Haftarah for Bereishis

Isaiah 42:5-43:10

This is the word of G-d, Who created Heaven and Earth and Who gave life to humanity. He called Isaiah and will strengthen him in his mission; G-d made him a light to the nations. (In this case, Rashi says the “nations” means the Tribes of Israel.) People have become spiritually “blind,” like prisoners sitting in the darkness of a prison. Isaiah will enlighten them.

G-d is the only One; His praise is not to be shared with idols. The promises He made to Abraham came true, now G-d shares more promises of the future exile and redemption.

Sing a new song to G-d from the ends of the Earth. The desert and cities will raise their voices to Him. Deserts now occupied by tents will become permanent settlements and the deceased, who are currently under the ground, will praise G-d (an allusion to the revival of the dead). G-d will go forth to redeem Israel like a mighty warrior, overpowering Babylonia. For a long time, G-d restrained Himself; no more. Now He will destroy all His foes as one. He will destroy mighty kings and rulers (compared to mountains and hills) and all their followers (compared to the grass that grows on these mountains and hills).

G-d will lead those who had been spiritually “blind” on a new path, making the darkness into light and straightening the crooked road. Those who worship idols will be ashamed. Those who were “deaf” to G-d’s word will listen and those who were “blind” will see. The people will claim that it is G-d’s prophet who is blind and deaf. There is much to see and hear, if people would only be receptive to it! G-d wants us to be receptive for the sake of His righteousness; He increases Torah and magnifies it. (This verse is the closing phrase of the prayer “U’va L’Tziyon.”)

The people have been robbed and plundered; they have been hiding in dungeons, with nobody coming to save them. Who will now hear the promise of future redemption? Who gave Israel over to their enemies? It was G-d, because we refused to listen to His Torah. He poured out His anger; it burned all around them, but they refused to listen.

Chapter 43

Now G-d says to Israel not to fear; He is the one Who redeemed them and they are His. When they pass through waters, they will not drown and when they pass through fire, they will not be burned. (Sadly, we know that this was not literally true of individuals. The prophecy refers to the nation as a whole.) G-d is the Savior of Israel, allowing Assyria to overrun other nations in their place. This is because the Jewish people are special to G-d.

Again G-d says not to fear. He will gather the exiles from the four corners of the Earth. The people were spiritually “blind” and “deaf” when they left Egypt, too, but they became able to “see” and “hear.” If all the nations of the world were gathered together, which of their prophets could foretell the future? Let them present their case so we can see whether it is true. The Jewish people are G-d’s witnesses, testifying to the fact that He alone is G-d; there was none before Him and there will be none after Him.

Excerpted from The OU’s Nach Yomi

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