Thursday, March 30, 2023

Throughout these post-Tisha B’Av weeks, we have emphasized the point made by Tosafot (Megilla 31b) that the words of consolation and the visions of the future redemption found in these haftarot become increasingly powerful and optimistic with each passing Shabbat. Today’s reading, the sixth of the seven haftarot, does not disappoint us as it opens with the prophet’s call to Israel: “Kumi ori—Arise! Shine!” as Hashem’s glory will shine upon them. 

So much of Chazal’s view of the geula is based upon the description found in this perek. We read of shivat tziyon, the vision of a massive return of the Jews to the land, shibud galuyot, Israel’s mastery over those enemies who look to destroy her, as well as their declaration that Tziyon is the holy city of Hashem. Additionally, Yeshayahu assures the nation that, together with the spiritual awakening, there will come an economic recovery as well, a promise expressed in the words: “Tachat han’choshet avi zahav…—In place of the copper I shall bring gold and in place of iron I will bring silver…”

Perhaps the most moving part of the haftarah is found in its final words, as God proclaims: “Ani Hashem—I am God,” “Be’itah achishena—In its time, I will hasten it.” These last two words are understood by the Talmud in Sanhedrin (98a) as describing two possibilities regarding the arrival of the Mashiach, either “in its time” or “I will hasten it.” The Rabbis explain that if we fail to do teshuva, and thereby not deserve redemption, then “be’itah”—we will have to wait until its “proper time.” But if we do respond to God’s demands, if we heed the prophets’ warnings and improve our ways, then “achishena,” Hashem will hasten his arrival, even before its “proper time.” 

The Talmudic interpretation is fully understandable, in light of the place and time where and when they were written. Jews were living in the exile of Bavel, often under the oppressive rule of the Persians and later the Romans. The Rabbinic interpretation made up a hopeful message to the Diaspora that they could hasten the arrival of the Mashiach, and it served as a call to return to God as well—an especially timely message this time of year.

But it is the simple translation of this phrase that speaks to our generation quite powerfully. “In its time,” when God decides that it is the time for Mashiach, “I will hasten it”—He will not delay but will usher in the era quickly. We stand as witnesses to the dizzying speed of impactive, even world-changing events that have defined our history over these past 100 years. We have marched from defenseless victims, dependent upon an often-heartless world who watched as one third of our people were slaughtered, to a strong, independent existence as a state whose medical, technological, military and economic success is the envy of the world.

“Kumi, ori.” It is certainly a time for us to realize how Hashem is hastening our redemption! It is truly a time for us to arise and shine!

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

By Rabbi Neil Winkler

Sign up now!