This Weeks Haftorah
Rabbi Levi Langer

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Haftorah Parshas Shoftim

"I am always I, Who comforts you--who are you that you fear mortal man, the son of humans, who is made as grass? You have forgotten Hashem, your Maker, Who spread out the heavens and founded the earth, and you fear continually all day long, before the oppressor's fury when he prepares to destroy--but where is the oppressor's fury?" (Isaiah 55:12-13)

The purpose of the sheva d'nachemta--the seven haftoros which are read on the weeks which follow Tisha B'Av--is to infuse us once again with hope, to revive within us the feeling that we are capable of regaining all that we have lost. So we read of the splendor and the glory which will be ours in time to come.

But what about the present? Each of us goes through times of difficulty and hardship. And somehow, when things are tough it's hard to feel comforted by the thought that the difficulties will end sometime in the future.

Yet in truth the collective history of our nation is proof that Hashem has never really left us. For if He had, then long ago we would have succumbed to those powerful historic forces which swept away all the other nations that inhabited the planet centuries and millenia ago. Our fate has been different from theirs, because throughout all the ages, we have been guided by the unseen hand of Hashem.

Our haftorah invites us to contemplate this, and to find solace even in the present. "I am always I, Who comforts you," says Hashem--I am eternally there for you. But where are you? Is it possible that you have forgotten Me, and you fear every mortal being who threatens you? "I am I [anochi anochi]"--eternal and unchanging in My relationship with you.

"All of your children will be disciples of Hashem, and abundant will be the harmony of your children." (Isaiah 54:13) When we will all become disciples of Hashem, then there will no longer be any infighting within the family of Israel. For then we will all share in a common goal, and all will work together to achieve it.

Our Sages (Midrash Shocher Tov 21) offer a startling comment about the role of the Messiah. "The Messiah will come but to give six mitzvos to the nations of the world. But the Jews will learn Torah from Hashem himself, as it it written, 'All of your children will be disciples of Hashem.'"

All the nations will be a part of the Messianic era. But with a difference: the nations aren't expected to be able to devote themselves entirely to the study of Hashem's wisdom. From them it is expected only that they perform certain basic mitzvos.

The Jews, in contrast, have the potential for a vastly greater achievement. We can go beyond looking upon the mitzvos as something imposed upon us from without. Instead we can transform ourselves into disciples of Hashem himself, dedicated to studying His teachings and putting them into practice. So it will be the job of the Messianic king to stand over the Gentiles and make sure that they perform the commandments which are given to them. But the Jews will study under Hashem, and will find their freedom of thought and expression within His teachings.

The goal of drawing together all Jews from all backgrounds--elusive as it may appear today--will be realized when that time comes.

Copyright (c) 1997 by Rabbi Levi Langer

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