Our Greatest Comfort

This final haftora of comfort envisages the highest possible level of simcha – rejoicing with Hashem. Sos osis B’Hashem tagel nafshi b’Elokai. (Yeshaya 61:10). I will rejoice deeply with Hashem, my soul will exult with my G-d. He has dressed me in the clothes of salvation… like a bridegroom who exalts himself with splendor, like a bride who bedecks herself with her jewelry. The imagery of profound love is used a few pasukim later: “As a bridegroom rejoices with his bride, so will Hashem rejoice with us.” (62:5)

We anticipate this formidable simcha every month when we say kiddush levana. We look forward to the time when the moon will again be an equal partner with the sun and compare this to the renewal of the close relationship between Hashem and Knesses Yisroel after the years of estrangement in golus. This is why we dance after kiddush levana as we dance at a wedding.(Rama 426:2).

During Kiddush Levana we quote Shir Hashirim: “The voice of my beloved, behold it came suddenly leaping over mountains, skipping over hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or young hart. Behold he was standing behind our wall, observing through the windows, peering through the cracks.” (2:8-9) The pasukim testify that even during golus, the connection between us and Hashem was never broken. Even when we couldn’t see Him, He was always watching over us, observing through the windows, peering through the cracks. Yeshaya also said in our haftorah(63:9), “Bechol tzorosom lo tzar – in all their troubles He was troubled. He sent messengers to save them and with love and compassion He redeemed them.”

Lemaan Tzion lo echeshe, leman Yerusholayim lo eshkot,” says Yeshaya in our haftora (62:1).For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, for the sake of Yerushalayim I will not rest.” Hashem ensured that the nations of the world would not live in peace as long as Yerusholayim was bereft of her children. The eighty years’ war for Dutch independence from Spain, the Hundred Years’ war between England and France, the two hundred and fourteen years of war between the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, the first and second world wars and many others have regularly punctuated history. Many wars still continue in Africa and South East Asia.

Why has the golus been so long? No-one can say for sure. But the survival of the Jewish People despite the length of the golus is possibly the greatest miracle. Reb Yonason Eibeschitz famously said that the miracle of the survival of the Jews despite the golus is greater than the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim. In the Hagada we say that in every generation, the nations rise up to destroy us but Hashem saves us from them. What greater proof could there be that the love between Hashem and His People has never ceased? While it is not possible to interpret current events without ruach hakodesh, we see today how millions of Jews have come to live in Eretz Yisroel; so many beautiful communities of religious Jews exist and are growing. We see the words of the navi coming to life: “Old men and old women sitting in the streets of Jerusalem each with his staff in his hand because of advanced age and the streets of the city are filled with boys and girls playing.” (Zechariah 8:4-5).

Every day in times of success or failure, good health or illness, peace or troubles, we affirm our love for Hashem. Ve’ohavto es Hashem Elokecha bechol levavcho, bechol nafshecha uvechol me’odecho. We are prepared to give up our lives in loyalty to Hashem and His Torah and many have done so. Ironically our love for Hashem has deepened precisely because of the long golus and many trials and tribulations. This is because a love which is based on constant blessings is more likely to be superficial. It could well be a form of self-love. “I love G-d because He is always giving me things.” Someone with such a shallow ‘love’ of G-d will change if he is faced with difficult challenges. But we have gone through slavery in Egypt, exile in Babylon, persecutions and pogroms. We know that Hashem sometimes rebukes us, sometimes tests us. We do not always see a positive response to our tefilos. But our love of Hashem remains deep because we appreciate that “His thoughts are not our thoughts.” What He sees as good for us or what is good for the world is not necessarily within our grasp. And we remain loyal to Hashem even at the darkest moments.

This haftora of parshas Nitzavim, the last of the shiva denechemta is always read just before Rosh Hashana. Just as we prepare to accept Hashem again as our King, we are reminded by the navi of our deep and ancient connection with Hashem. Blowing the shofar reminds us of our emuna that the ingathering of the exiles will happen. Hashem, who has been caring for us for many centuries “through the cracks,” will soon be visible to us and the whole world in all His resplendent glory. “Soon,“the fear of You will be upon all peoples”. Soon, “Your people will be honored, those who fear you will be praised.” Soon,“the tzaddikim will rejoice, the yesharim will exalt and the chassidim will rejoice in song.” Soon, “all wickedness will evaporate like smoke.” Soon Yeshaya’s prophecy will be fulfilled that ”Your grain will no longer be plundered as food for our enemies and strangers will no longer drink the wine which you have toiled for.”(62:8). We will be a crown of splendour in the hand of Hashem and a royal diadem in His palm. (62:3) Just as the sun will rejoice again with the renewed moon after their long estrangement, Hashem will soon rejoice with us, His loyal People, with unparalled love, as a chosson celebrates with his kalloh.. And this is our greatest comfort.