May 28, 2024
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Parshat Lech Lecha

The 40th perek of Sefer Yeshayahu, which opens with the words “Nachamu, Nachamu Ami,” is quite well-known to shul-goers as it is read every year on the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av and, in fact, that opening word is what designates the Shabbat as Shabbat Nachamu. But that is only part of the story—because that haftarah is only part of the 40th perek. The last few pesukim of Yeshayahu’s prophecy are read this week for Parshat Lech Lecha and introduce a theme quite different from the earlier verses that make up the bulk of the chapter.

The message of consolation that begins the navi’s words is one replete with praises to the Mighty One Who is capable of accomplishing all. Aiming to rebuild the faith of the people and implant within the nation hope for their future, Yeshayahu shares his vision of the powerful God Who will gather them from the exile and return them to their land. Describing the wonders wrought by Hashem, the prophet explains how even the most powerful of nations are deemed completely insignificant in comparison to the Al-mighty. For that very reason, the people should understand that these hopeful visions are, indeed, ones that can—and will—be brought to fruition by Hashem. But a close analysis of the prophecy reveals that the nevuah is addressed to the nation as a whole but has little to do with the individual Israelite and God’s relationship with the individual.

That is precisely the purpose of the second nevuah that occupies the latter part of chapter 40 and the bulk of chapter 41.

This second prophetic message also reminds us of God’s great power and His abilities, but it focuses upon His relationship with individuals—specifically the founders of our nation. And for good reason. God desired the creation of a morally perfect world and therefore created the first human, the “perfect” human, and through him gave humankind His basic laws to create a moral society. But the later generations of humankind failed to create that God-directed society. And that is the story of Parshat Bereishit.

He then turned to a righteous family, saving them from the deluge and instructing them in a moral code, with the hope that, together with his family and their descendants, they would create the future world that Hashem desired. But that too failed. And that is the story of Parshat Noach.

And so, in this parsha, Hashem chooses but one person and challenges him to teach his children of Hashem’s expectations and, through the descendants, a morally sensitive nation would be built, to whom Hashem would endow a complete moral code to inspire and instruct the world. It would be this chosen nation who would carry out the divine mission, originally given to the first humans. The connection to this haftarah, therefore, is more than the simple reference to Avraham Avinu, or even the fact that he is described as God’s servant, chosen by Hashem. Rather, it teaches us that the seemingly unreachable Divine Being, He Who created and still creates worlds, is also the loving God Who cares about individuals and Who builds relationships with them.

Our opening parshiyot present God as the Creator of the universe, and then as the Judge of mankind and, finally, in this parsha, as the loving Father of all.

Chazal chose this selection because they saw in our haftarah this important message: Hashem is not only Malkeinu, He is also Avinu.


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

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