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Thursday, March 30, 2023
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Parshat Shoftim
 
After recognizing in the opening words of the third haftarah of consolation (a selection we did not read last week because it was Rosh Chodesh) that Israel was not yet fully comforted (“Aniya so’ara lo nuchama,”) Yishayahu opens this prophecy with Hashem’s reassurance: “Anochi, Anochi Hu Menachem’chem”—that I, God, am the One Who will personally comfort Israel. The prophet calls upon the people to arise from the ashes of recent destruction, promising them that their punishment has ended and those enemies who wrought that destruction will themselves be punished.
 
Tenderly, the prophet continues his comforting message by urging the despondent nation to awaken from their despair and revive themselves by trusting that God’s promised redemption is, indeed, at hand. In a most touching manner, Yishayahu explains to the people that Hashem suffered, as it were, in the exile together with His nation (“V’ata ma li fo”) and he proceeds to describe the arrival of the harbinger of redemption whose very footsteps could already be heard on the Judean mountains. Calling upon the people to rejoice over the news, Yishayahu explains that the redemptive process is a gradual one. As opposed to their exodus from Egypt, this redemption, Israel is told, will not be rushed or hurried. It will be, rather, a gradual process, conducted by God Himself, Who will gather the nation back to their land and secure their lives there.
 
The two major themes of this haftarah speak powerfully to us as well. The prophet’s reassurance that, whatever difficulties we undergo, God understands and indeed “ feels”  our pain, and that these tribulations are all part of the gradual but inexorable march to our ultimate geulah, are messages that must comfort all of us. The inspiring words of the prophet resonate powerfully in our minds as, over these past years, we have experienced the worst of galut and yet have witnessed, and continue to witness, the beginning of the redemption.
 
How important these messages are for us today, as well!
 
By Rabbi Neil Winkler
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