What Are We Waiting For?

This week’s reading, Isaiah 51:12 through 52:12, continues the unbroken flow of Hashem’s encouragement through the prophet Isaiah that began four weeks ago with Shabbat Nachamu, (Isaiah 40:1–26). This week’s passage opens with the repeated emphasis by the Lord that it is he that comforts Israel. “I, I am the One who comforts you. Who are you that you should fear man?” (Isa 51:12).

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Russ Resnik
Isaiah's Riddle

This week’s haftarah portion contains a kind of riddle, which the prophet inserted perhaps to invite us, his future talmidim, into the text. Chapter 55 of Isaiah opens with:

All you who are thirsty, come to the water!

You without money, come, buy, and eat!

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Russ Resnik
Look to Abraham Your Father

In the Torah’s narrative, we are at a critical juncture. Moses is teaching the new generation, those who would soon enter to live in the Land of Israel, and his words are recorded in the book of Deuteronomy. It will be important to the tribes as they make aliyah to always remember that they are a people bound to God by covenant. Some 600 years after Moses’ death, Isaiah was sharing his message for the Kingdom of Judah and the same truth was relevant.

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Russ Resnik
Comfort My People

For three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av we read Haftarot of Affliction, passages by the prophets that describe the judgment to come upon Jerusalem. Then for seven weeks after Tisha B’Av we read Haftarot of Consolation or Comfort, beginning with the opening words of this week’s Haftarah, “‘Comfort, comfort My people,’ says your God” (Isa 40:1).

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Russ Resnik
Shabbat Chazon: To See and Be Seen

This week is Shabbat Chazon, the Sabbath of Vision. It is called this because the haftarah reading on the Shabbat preceding Tisha B’Av is always from Isaiah 1, which begins “The vision [chazon] of Isaiah son of Amoz . . .”

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Russ Resnik
Tisha B’av: Why We Mourn

We are in the midst of the Three Weeks leading up to Tisha B’av (July 21–22 this year). The Ninth of Av is a day of fasting on which we commemorate the destruction of the two Temples and many other calamities that have befallen our people over the centuries.

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Russ Resnik
Ode to Religious Fanatics

At my current age my heart has already beat two billion times. For many of us, we find ourselves thinking about our weight, exercise, and not only what we eat, but also what’s eating us. This last point deals with our spiritual heart, which has also throbbed millions of times, with thoughts, affections, and choices. In our hearts we determine how we will speak, behave, and respond to circumstances.

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Russ Resnik
Like Dew among the Nations

Even if our Diaspora presence has been unappreciated throughout history (and it’s no exaggeration to say this), God still used our presence to shine his reality to the host nations: Jacob shall be among the nations, in the midst of the many peoples, like dew from the Lord (5:6a). Wherever Jacob’s descendants went, God went as well. Perhaps this is what Micah is telling us.

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Russ Resnik
Jephthah, a Hero of Faith

The haftarah for Chukat contains one of the most perplexing stories in the Bible, the tale of Jephthah, the judge who vowed to sacrifice the first thing that exited his house upon his safe return from war against the Ammonites.

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Russ Resnik
Samuel’s Farewell Address

This week’s haftarah passage is very dramatic: A leader challenges the people of Israel, explains why their choice of leaders in the future will be wrong and will change everything, and finally says farewell to national political office. It could be Moses; it could be Joshua; it could be Ezra; it could even be Gideon; but it is actually Samuel.

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Russ Resnik