July 20, 2024
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The Promise of Children to Inhabit Desolate Cities

Parshat Ki Teitzei

This week’s prophetic selection, the third and fifth in the series of seven haftarot of consolation, is taken from the 54th and 55th chapters of Yeshayahu. Interestingly, the opening prophecy of Chapter 54 is read for Parshat Ki Teitzei while the later prophecy is read for Parshat Eikev, before the earlier prophecy. This year, when we read both haftarot on the same Shabbat (as we read a special haftarah for Rosh Chodesh two weeks ago) we do follow the order of the Tanach, placing the later prophecy (“Aniya So’arah”) after the earlier one (“Roni Akara”). Rav Moshe Lichtenstein points out that, although both nevuot (prophecies) are found in the same chapter, they are two separate prophecies with unique approaches to the exile and different visions of the redemption. Our rabbis consciously established these prophecies to be read in a seemingly “reversed” order so that each consecutive haftarah would offer a higher level of comfort.

The very opening words let us know that the first two prophetic promises of comfort failed to console the people. Although in the haftarah of Eikev, the second prophecy of consolation, Yeshayahu promised the people that they would never be abandoned and that their redemption will arrive soon, the haftarah of the third prophecy of comfort (our opening selection this Shabbat) begins with God’s cry to Israel: “Aniya so’arah lo nuchama—Oh, afflicted one, tempest-tossed and not comforted,” revealing that the people still mourned and still grieved. God compares her to an “akara,” a barren woman who has little hope for a future, and therefore begins to comfort her with reassurances that she will yet have children and that no enemy would harm her, as He will protect her.

The real comfort, however, is found in the second selection, which, ordinarily, is the only haftarah read for Ki Teitzei and might well be the reason that it was ordained to be read after the later prophecy. Here God tells Israel: “Ki yamin us’mol tifrotzi—For you will spread northward and southward; and your children will conquer nations, and inhabit the desolate cities.” Here we have the promise of children, so numerous that they will fill the cities that were desolate for so long! And that is the consolation of God that leads to the joyous words that begin next week’s haftarah: “Kumi ori ki va orech—Arise and shine, for your light has come, as Hashem’s glory has shone upon you!” A moving message for those thirsting for comfort.

And for those who have begun to see that light!

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler

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