Ever Shabbos during the Three Weeks, we read a haftorah on different aspects of the events leading up to the churban. These are known as shlosha d’paranusa – the three tragedies. Beginning with Shabbos Nachamu, for seven weeks, we read haftaros on redemption and comfort. These are known as shiva d’nechemta – the seven of comfort.
The obvious question is: Why don’t we read an equal number of each? Why do read about nechama for seven weeks and paranusa for three? Additionally, the order of the seven haftaros seems peculiar. They are not recited in the order they are written. The haftorah of “Rani Akara,” for example, precedes the haftorah of “Aniyah Soarah” in Sefer Yeshaya, yet we read “Aniyah Soarah” first. Why? Finally, why do we read some of these seven haftaros in Elul? What does nechama have to do with Elul?
Tosafos (Megillah 31b) writes that we read “Aniyah Soarah” before “Rani Akara” because the seven haftoros of nechama are read in increasing order of consolation and solace. Therefore, we save “Aniyah Soarah,” which offers the most consolation, for a later week.
As a side note, it is evident from Tosafos that the order of the nechama haftaros is essential. That’s why two weeks ago, when Rosh Chodesh fell out on Shabbos, some authorities rule that we read one of the seven d’nechemta as opposed to the haftorah of Rosh Chodesh. The opposing opinion says that in the following weeks that haftorah should be read in addition to complete the seven d’nechemta.
One question a person might ask on Tosafos is: In what sense does “Sos Asis” offer more solace than “Nachamu Nachamu Ami”?
The Yalkut Shimoni (Yeshaya 40:443) states that after the churban Hashem sent nevi’im to console Bnei Yisrael. Each time they did so, they were sent back since the consolation was ineffective. Klal Yisrael did not accept the nechama. The nevi’im came back to Hashem and reported on their inability to console.
At that point, Hashem said He Himself would console and comfort Bnei Yisrael. On the fourth week, we read “Anochi Anochi who minachemchem – I, it is I [Hashem] who will comfort you.” That is followed by three more haftaros of Hashem himself consoling Bnei Yisrael.
So the order of the haftaros is as follows: First, “Nachamu Nachamu Ami,” which are the words of nevi’im sent by Hashem to console Bnei Yisrael. The second week we read how “Vatomer Tzion azavani Hashem,” and the nechama was not accepted. The following week we read “Aniyah Soarah lo nuchama” – how the nevi’im report back to Hashem that Bnei Yisrael did not accept the nechama.
The following haftorah is Hashem saying, “Anochi Anochi who minachemchem – I, it is I who will comfort you” followed by “Rani Akara” and “Kumi Ori.” So, the fourth, fifth, and sixth are the three haftoros of nechama, which is followed by the seventh of “Sos Asis ba,” declaring that Klal Yisrael accepted the nechama from Hashem.
Returning to the questions we began with: Ultimately, there are three haftaros of tragedy and three haftaros of comfort, creating a perfect balance. The order of the haftoros is read in ascending comfort order.
And finally, the connection to Elul is as follows: The avodah of Elul is preparing for Rosh Hashanah. The primary avodah of Rosh Hashanah is accepting Hashem as our king; we daven that Hashem should reveal Himself and rule over the entire world. But that will only happen when the final geulah comes and Hashem is revealed as the one true king over the universe.
The seven haftoros of nechama complement and enhance our avoda during Elul, preparing us for the coronation of the one true king.