This week we read the sixth of the seven special Haftarot that make up the Shiva DeNechemta, the Seven Weeks of Comfort that stretch from the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av until the Shabbat before Rosh Hashannah. During these seven weeks we depart from our regular custom of reading portions of the prophets for Haftarot that are connected to the Parshah of the week. Rather, we read seven special Haftarot of comfort that come to console us after the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple.
All of these special Haftarot are taken from the book of Yeshayahu, the prophecies of Isaiah. All of them are taken from the fortieth chapter and onwards as these are the chapters of comfort, of consolation.
The Haftarot open with the ultimate words of comfort “Be comforted, be comforted, My people.” And each week we read words that promise us that God is with us, despite the destruction of our Temple and exile from our Land. Even though we are now desolate and depressed with our sorry state, still God comes to comfort us and to promise us that even though the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, it will be rebuilt, even greater and grander.
Indeed, after reading these words of comfort and believing in the Divine Providence behind them, we take heart and are ready to accept God upon us as King, during Rosh Hashannah. Thus these Haftarot link the 9th of Av with Rosh Hashannah.
This week’s Haftarah is also taken from the book of Yeshayahu and comes to comfort us. “Arise and give light as your light has come and God’s glory will shine on you.” For though I smote you in My anger in My favour I have mercy on you.”
The Haftarah closes with the simple words “in its time I will speed it up.” These words seem simple enough but when we actually consider them they do not make sense. If it is the time then how can God speed it up and if He speeds it up then it will come before its time?
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 98a) already asked this question and explained that this refers to two different possibilities. “If they merit it then I will speed it up, and if they do not merit it, then in its time.”
There is a designated time when the redemption will occur, whatever happens, whether we deserve it or not, God will redeem us in the allotted time. However the prophet speaks of another possible scenario. If we merit it then it will come speedily, i.e. before the allocated time, quickly.
This message changes somewhat the nature of the comfort of these seven Haftarot. Until now we prayed to God to bring us the geulah, the redemption. We heard the promise that in the same way as it was He who ordained the destruction, so, it would be He who would orchestrate the redemption.
However the conclusion of this week’s Haftarah tells us differently, we are not only to wait and pray for the redemption, after all “If they merit it then I will speed it up,” the redemption may also be dependent on us. We have the power to speed up the geulah if we act in the proper manner to bring this about.
While God wants to redeem us and bring the Mashiach, maybe it is us who are holding it back, maybe it is us who can merit it through our actions. Far from being just passive observers of our own history, we can and therefore must become active partners with God to merit the redemption and thus speed it up.
May we merit this year to be inscribed for a good, happy and healthy year in which we rise to the challenge set for us by Yeshayahu and that we will bring the redemption quickly.