Thursday, June 01, 2023

As this Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh, we take a “break” from the series of “consolation” haftarot (shiva d’nechemta) to read the final perek in Sefer Yishayahu, a selection that ties into the theme of Rosh Chodesh. The obvious connection of this special reading to the day itself is found in the final pesukim where the navi foretells of a time when “midei chodesh b’chod’shi umidei Shabbat b’Shabbato,” on each Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh (or “weekly and monthly”) all flesh will come to the Beit Hamikdash to worship God.

And yet, we are hard-pressed to accept that it is only the “fleeting” mention of Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat that led Chazal to select this prophecy as a fitting choice for this day. In truth, for us, experiencing the emotions of this post-Tisha B’Av period, our haftara truly is fitting. Rav Yehuda Shaviv points out that on the Shabbat before the fast of Tisha B’Av we read the very first perek in Sefer Yishayahu where the prophet cries out: “Chodsheichem umo’adeichem san’ah nafshi,” that God “hates” your Rosh Chodesh, He rejects your sacrifices, He regards your visits to the Beit Hamikdash as “trampling” His courtyards. But in this final chapter, the navi ends his book with the vision of ALL mankind gathering to the Holy Temple, there to sacrifice to Hashem! Rosh Chodesh—no longer “hated”; our sacrifices—no longer rejected; our pilgrimages—no longer considered trampling upon the sacred or trespassing the holy courtyards.

Words of comfort that console us during these weeks.

Indeed, if we study the entire chapter we would find that it is completely a prophecy of comfort, replete with visions of a glorious future and new beginnings.

And it is here that, I believe, Chazal saw the connection to Rosh Chodesh as a major theme, and not simply a “fleeting” reference. For as the navi closes his nevuah and his book, he speaks of “Hashamayim hachadashim” and the “Ha’aretz hachadasha,” a “new” and revitalized heaven and earth and, therefore, declares that on the new months, the Roshei Chodesh, all will gather to worship God.

Rosh Chodesh is not simply a recognition of the arrival of a new month but an opportunity of renewal and revitalization of ourselves. In fact, many observe the day before the new month as “Yom Kippur Katan,” a “mini” Yom Kippur, when they fast and pray for forgiveness so that they can begin the new month reborn and renewed.

This is the true message of our haftarah and the true message of Rosh Chodesh.

By Rabbi Neil Winkler

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