Remember Amalek require us to never forget their pain?
What can erase, even if a later generation experiences reward beyond
belief, the suffering of those who died and of those who lost them?
Even if from
the perspective of Eternity a thousand years is but an instant, we mortals
do not operate from the perspective of Eternity!
Therefore, I believe that we must understand this "Passuk"
as speaking in the context of "Techiyat HaMetim," when someway or
another, our martyrs have been
brought back to the bosom of their People.
- Image of Oath and Covenant of HaShem
this is as the waters of Noach to Me;
of Noach" - RADAK mentions that the text will support two versions of
"As the Waters of Noach" (the opinion of "Menachem Ibn
Seruk," the Grammarian)
"As in the Days of Noach" (the opinion of
way, the basic meaning is the same; namely, that as HaShem has sworn not to
destroy the World by another "Mabul,"
a Great Flood, as He did in the time of Noach, so has He sworn that the Jewish
People will never experience another Exile.
the mountains may depart,
Even if "Zechut
Avot," the Merit of the Forefathers, a very potent source of blessing
for us, runs out, HaShem's Relationship of love with the Jewish People will
Metzudat David: Even if the mountains and the hills are moved by the violent
force of an earthquake, nothing will shake My Covenant of Peace with the
Storm-Tossed One, and Not Comforted"
"O afflicted and
commentators relate this promise of comfort to Yerushalayim. Targum Yonatan says, "
the walls about which the
nations of the world said that you would never be comforted, HaShem says,
"I will lay its foundation with diamonds."
will make your pinnacles of rubies,
return to the City of Jerusalem, once a beautiful "wonder of the
world," its aspect of physical beauty.
But that's not all.
all your children shall be taught by HaShem,
situation will be the opposite of
that described by Yirmiyahu in the Haftarah of Parshat Masei (Yirmiyahu
2:8), the Second of the "Haftarot of Punishment,"
Priests did not ask, 'Where is HaShem?'
out that this idea is like that
stated by Yirmiyahu,
longer will one person have to teach another, because everybody will know
Me, from children to adults."
"Passuk" is also the source of the following Talmudic statement (Masechet
Berachot 64a), "Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Chanina, 'Torah
scholars increase peace in the world,' as it is said, 'And all your
children will be taught by HaShem,
and great will be the peace of your children;' do not read 'your children' (banayich),
but 'your builders' (bonayich)."
righteousness shall you be established -
once again be the City described in Yeshayahu 1:21 as "full of Justice,
in which Righteousness would lodge
they may gather together,
I have created the blacksmith,
weapon made to attack you will succeed,
"I am the One Who brought against you enemies whose aim was to
destroy you, such as Sancheriv and Nevuchadnezzar, because I used
them to punish you when you
rebelled against Me. But now,
your enemies have no authorization from
Me. They are Gog and
Magog, who will fight against you immediately prior to the
Coming of the Mashiach, and be defeated by you.
And when they attack you in the
Halls of "Diplomacy" (such as the UN, Oslo or Wye (Why
indeed?)), with false speech, where
you will find "Long has my soul dwelt with those who hate peace; I am
for peace - but when I speak, they are plotting for war" ("Tehillim"/Psalms
120:7), I will help you defeat them there as well."
following chapter in Yeshayahu is dedicated to two great themes: Torah and Teshuvah,
Repentance. The first five
P'sukim, that are part of our Haftarah, deal with Torah, the precious gift
from HaShem to us and, through us, to humanity at large.
The rest of the Perek deals with Teshuvah and, appropriately, is read
as the Haftarah on a "Taanit Tzibbur," a Public Fast Day, the
purpose of which is the arousal of feelings of Repentance.
everyone who is thirsty, come for water;
the "Drink of Life," means here and in many other locations, the
Torah. Here, Yeshayahu points
to our priceless possession, the Torah.
for our People, is as vital as is water.
We are destined to be Teachers of Torah to the world, who ultimately
will seek it and value it as they do food and drink.
you spend your money on that which is not bread?
understands this Passuk as strongly advocating the study of Torah, which is
called "good" in the verse, "for I have given you a good
teaching; do not forsake My Torah!" ("Mishlei"/Proverbs
that the part of the Passuk that speaks of delighting the soul also speaks
of the Torah, and is referring to the World-to-Come, for just as something
that is fat and rich delights the body, so is the Torah a delight for the
your ear, and come to Me,
understands this Passuk as referring to the time of the Mashiach, when the
everlasting kindness that HaShem showed to David will be revealed in the
person of the Mashiach, who will be a descendant of the House of David.
David also understands the Passuk to mean "Obey Me, and you will merit
to be brought back to life at the time of the Mashiach."
I have given him as a witness to the nations,
relates this Passuk to the Mashiach, whose greatness will compel the nations
of the world to accept him as their commander.
you shall call a nation that you did not know,
David explains that just as I have fulfilled My kindness with David, will I
fulfill My Promise of Kindness to you.
And this will be manifested in that nations from the ends of the
earth will come and do your bidding, because they sense in your behavior the
special quality of holiness, implanted in you by the Presence in your midst
of the Holy One of Israel.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU