May 30, 2024
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This week’s haftarah, familiar to us as one of the post-Tisha B’Av haftarot of consolation, is a most fitting choice for the parsha of Noach. The connections that tie our haftarah, taken from the 54th and 55th chapters of Sefer Yeshayahu, to our parsha are numerous. Certainly, the mention of “mei Noach, the waters of Noach” in the haftarah brings us back to the very heart of the parsha, i.e., the story of the flood in Noach’s time. But the haftarah also makes mention of the “brit,” the covenant made with Noach never to flood the earth again, tying it to the promise Hashem makes to the generation of the Churban never again to pour out His wrath against His people.

But there are other connections as well, understated perhaps, that touch upon the events depicted in our parsha. Is there a subtle message meant for the prophet Yeshayahu himself in the fact that the flood is referred to as the “waters of Noach,” a term implying, according to the Zohar HaKadosh, that the flood came as a result of Noach’s failure to pray for his generation? May we infer that Hashem was urging the navi to pray on behalf of his generation? Perhaps.

Similarly, the opening words of the haftarah, “Rani Akara, Rejoice, O barren woman,” reminds us of the final episode in the parsha that tells of the barrenness of Sarai, who eventually would rejoice and even call her son Yitzchak, laughter. Likewise, the prophet’s comforting prediction of the future growth of the decimated nation hints to the eventual promise made to Avraham that his nation, born of a once-barren woman, would become too numerous to count.

I would also add a thought that always occurs to me when studying this haftarah. The additional section added according to Ashkenazic practice begins with the words “Aniya So’ara, O afflicted, storm-tossed one.” Whenever hearing this phrase I cannot help but read the opening letter as an aleph, thereby rendering the phrase as “Oniya So’ara,” “O storm-tossed ship,” which I see as a clear hint to the story of Noach and his storm-tossed ark.

Whether or not our sages ordained this reading for all of these reasons, they nonetheless invest much meaning to this reading and challenge us to see the connections and lessons of all the prophetic selections and gain a deeper understanding of the text for ourselves and for all generations.

Hopefully, we will be able to continue doing that very thing this year as well.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler


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

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