This is the penultimate haftara of consolation, the sixth in the series of seven that have brought us from Tisha B’Av into Elul with Rosh Hashana drawing near.
Our haftara deals with light. The light itself is instructed to arise because the light that illuminates all other lights is approaching. The nations of the world will at last recognize the special mission of Israel, and Israel will perform that mission for the good of all mankind. The wicked will be eradicated, and Hamas and its ilk will no longer be heard in the Land (See Yeshayahu 60:18).
At the beginning and the end of the haftara, we find the light categorized. The nations will come to this light and their monarchs will be drawn to the corona of our luminosity (Yeshayahu 60:3). But as for us, the sun will no longer be a light and the corona of the moon will not illuminate (Ibid. 60:19). The Ibn Ezra points out that it is the custom of those who dwell in darkness to be drawn to light, so it isn’t difficult to understand why the nations wish to be close to ours. It is not so clear why we should no longer get light from the sun or moon. Radak explains that the supernatural light of redemption will be so great that the natural light sources will no longer make an impression. He also points out that this is allegorical and not meant to be taken literally.
The use of the Hebrew word noga, translated here as corona, is interesting in this context. In Jewish tradition, noga tends to be ambiguous – it is a great demonstration of superficial beauty with a tendency to obscure what is essential. In the mystical tradition it is often understood as the last and greatest of the forces of corruption which must be overcome in order for the universe to be made whole. Here in our haftara it seems to be more salutary. It is our luminosity, which draws toward it the kings of all the nations.
After the corona of the moon is eclipsed along with the sun, noga is transformed into tiferet. This is another description of spectacular beauty, but now it is pervasive and essential, not merely a halo upon the surface. This transformation is really the salient message of our haftara. Israel is often compared to the moon; our calendar follows the moon and our fortunes wax and wane as the moon does. But when the supernatural light is revealed in the world, which according to Radak our haftara is alluding to, then the distinction between the light of the sun and its reflection upon the moon will become trivial. The moon will, as we’ve seen elsewhere in Yeshayahu (30:26), become as bright as the sun, and the sun will be 70 times as bright as it is now. Yet none of that natural light will matter anymore.
The sefer Reishit Chochma teaches that, nevertheless, Hashem will revel in the candles we light – literally and metaphorically. We learn from the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash the importance of lighting our own candles, as Aharon was commanded to elevate the candles on the menorah. Hashem doesn’t need our light – He doesn’t see in a physical sense nor is it difficult for Him to illuminate dark places when He so desires. However, He delights in the light we bring.
Our superficial lights, no matter how beautiful and radiant, are of no interest or use to Hashem. But He cherishes the lights we kindle that are a true expression of our inner light. These lights add to His glory and will continue to shine even once the physical lights have been extinguished or subsumed into the all-encompassing light of the Infinite.