Special Haftarah for Shabbat and Rosh ChodeshSome general background on the "Haftarot"
This Shabbat is Shabbat Parshat Vaera and also Rosh Chodesh of the Hebrew Month of Shevat. One might wonder how frequently do Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh coincide? Some of the ingredients of the solution to this problem, where the results vary from year to year, are the following:
There are seven days in every week (good start!).
There are twelve months in most years; thirteen in some. In the "Leap Year" or, more accurately, the "Shanah Meuberet," the "Pregnant Year," on the Hebrew Calendar, there are thirteen months. This year, 5760, is a "Shanah Meuberet." An additional Adar is added in these years in order to maintain approximate synchronization with the solar year; specifically, Pesach is required to be in the Spring season, and this is the mechanism to accomplish that objective. Thus, the Hebrew Calendar, while basically lunar, has some elements in common with solar calendars.
Rosh Chodesh for certain months is two days; for other months, Rosh Chodesh is only one day. There is some variation year-to-year in the above distinction.
There are a number of other complications. An excellent guide to an understanding of the Hebrew Calendar is the work "Understanding the Jewish Calendar" by Rabbi Nathan Bushwick, published by Moznaim Publishing Corporation of Jerusalem and New York.
The results of an unscientific survey (sample-size was precisely one) yield the following answer to our original question:
The Rosh Chodesh of two months, "Shevat" and "Iyar" coincide with Shabbat, and the Rosh Chodesh of "Tishrei," that is the "Super Rosh Chodesh" of Rosh HaShanah, which is a special case unto itself, was also celebrated on Shabbat in the Year of 5760.
What is the Common Theme of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh?
A fundamental idea taught by Shabbat as well as Rosh Chodesh is the Idea of Creation and Renewal. One of the basic aspects of Shabbat is the commemoration of the Creation of the Universe by G-d in Six "Days" and His "Rest" on the Seventh "Day."
The other aspect of Shabbat is to commemorate the Exodus. That great event was also a reflection of the "Creativity" of Hashem, Who intervened in human history to accomplish the moral purpose of freeing the People of Israel from Slavery. Shabbat also testifies against the false belief of the idolators in the "Eternity of the Universe;" that is, that the Universe is static and unchanging and has been so forever.
Shabbat is the Day about which the heretic asked Rabbi Akiva, "Mah Yom MiYomayim?" "Why is this day different from any other day?" thus denying the concept of the holiness of time.
The cycle of near-disappearance and re-appearance of the moon on a monthly period is a symbol of the near-disappearance, at the hands of its enemies, internal and external, and the re-emergence of the Jewish People in history. In a sense, the moon is a symbol of the eternity of Israel.
The moon also symbolizes the Jewish People in another way. At the beginning of its history, when it accepted the Torah, Hashem crowned His Chosen People with "crowns" of light. But when the Jewish People was immoral while still standing under its bridal canopy at Sinai, by worshipping the Golden Calf, Hashem removed those "crowns," which had enabled the People to shine with its own light, like the sun. Now, they were reduced to shining only with the reflected light of Hashem at times when He did not "hide His face."
Special Haftarah for Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh
The Haftarah chosen to be read on a Shabbat which is also a Rosh Chodesh, a celebration of the New Moon at the beginning of each month, is the last chapter, Chapter 66, of the Book of Yeshayahu/(Isaiah.) For more information on Yeshayahu, see Haftarat Parshat Shemot.
Synopsis of the Haftarah
(Chapter 66, Verses 1-24; the entire chapter, basically following the Commentary of the "RADAK," Rabbi David Kimchi)
Hashem addresses the wicked and interrogates them, "Do you imagine that your Temple is large enough to accommodate Me, Who created the Universe, Who sees through and rejects your false rituals. Though I am great beyond your imagining, I am always on the side of the downtrodden and the powerless. How dare you offer sacrifices to Me, while you constantly oppress the weak?!"
"You exercised free will in choosing your evil ways; therefore, I will exercise My Free Will in punishing you."
The Prophet hears an uproar caused by the punishment of the Babylonians for what they did (in his warning vision) in the City of Jerusalem, and for their future destruction of the Temple.
Using the metaphor of childbirth, Yeshayahu describes the sudden Redemption of the Jewish People and the miraculous rebirth of the City of Jerusalem, as a baby arriving without labor pains to the mother.
The Prophet says, "Rejoice with Yerushalayim, the 'mother,' all who have fulfilled these conditions: that they have always loved her, and that they have mourned for her in her destruction."
The "Navi" comforts the People, picturing them not only as a baby being nursed by its mother, Jerusalem, but as a man comforted by the feminine aspect of Hashem, Who resembles a mother (more accurately, Who is the model for the mother) in her never-failing loyalty and love.
We are shown the punishment of the enemies of Israel who will stage a final campaign against the Jewish People in the battle of Gog and Magog. They will be utterly destroyed, with only a few refugees escaping the horrific battle, marked with signs of disfigurement, who flee to the far corners of the world, to tell of the greartness of Hashem to those Peoples who have not "heard" of Him (Hindus, Buddhists (?)).
Recognizing the greatness of Hashem, the nations of the world will carry the remainder of the Jewish People still in the Exile to the Holy Land, reversing the pattern of Exile. They will carry them on beasts which move so fast that they appear to be "dancing" (where the word used for "dancing" is the same word used in the description of the dancing of King David as he danced before the Ark of the L-rd (Shmuel II 6:14).)
Yeshayahu relays the comforting words of Hashem to the Jewish People, "even as the new reality which I am going to create, represented by new Heavens and a new Earth, will last forever, so will You, My People, last forever - both you and what you stand for."
"And in the Time of the Mashiach, on each Shabbat and on each Rosh Chodesh, all of humanity will come to Jerusalem, to bow before Me, expressing their belief in Me as the True G-d."
At that time, they will also view the eternal punishment of the wicked.
To end on a positive note, the verse referring to the arrival of pilgrims in Jerusalem from all over the world is repeated.
And the "RADAK" ends his commentary on the chapter and on the Book of Yeshayahu with the blessing:
"Blessed is Hashem Who created the mountains and the hills,
In general, we look for links between the Haftarah and the Parshah read on that Shabbat. On a Shabbat-Rosh Chodesh, we also seek links, but this time it is to the special "Maftir," the additional Torah reading used on the particular holiday, because of its appropriateness for that time.
On Rosh Chodesh, which is also considered a minor holiday, and on which there are some elements of "limitation of activities," (as there are on Shabbat and the Holidays) as well, there is also a special Torah Reading. That Torah Reading is from the Book of Bamidbar, Chapter 28, verses 9-15.
The content of that Reading is the specification of the Additional Sacrifices offered in the Temple on that Special Day, Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh, which correspond to the "Mussaf (Additional)" Prayers which we add on Shabbat as well as on each Rosh Chodesh.
Links Between the Haftarah and the Maftir
The theme of the Haftarah involves near-disappearance and renewal, as included in each cycle of the moon, as follows:
Rosh HaShanah, the Rosh Chodesh Par Excellence
The verse which is most closely associated with Rosh HaShanah, taken from the Psalm sung on Thursdays by the Leviim in the Temple, is "Sound the Shofar at the New Moon, when it is hidden, as a Holiday for us, for that is a Statute uniquely set aside for Israel, an Ordinance of the G-d of Jacob."
Which of its characteristics link the Shofar with the Jewish People?
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU