I love this time of year! We see the changing of the seasons from summer to fall, as though there has been a cool breeze coming through, in our attitudes and overall well-being. Sukkot ushers in a wonderful feeling of joy and thanksgiving. Those of us who live in America might look at Sukkot as a precursor to the Thanksgiving holiday.
The haftarah for Parashat Ha’azinu, 2 Samuel 22:1–51, is David’s great hymn of thanksgiving, which also appears almost word-for-word in Psalm 18. Furthermore, the hymn parallels both the Song of the Sea in Exodus 15, read during Pesach, and Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 1:1–2:10, read on Rosh Hashanah. What is so amazing about David’s song that it would be made into a psalm and be included three times in the liturgical calendar? To answer this question, let’s look at two terms in the hymn—tzur (rock) and tamim (blameless, innocent, perfect).Read More
The Bible is hardly a children’s book. It deals with human frailty and the hard and often harsh reality of human interaction. Perhaps, though, given the most popular viewing and reading choices in popular culture, it would be a better PR strategy to advertise the more scandalous narratives in Scripture! The haftarah for this week in the book of Hosea has one of the steamiest back-stories in the entire biblical canon. It is also, though, a story of faithfulness, patience, love, and relational restoration.Read More
Living here in Israel, sometimes my heart is made heavy by the attitudes and spiritual life that are displayed here. Sometimes it is hard for me to see beyond the strife, beyond society’s ills, and beyond the emptiness that is evident in so many people’s lives. And so I wonder what will become of my people, who yearn to be like the Western world.Read More
We live in a time of darkness. We live in a time when people do as they please, when they search for answers in every place imaginable, that is, every place besides God’s throne, when they are governed by the dictates of their hearts, when they have no idea where they are going. This is a time when people call evil good and good evil, light darkness and darkness light, bitter sweet and sweet bitter. And the good news is, it’s only going to get darker.Read More
We’re in the midst of the weekly passages from Isaiah known as the Haftarot of Comfort or Consolation, and this week’s installment opens with a paradox:
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
But how can a barren woman come to rejoice?Read More
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).Read More
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!Read More
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.Read More
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).Read More