July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Parshat Noach

There are times when, upon reading or hearing the haftarah, we assume that there is no reason to wonder about its connection to the weekly parsha. A certain theme or a specific phrase found in the selection makes it clear why Chazal chose that exact reading from the Nevi’im for that exact Shabbat. That is certainly true of this week’s haftarah. The reading found in Sefer Yishayahu perek 54 is a familiar one for us, since we read it less than two months ago as the haftarah for Parshat Ki Teitzei. On that occasion we used the words of the navi as a source of comfort for a grieving nation who were still mourning some weeks after Tisha B’Av. On this Shabbat it seems clear that Chazal chose this same selection because of its mention of “the waters of Noach,” certainly a fitting choice for the parsha of Noach. But we would be mistaken if we assume that Chazal based their choice on that connection alone.

If we have learned anything over these years of analyzing the deeper (and sometimes hidden) messages of the haftarah, it is that Chazal seldom chose any specific reading based upon one phrase or a simple idea. And that is true of this haftarah as well. In this selection, Hashem promises Israel never again to punish her as He did when destroying the Beit Hamikdash. He reinforces His pledge by comparing His anger to the flood waters of Noach’s time that came quickly and with great force but, He promised, would never again return. So too, He reassures Israel that His anger was but for a moment and would never again return. However, Chief Rabbi J.H. Hertz finds a deeper message in the navi’s comparison to the flood.

Rabbi Hertz suggests that Yishayahu’s message goes beyond the mere mention of Noach and the flood. The navi is also reminding the nation that the DEstruction of the flood led to the CONstruction of a new world, a better world. Through this simple reminder Hashem was urging the people to see in the Churban and their subsequent galut not simply an end but also a beginning; not a final destruction of their society but an opportunity to build a new and better one.

For us, the new beginning hinted to in the haftarah reflects the reality of our day. It was 2,700 years ago that Yishayahu proclaimed to the grieving nation: “Ha’arichi m’kom oholeich,” “Broaden your tent,” predicting “Ki yamin us’mol tifrotzi,” “For you will burst out to the south and to the north.” He continues to prophesy: “V’zar’ech goyim yirash,” “Your future descendants will conquer nations” and “V’arim n’shamot yoshivu,” “They will settle the (once) desolate cities.” And Hashem’s promise “Ki heharim yamushu,” that even though the mountains may be moved and the hills might falter, Hashem will never remove His kindnesses from us—that promise, so long awaited, is being fulfilled before our very eyes.

I would strongly submit to you that our search for meaning in the haftarot, important as it is, takes on a new significance for us. We no longer have to search to reveal hidden meanings—for they are no longer hidden. Whereas past generations searched for a deeper understanding of the promises as a source of comfort for them, we look at those same promises and find their fruition in the events of our day. So much of the “atachalta d’g’ulah” that we have always prayed for has become something that we now experience. And our recitation of the weekly haftarah often becomes a revelation of the fact that what is occurring today is precisely what was predicted yesterday.


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

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles