Isaiah 61:10-63:9

This week’s haftarah is the seventh and final installment of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.

The prophet begins on a high note, describing the great joy that we will experience with the Final Redemption, comparing it to the joy of a newly married couple.

Isaiah then declares his refusal to passively await the Redemption: “For Zion’s sake I will not remain silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still, until her righteousness emerges like shining light…” He implores the stones of Jerusalem not to be silent, day or night, until God restores Jerusalem and establishes it in glory.

The haftarah then recounts God’s oath to eventually redeem Zion, when the Jews will praise God in Jerusalem. The haftarah also contains a description of the punishment God will mete out to Edom and the enemies of Israel.

Isaiah concludes by declaring:

סג:ט   בְּכָל-צָרָתָם | לֹא [לוֹ] צָר וּמַלְאַךְ פָּנָיו הוֹשִׁיעָם בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ וּבְחֶמְלָתוֹ הוּא גְאָלָם וַיְנַטְּלֵם וַיְנַשְּׂאֵם כָּל-יְמֵי עוֹלָם

In all their [Israel’s] distress He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.(Isaiah 63:9)


In this final haftarah of consolation Isaiah makes a radical claim. God Himself is distressed by our pain. Like a loving father who shares the pain of his child, God, too, shares the pain of His people, and awaits the redemption along with them. The Rabbis related to this notion in the initial chapter of redemptive history – Moses and the Burning thorn bush.

Rabbi Yanai said, “Just as with twins if one has a head ache the other feels, so God, as it were, is with us in our pain (Ps. 91:15). Another opinion what is the meaning of “I am with you in your pain”- when they (Israel) have pain they only call out to God; in Egypt, “The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God” (Exod.2:23); at the Red Sea, “They were terrified and cried out to the Lord” (Exod. 14:10), and in many other instances, thus it says, “In all their distress he too was distressed” (Isa. 63:9). God said to Moses, “You do not sense that I am in pain just as Israel is in pain, Know well, that the place from where I am speaking to you, amidst the thorns, as if it were, I am a partner in their suffering. (Shemot Rabbah 2:5)


Not only is God described as experiencing our pain, He is portrayed as accompanying us into exile.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai said, Come and see how beloved Israel before the Holy One Blessed Be He. Every place they were exiled the Shechinah was with them. They were exiled to Egypt – the Shechinah was with them, as it says, “‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh “(ISam 2:27) They were exiled to Babylonia – the Shechinah was with them, as it says, “For your sake I will send to Babylon” (Isa. 43:14) …So too when they will (in the future) be redeemed the Shechinah will be with them, as it says (Dt.30:3) then the Lord your God will bring back (v’shav) your captives and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.  He will bring back (v’shav). It does not say it in the usual grammatical form (v’heshiv) .[Thus it implies] He Himself will come back. This comes to teach us that God will return together with the exiles.  (Megilla 29a)


What could be more painful than the suffering of little children? The horrifying realities of destruction and exile cannot be changed but God’s support, comfort and consolation of the little ones is expressed in the following midrash.

All the splendor has departed  from Daughter Zion (Lam. 1:6) Rabbi Judah the son of Simon said, “Behold how beloved children are in the eyes of God. When the ten tribes were exiled the Shechinah (Divine presence) did not go into exile.When Judah and Benjamin (Judea) were exiled the Shechinah did not go into exile, when the Sanhedrin was exiled the Shechinah did not go into exile, when the levitical cities (mishmarot) were exiled the Shechinah did not go into exile. However, when the children were exiled the Shichnah went into exile as it says, “Her children have gone into exile, captive before the foe. All the splendor has departed from Daughter Zion.”” (Lam 1:5-6) (Lamentations Rabbah 1:1)

God does not exit Zion with the dignitaries; not with the priests, the levites, or the elders of the Sanhedrin. He and the children depart together and with them the splendor of God’s holy city.


The notion that God is with us even when we feel abandoned and lost is expressed in the popular story of “Footprints in the Sand.” With perspective we are reassured and consoled.

