of Parshat Va'etchanan - 5760
getting into the Haftarah itself, I would
first like to make note of two recent events on the current world scene,
both of which seem to hint, at least to right-wing reactionaries such as
myself, to consolation for the Jewish People.
The first of
these was the breakdown of the so-called "Peace Talks" at Camp
David over the "Jerusalem Issue."
What it may have meant to the current Israeli leadership is not
clear, but the very fact of the breakdown, if only temporary, of the
"peace" juggernaut, a very misguided effort, in my opinion, is a
event is the designation and acceptance by Senator Joseph Lieberman of
Connecticut of the Vice-Presidential slot on the democratic Ticket; which,
to my mind, is a great "Kiddush HaShem," Sanctification of G-d's
that Senator Lieberman had established a reputation in the Senate as a good
person, a "mentsch," the fact that he was the first to
speak out against the immorality of the
President that was perpetrated upon this nation, the fact that that was
probably the reason he was selected by Presidential Nominee Al Gore, to
distance himself from the man under whom he had served, all add to the
begins in the fortieth chapter of Sefer Yeshayahu.
According to the wrong-headed
thinking of the Biblical Criticism Movement, which flourished in the
Nineteenth and has existed with declining influence during the
decades of the Twentieth Century,
this chapter marks the nonsensical boundary between Isaiah 1 and Isaiah 2,
or Proto Isaiah and Deuteronomy Isaiah, or whatever silly designation now
that one human being could express prophecies of dark warning and
destruction, and at the same time of comfort and consolation, seemed
impossible to these "scholars."
On the other hand, this capacity is found not only in Yeshayahu, but
in many of the Prophets who
make up the "Trei Asar," the twelve prophets grouped together in
one Book, as well as many of the other prophets, with whom HaShem
communicated both with His aspect of "Midat HaDin," Attribute of
Justice, and His "Midat HaRachamim," Attribute of Mercy.
comforted, Be comforted, My People,
This is the
first of the Seven Haftarot of Consolation that were spoken to the Jewish
and RADAK say that this refers mainly to Prophets of the Messianic future,
that they are to comfort the Jewish People after all the Exiles and
Punishments of history are over.
"Speak unto the heart of Jerusalem,
"Double" - RASHI asks, "Is this the way that G-d punishes, by doubling the deserved punishment? He cites a verse from Yirmiyahu that affirms this. (Of course, given this affirmation, it follows that the righteous are rewarded 1,000 times their good, because HaShem rewards 500 times as much as He punishes.)
Metzudat David explain "Double" as referring to the two
Destructions of Yerushalayim and of the Temple, the first by the Babylonians
and the second by the Romans.
"A voice is calling in the wilderness,
Which road is this? It
is the road to Yerushalayim, for those returning from the Exile to use.
"Every valley shall be lifted up,
The above images need not be taken completely literally, but are all
metaphors for the ease of transportation that will prevail at the time of
"And the glory of the L-rd shall be revealed,
The meaning of "seeing it together" is that the Presence of
HaShem will be made known to all inhabitants of the world.
"A voice is heard, saying 'Call out!'
"The grass withers, the flower fades;
"The grass withers, the flower fades;
The verses above refer to promises of kindness made by human beings
versus promises of kindness made by HaShem.
The former are unreliable, because human life is so fragile; whereas
the promises of HaShem are completely reliable.
Metzudat David: The intent of
these verses is regarding not promises of kindness, but rather threats of
harm against the Jewish People, which, because those who make them are only
frail and mortal human beings, need not be taken so seriously.
"Climb up the high mountain,
Raise it, Do
Here the language is "feminine" ("mevaseret" is
feminine); elsewhere the language is masculine (the masculine "mevaser" is
used); if the Jewish People are worthy,
the Redemption will come quickly, as a man can run quickly; otherwise, the
Redemption will come more slowly, with the dainty hesitant steps of
the female (Women's Track and Field was, I guess, unknown in RASHI's time).
David: The reference is to the
group of Prophets, who bring the good news of redemption to the Jewish
"Behold! The Eternal Master
The "strength" is meant for the punishment of the enemies
of Israel, such as the Babylonians; the "reward" is for the
righteous (Metzudat David adds, "each according to his just
"As a shepherd who pastures his flocks,
The Redemption is being described, how HaShem will assist those Jews
injured and broken by the troubles of the Exile.
"Who has measured the waters
"Who has measured
"From whom did He seek advice,
three verses provide a brief "description" of the Infinite
Creator, Who laid out the structure of the Physical Universe and of the
Moral Universe from His Own unfathomable depths
"Behold! The nations are as a drop in a bucket,
"And the forests of the Lebanon are not sufficient fuel,
"All the nations are as nothing before Him,
"To whom then will you liken G-d?
"The image, perchance, which the craftsman has melted,
"A holm-oak is set apart,
six verses convey the idea that there is nothing in the human imagination
that can portray the greatness of HaShem.
"Don't you know? Didn't you hear?
"It is He Who sits above the circle of the earth,
"Who brings princes to nothing;
"As soon as they are planted,
"To whom then will you liken Me,
"Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
six verses continue to expand the ideas developed above, that HaShem is
totally beyond compare, but notice that in Verse 40:25, a new element is
introduced. HaShem is referred
to as the "Holy One."
And the next verse does indeed speak of His might.
Perhaps to teach that "holiness" and "might" are separate. As we would
put it, "Might does not make right, and it certainly does not make for
HaShem is unique in all the world in that, as the Holy
King, He possesses both infinite might and infinite holiness.
Yochanan puts it, in the prayer that we say each Motzaei Shabbat, bringing
proofs from the Torah, the Prophets and the Sacred Writings,
"Wherever you find reference
to the greatness of HaShem, there also do you find reference to his
proof from the Prophets comes, appropriately enough, from Yeshayahu (57:15),
"For so says the exalted and uplifted One, Who abides forever, and
Whose Name is Holy, 'I abide in
exaltedness and holiness - but am with the contrite and humble of spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the
brings us back again to one of the proofs of the seamlessness of Yeshayahu;
that is, there is only one Yeshayahu!
The unique expression "Kedosh Yisrael, or "Holy One of
Israel," that the hallmark of our Champion is not His great strength
but His great holiness, appears
frequently both in the part of
Yeshayahu that is devoted more to ideas of punishment, and in the part
devoted more to ideas of comfort and consolation.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU