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Parashat Re’eh

Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

8/27/22

“K’ish asher imo t’nachamehnu ken anochi anachemchem-uvirushalayim t’nuchamu.”

This Shabbat, we observe the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul and, as a result, we read the traditional Rosh Chodesh Shabbat haftarah, a selection from the final chapter of Sefer Yeshayahu, perek 66. We should understandably be curious as to why Chazal chose to break the series of “Shev d’n’chemta,” the seven post-Tisha B’Av haftarot of consolation, with one whose message focuses on Rosh Chodesh and its confluence with Shabbat. After all, when Rosh Chodesh Adar or Nisan occur on Shabbat we do not chant the Rosh Chodesh. Nor do we do so when Rosh Chodesh Tevet (occurring on Chanukah) falls on a Shabbat. So why did our rabbis see fit to “ignore” the third haftarah of consolation and establish the Rosh Chodesh haftarah that we generally would read at least two other times during the year?

At first glance, we could answer that we are not really “ignoring” the selection we would usually read. That selection is taken from the latter part of perek 54 in Sefer Yeshayahu and, given the fact that the haftarah we will read in two weeks for Parshat Ki Tetzei (iy”h) is taken from the opening pesukim of that same perek, we simply add this haftarah of Re’eh to that selection, thereby completing the chapter and “making up” for having skipped it this Shabbat.

But I believe that there is another, and perhaps, even better reason.

The final perakim of the book of Yeshayahu are chapters of consolation. These perakim are introduced with the well-known haftarah of Parshat Va’etchanan, a selection that opens with words addressed to the nevi’im of the time. “Nachamu, nachamu ami, Comfort, comfort my nation,” Hashem says through the mouth of His prophet, Yeshayahu, and these words set the theme for the last one-third of the book. Indeed, every one of the haftarot of consolation that we read at this time of the year is taken from these perakim. And the very last prophecy of Yeshayahu, the final perek of his book, is the one we read on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, a Shabbat such as we observe this week. And, like the prophecies of the final one-third of the sefer, it too is one of comfort.

In our reading this Shabbat, Hashem tells the nation: “K’ish asher imo t’nachamehnu ken anochi anachemchem-uvirushalayim t’nuchamu, As one whose is comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you; and it will be in Yerushalayim that you will be comforted.” The navi promises joy and celebration when we witness this redemption, a redemption that will include punishment for those who had oppressed us for so long. The prophetic vision includes the arrival of all nations to Yerushalayim bringing offerings to God and dancing in joy before Him. The prophecy—and the book itself—closes with the promise of weekly visits to the Beit Hamikdash by all mankind, visits on every Shabbat and on each Rosh Chodesh, when they will prostrate themselves before Hashem.

During this very difficult post-Tisha B’Av season, after those weeks when we mourned the tragic loss of our Batei Mikdash and so many other national calamities, we cannot simply go back to “things as they were.” Emotions that were awakened during a time of sincere mourning require as much comfort and consolation as possible to allow us to return to our normal cycle of living.

Many have expressed their difficulty of mourning the destruction of Yerushalayim when they peer out their windows and see the rebuilt and revived city. But as long as we still suffer the loss of young men and women, of the elderly and infirm as well as the all-too-young, and when we still attend the funerals of innocents who were brutally murdered by the evil that surrounds us, we need more comfort than even the seven haftarot. We need the ongoing reminder, on each Shabbat and on every Rosh Chodesh, that the sacrifices are not made in vain.

And this haftarah helps us remember that Hashem will comfort us “K’ish asher imo t’nachamehnu, As one is comforted by his mother.”

There is no more soothing comfort than that.


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

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