Monday, November 28, 2022

Parshat Ki Teitzei

The confluence of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh that occurred two weeks ago — at which time, we replaced the usual haftarah of Re’eh with that of Rosh Chodesh — grants us the privilege of making up that “loss” this week, by reading both the selection for Parshat Ki Teitzei, as well as that which is ordinarily read on Parshat Re’eh. The reason for this curious practice (as most minhagim never read two separate haftarot on the same Shabbat) is simply because the usual reading for Ki Teitzei — perek 54, pesukim 1-10 is followed in the Sefer Yeshayahu by the haftarah of Re’eh — perek 54, pesukim 11-17 and perek 55, pesukim 1-5.

Interestingly, this reading also connects to the haftarah that we read last week on Parshat Shoftim — the 52nd perek of Sefer Yeshayahu. There, we read of the joyous song that will be sung on the occasion of Israel’s Geula, and, after the “interruption” of the 53rd perek, we read here in the 54th chapter, that the Navi calls to the Jews: “Roni — to cry out in joy,”describing the dramatic reversal from the desperate state of the past to the miraculous rebirth of the future.

As we focus in on the message of the first part of the perek — that section which is read each year on Parshat Ki Teitzei — we immediately notice how the Navi Yishayahu presents the contrast between what was and what will be: the cities were desolate — will be repopulated; you were forsaken for a brief moment — but you will be gathered in with overwhelming mercy; Hashem had abandoned you through a moment of anger, but will return to you with infinite mercy. Especially telling is the very first contrast mentioned by Yishayahu in this reading, where the Navi compares Israel to a rejected wife, but one who would be returned to her home and loved once again. The mention of a rejected wife who would eventually become a beloved one, touches upon us of the law we read in the opening of our parsha of the obligation that falls upon a husband who prefers one wife over the other.

In essence, however, the words of Yeshayahu also leave us with a very important message. All too often, we tend to focus on that which we do not have. Always dreaming of perfection, of a glass that must always be full, we are foolishly disappointed when our somewhat irrational concept of “perfect life” is not reached. By contrasting what was with what will be, the prophet subtly leaves us a message to appreciate how far we have come and how much Hashem has done for us.

And what do we say? Do we pause to consider what life was like for the Jew in past years, in comparison to what it is today?! As today, we live through the fruition of the prophecies from the past, we must certainly recognize Hashem’s kindnesses — and realize that, each day, He fulfills the promises that our fathers could only dream of.

Indeed, how fortunate are we!

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

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