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints.
Other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life
When I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord, “You promised me, Lord,
That if I followed you, you would walk with me always.
But I noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
There have only been one set of prints in the sand.
Why, When I have needed you most, you have not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints
Is when I carried you.” (Mary Stevenson)

Remarkably, the masters of midrash wove a magnificent tapestry expressing the very same idea, thousands of years ago. The midrash describes the women of Israel continuing to give birth in Egypt despite the decree of the evil Pharaoh to cast the male babies into the Nile. They would give birth in the fields and then cry out to God  saying “We have done our part, now you do yours!” God came down, as it were, to take care of the babies. When they were grown they returned home, their parents shocked asked ,”Who took care of you?’ They described God as a strapping young man. (Song of Songs 5:10) Then when they arrived at the Red Sea and sang the song of the sea, all of Israel experienced a revelatory moment. The children pointed and said “He is my God, and I will praise him,my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” (Exod.15:2) There He is – the one who raised us. It was the children who realized that God was with them all along! (Shemot Rabbah 23:8)


Rabbi David J. Wolpe tells a marvelous story of a man who once stood before God, his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world. “Dear God.” he cried out, “look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in your world. Why don’t you send help?” God responded,”I did send help. I sent you.”

When we tell our children that story, we must tell them that each one of them was sent to help repair the broken world-and that it is not the task of an instant or of a year, but of a lifetime.



In this final haftarah of the seven prophecies of consolation Isaiah gives voice to the total joy of mutual love and reunion between the almighty and His people Israel:

.I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Midrash Pesikta dRav Kahane 22:3 sketches a poignant analogy:

A matron whose husband, son and son-in-law traveled overseas. They came to tell her your sons have arrived. She said, “May my daughters-in-law rejoice. Your sons-in-law have arrived! She said, “May my daughters rejoice. When her husband arrived She said, Ah my joy is complete!” So too the prophets say to Jerusalem, “Your sons have come from afar (Isa.60:4) and She says to them, “May Mount Zion rejoice!”(Ps.48:12) and your daughters shall be carried in the arms (Isa.60:4) and She says to them, “”May the daughters of Judea rejoice!” (Ps.ibid 48) When they tell her, “Behold your king comes to you” (Zach.9:9), She says, “Ah my joy is complete!”

Cross references:

  1. Isaiah 61:10 : S Ps 2:11; S Isa 7:13; S 25:9; Hab 3:18; S Lk 1:47
  2. Isaiah 61:10 : S Job 27:6; S Ps 132:9; S Isa 52:1; Rev 19:8
  3. Isaiah 61:10 : S Ex 39:28
  4. Isaiah 61:10 : S Isa 49:18; Rev 21:2


Redemption, freedom, destiny, nationhood and covenant are all very lofty concepts. They are invaluable benchmarks for which we strive. This ongoing process makes us aware that in life, there is always another mountain to climb. In the Talmudic passage (Megilla29b) cited above we learned that the Shechinah accompanied us into exile, dwelling in our synagogues and study houses. This might make us think that where we landed in the Diaspora is the last stop. However, the gemara continues with the following hopeful wish:…Rabbi Elazar Hakapar said that all of the synagogues and houses of study in Babyhlonia be transported and transplanted to the land of Israel.


The gemara in tractate Shabbat 31a informs us, that when we get to the heavenly tribunal we will be asked to take stock of our lives. We will be asked the following questions: Were we honest in business? Did we designate time for Torah? Did we raise a family? We will be asked just the basics. The gemara then adds one more question: “did we anticipate the redemption?” A strange question indeed. The question is appreciably different from the first three in that it is not about one’s personal life and accomplishments but rather about one’s responsibility to one’s people to one’s land and to Jewish destiny.



Rashi explains: “Did you anticipate the redemption? Did you anticipate the words of the prophets?”


How are we to understand Rashi’s comment?  I suppose that if you were Rashi living in Northern France in the 12th century, the most you could do to anticipate the words of the prophets would be to dream of a day when the Land of Israel would be a sovereign nation under Jewish rule full of Jewish children and Jewish accomplishments. However, if you are a Jew living in the 21st century when asked the question, “did you anticipate the redemption?” – the words of the prophets, the intention will, no doubt, be did you make it happen?   It is not easy to actualize the words of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel. They are fighting words. But they hold within them the key to Jewish destiny. They are laden with spiritual potentialities, which we can, and will please God, accomplish in Israel, if not today then tomorrow. It is this, which keeps us going, which keeps us alive.


In order to appreciate the invaluable significance of the Land of Israel  we must take cognizance of our heritage but more importantly we must ask ourselves where we stand in the line of destiny.