Address: 91 Leinster St, Saint John, NB E2L 1J2

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Haftarah Commentary Bereshit

Shabbat Shalom from Bruce Washburn:

The challenge is to read the 28 verses of Isaiah in the Haftarah Beresith, Isaiah 42:5-43:10. It would be a good beginning.

Here is this week’s haftarah commentary:

Torah According to G-d:  The Creator, The Redeemer
Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

Sometimes we hear God speaking.  Not being told that G-d spoke, not given a third person account of the event, we hear G-d’s own words, G-d speaking personally.   Even coming through the medium of the human voice of the navi (prophet), this is a powerful experience.

In the first haftarah of the year, we have that experience. Unlike the accounts in the Torah that are told in the third person the navi, Isaiah, delivers G-d’s speech, in first person, sharing His impression from the events, having experienced them Himself.  Raise the sound and let the text flow through you. Feel the power of speech that can create a world.

Why are we treated to this awe-inspiring speech?  Apparently because the audience needs to understand who G-d is.  The navi, addressing the devastated people of Israel, must bring G-d’s full power to the stage, eliminate all filters, to turn around the people who concluded following the destruction that now it is their turn to disappear from history.

Could G-d save them?  The job of the navi in these chapters is to convince the people that indeed, yes, G-d is the only one with the power and the desire to do so.  He who can create the heavens and hammer out the earth, He can save them as he has done once before.

These chapters of Isaiah frequently reference two major events:  The creation of the world and the Exodus from Egypt; a universal manifestation of G-d’s power and a particular, national one.  According to Isaiah, these are the foundational events of the Torah.  Choosing a haftarah that brings these events together is not only offering an additional, different angle on the parashah, it is offering a different view of the Torah.  This haftarah functions as an alternative introduction to the foundational text of the people of Israel, giving us the conclusion we should internalize in G-d’s own voice: “I am the One, before Me no G-d was fashioned, and after Me none shall be.” (Isa. 43:10, translation: Robert Alter.) Now we are invited to spend the rest of the year learning the details.

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