This is the third of seven haftarot of consolation. We stand on the cusp of the month of Elul; the consolation of Av is complete. Indeed, Rosh Chodesh Elul begins as Shabbat ends this year. Normally we would read “Machar Chodesh” under such circumstances, but the custom in most communities is to read this special haftara instead. In some communities, especially among the Sefardim, the verses referencing Rosh Chodesh tomorrow might be read. Most of us will be reading further in the navi Yeshayahu because this is the message we need to hear right now as we recover from the horrors of the exile and anticipate the crowning of the King of all Kings in about a month, on the birthday of the world.
In the preceding two weeks we have been assured by our Heavenly Father that He will restore to us what was lost and that He never abandoned or neglected us. But awakening to the reality of our burgeoning redemption, we are confronted with certain practical concerns. There are people in our land who are not overjoyed by our return as we are. The nations of the world that have oppressed and tormented us for so many centuries are still about, and they still possess the means to torment us even as we become free of the yoke of their domination. We are a ship tossed upon the storm, says the prophet, but Hashem will bring us safely to our destination and it is going to be glorious.
Those who are residing in our land, says the Ibn Ezra in the name of Rabbenu Yona, must accept that they are our guests and that we have returned to our patrimony. If they conduct themselves accordingly, then it will go well for them and they will be welcome among us. But those who confront us with hostility, whether from within the boundaries of our land or seeking to invade from without, will soon learn that the rules have changed from what had previously been the custom. Those who make weapons with which to attack us will learn that our G-d has power over their weapons and the means by which they seek to produce them.
The verse in Yeshayahu 44:16 is written and read in different ways: “Hinei,” we read – behold. I have created the blade, the projectile and the incendiary device. But it is written “hen,” these have I created. Radak teaches that both are intended here simultaneously. It is true that our enemies have forged weapons with which to destroy us, but these have only been made through the means provided by the Creator. Thus, we and our enemies will behold together the power of Hashem to destroy what they have made and to prevent them from destroying what He has made – His people whom He has returned to their land.
If their weapons do not suffice to destroy us, then they will turn to the treachery of falsehood and hateful speech to overcome us. They will use their language where the weapons have failed them. But in this too they cannot prevail. All of their lies will be exposed, all of their accusations will turn against them, and in justice they will be vilified (Ibid. 44:17). When the day comes that the light of truth is destined to return to the world, what has been broken will be restored and the crooked made straight. “The birthright of those who are servants of Hashem, the supernal justice comes from me, says Hashem.” This ultimate vindication, the eternal rightness of our cause, is our reward for our service of Hashem.