May 15, 2024
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Rise and Shine: Parshat Ki Tavo

Throughout these studies of the weekly haftarot it has become clearer and clearer to me how often the preceding vision of the navi clarifies our understanding of the prophecy that is read for the haftarah. This is certainly true of this Shabbat’s selection, taken from the 60th perek of Yeshayahu, which becomes more understandable after reading the 59th chapter and its message.

Our haftarah that opens with the prophet’s call to Israel to rise and shine (“Kumi ori”) stands in contrast to the previous chapter in which the navi cries: “Nekaveh la’or v’hinei choshech,” we hope for light but, behold, there is darkness. In that chapter, Yeshayahu reassures the nation that despite their sins, Hashem desires to remain close to them. And he then goes on to detail the people’s sins, confessing that those trespasses have kept the nation in exile and prevented God from redeeming them. Primary among those sins was the lack of justice, a failing that had kept them in darkness and had distanced God from them. And yet, the prophet moans, there was no one to lead them back to Hashem, and even God was astonished to see that, despite the serious danger the nation was in, everyone, including the leadership, remained complacent. It is for this reason that God pledges that He would step into the breach “Vayilbash tzdaka kashiryon, And clothe Himself in justice like armor.”

And now we can better understand our haftarah. After revealing God’s pledge to lead the people and mete out justice, the navi can declare “kumi ori,” rise and shine, for Hashem’s light will shine upon you. No longer enveloped by the darkness of injustice, the future will be a time of Divine light that will lead the way for Israel. The haftarah underscores the contrast of the world of gloom described in the previous chapter with the bright world illuminated by God’s salvation. The light of which Yeshayahu speaks would be a spiritual glow, reflecting the justice and righteousness that would fill the land.

And yet, the focus of the prophecy is that to which we ourselves can attest. “Banayich merachok yavo’u, your children will come from afar”; there will be an influx of Jews returning to the land. There will be children nestled in the arms of their parents, young men and women coming to defend the Jewish state, and older couples with wizened faces coming to live out their life-long dream.

There are times when I write these articles and wonder if there is a need. This week is one of those times. You do not need to probe deeply into the words of the prophet. Just read them this Shabbat, look around to what is taking place today, and you will receive the message and inspiration that you need.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler


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

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