This week’s haftara describes a time of considerable disruption and uncertainty among the nations of the world. People are dividing into tribes, taking the hands of their allies and steeling themselves against conflict soon to come. But Israel has nothing to fear; they are holding the right hand of Hashem Himself (Yeshayahu 41:10).
The covenant that was made between Hashem and Avraham still stands and Hashem intends to honor it. Soon, the navi tells us, all of these groups and their battles, the different sides that are squaring off in opposition – they will all amount to nothing. Israel will endure and all of the promises that Hashem made to Avraham, now to the offspring of Avraham, will be fulfilled.
Hashem refers to the children of Avraham as “Zera Avraham Ohavai” (Yeshayahu 41:8). It is difficult to translate this phrase. Most frequently “Avraham Ohavai” is simply rendered into English as “Avraham, My beloved” as in the title of this essay, or as “Avraham, my friend.” But this is not the precise grammatical meaning of the phrase. The Ibn Ezra points out that the word ohavai is plural, and therefore can’t mean that Avraham is the beloved of Hashem, rather that Avraham is the one who loves Hashem. But really, Avraham is still only one singular individual so this explanation only makes partial sense.
We can parse the sentence differently: The seed of Avraham, the multitudes of Israel, still love Me because they still serve Me faithfully. The Ohr HaChaim in his commentary on the lineage of Avraham at the beginning of Parshat Toldot (Bereishit 25:19) references this line from our haftara. He says Avraham was uniquely beloved of Hashem because he chose of his own volition to seek Him out and to follow His ways, and for this reason Hashem loved Avraham very deeply. Yitzchak was never in a position to make the same choice that Avraham had made because as soon as he was born into the world, he received knowledge of the Divine.
Nevertheless, the Ohr HaChaim seems to be leaving open the possibility that there is a special opportunity for the offspring of Avraham, in particular those who are furthest away in time from their father and his direct teachings. Of course, the generation of the final redemption must be the furthest generation removed from Avraham. When this generation takes the hand of Hashem and seeks no other alliance nor support in the physical world other than to devote themselves to His service, then truly will they be the seed of Avraham, beloved of Hashem.