Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

This is the second of the seven haftarot of consolation. During this time we transition from the darkness of Tisha B’Av to the warm embrace of Hashem in the holidays of Tishrei. The navi Yeshayahu is telling us that the exile is ending – it is time to return. But we are traumatized and only too conscious of our own guilt for what has passed. It is difficult for us to believe and accept that Hashem will have us back. We fear that we have been rejected and abandoned.

Our father the king banished our mother and sold us into slavery. The mother, according to Abarbanel and the Metzuda, is the nation – the congregation of Israel. We, His sons, have been sold to the nations of the world who do with us as they please. But no, Hashem says, I never divorced your mother and I am not without the means to buy you back. To buy back property that has fallen into another’s hands is, in Hebrew, to redeem – go’el. We see this in the book of Ruth where Boaz is the go’el of the lands of Naomi and of Ruth herself.

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Hashem is our go’el, our redeemer. The congregation of Israel was banished from the marital home because she had betrayed her Divine husband, but He never severed from her and He has been waiting for her repentance so that she could return. The sons have been sold, according to the Malbim, not because our mother was repudiated or because we are no longer beloved, but because of our transgressions, avonoteichem.

The Radak says the avon is different from other kinds of transgressions against Hashem because it is committed in the mind. Sometimes we are overcome by our urges or we rebel willfully against the will of our Divine father. But our own wicked thoughts have sold us into slavery. We rationalized and made excuses until we had become so corrupted that we could no longer be part of His household. Now the time has come, says the navi, to return to Him because He is eager for our return.

Hashem is calling out, says the navi, “Why have I come but nobody is here? I am calling but nobody answers.” (Yesh. 50:2). The Radak has very strong words on this passage. “You are standing in the way of the final redemption, because I [Hashem] am ready to accept your repentance if you will only repent now. So where is everybody?” We daven to Hashem often with the passage we just read last week – “Return us to You, Hashem, and we will return (repent).” (Eicha 5:21). Well, here it is: Hashem is returning – but will we return to Him?

Soon the navi is crying out on his own behalf: “Hashem, Hashem, give me learned discourse to know… Awaken my ear to listen and learn in the morning, the morning.” (Yesh. 50:4). More double language as we encountered last week with “Nachamu, nachamu.” The navi doesn’t know how to help the people help themselves. Says the Radak: If I only had the words to make them understand, it’s all they have to do. They are overwhelmed, despondent, exhausted – if only I had the skill in my speech to stimulate, to arouse them, to move them to accept Hashem’s mercy.

Why in the morning? The Malbim explains in the nighttime Hashem speaks in dreams and riddles. The exile has been like a very long night and it wasn’t always easy to understand what we were being told. But now comes the morning, the morning, and the navi wishes to speak clearly and directly. He is searching for the words to use so that the people of Israel will get the message. Hashem is ready to welcome us back, with our mother, into the family home. Back to the Beit HaMikdash in rebuilt Yerushalayim.

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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He has written on Israeli art, music, and spirituality and is working to reawaken interest in medieval Jewish mysticism. He can be reached at avraham@thegeula.com.