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 Parashiyot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Yom Ha’atzmaut

HaRav Simcha Assaf writes in his book “T’kufat HaGeonim V’sifrutah” that, upon the passing of the great Rav Sherira Gaon, the community decided to recite a special maftir, one that speaks of Hashem’s choice of Yehoshua to succeed Moshe Rabbeinu (Bamidbar 27; 16) and a matching haftarah that describing David’s choice of Shlomo to succeed him upon the throne (Melachim A:1-2). And, although the prophetic text ends with the words “And Shlomo sat on the throne of his father, David” (2: 12), the people read “And Hai sat on the throne of his father, Sherira.”

This Shabbat, we read the double parshiyot of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim, and a haftarah from Sefer Amos (9; 7-15) telling Israel that, basically, she is no different from any other nation in Hashem’s eyes. She differs from others only in the divine mission she received: to follow Hashem’s ethical charges and spread God’s morality to others. By failing to do so Israel would lose that special status of being a “goy kadosh” (thus, the connection to parshat Kedoshim) and becomes no different than any other nation, in Hashem’s eyes.

However, this past week we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel and, for this reason, I feel it proper—as did the Jewish community 1100 years ago—to put aside my usual elucidation of the weekly haftarah and focus, instead, upon the prophetic selection that was read in the batei knesset throughout Israel on this past Wednesday, the fifth of Iyar.

That selection from the 10th, 11th and 12th perakim of Sefer Yishayahu are among the most famous, and perhaps the most important chapters in the entire book. It is the haftarah that diaspora Jews read a few weeks ago, on the eighth day of Pesach, and in which the navi describes the yemot haMashiach in clear detail. Laying out before us the picture of an idyllic world, Yishayahu describes a world of peace, where even the natural enemies would dwell together, a time when violence would disappear and an era when our knowledge of Hashem and an understanding of His ways would spread throughout the world.

In 1949, the Chief Rabbinate declared the establishment of the State as “Reisheet Tzmichat Geulateinu, the first flowering of our redemption.” Their decision to read Yishayahu’s depiction of the “perfect” world was not simply so that we recognize the world-changing event of the resurrection of the Jewish State after 2,000 years but also that we keep in mind the vision of what yet awaits us. Additionally, the rabbanim of 1949 were leaving an important message for the future: that our work is not yet complete. The haftarah must remind us that we do not yet live in the idyllic world that the navi described so that we not be satisfied with being only “Reisheet tzmichat geulateinu,” the first flowering of the redemption, but hope and pray for the fulfillment of a complete redemption.

Once we understand that truth, we would not resign ourselves to accepting the “first-flowering” of the redemption alone, nor find fault in “others,” and think “they” are preventing our total geulah.

This special haftarah should remind us not to expect a perfect State of Israel, but to appreciate the divine miracles that brought it to fruition and inspire us to work toward that perfection we pray to see.

Only then, will Hashem create the “idyllic world” that Yishayahu describes for us.


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

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