Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16
40:27 לָ֤מָּה תֹאמַר֙ יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב וּתְדַבֵּ֖ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל נִסְתְּרָ֤ה דַרְכִּי֙ מֵיְהוָ֔ה וּמֵאֱלֹהַ֖י מִשְׁפָּטִ֥י יַעֲבֽוֹר׃
40:28 הֲל֨וֹא יָדַ֜עְתָּ אִם־לֹ֣א שָׁמַ֗עְתָּ אֱלֹהֵ֨י עוֹלָ֤ם׀ יְהוָה֙ בּוֹרֵא֙ קְצ֣וֹת הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יִיעַ֖ף וְלֹ֣א יִיגָ֑ע אֵ֥ין חֵ֖קֶר לִתְבוּנָתֽוֹ׃
40:29 נֹתֵ֥ן לַיָּעֵ֖ף כֹּ֑חַ וּלְאֵ֥ין אוֹנִ֖ים עָצְמָ֥ה יַרְבֶּֽה׃
40:30 וְיִֽעֲפ֥וּ נְעָרִ֖ים וְיִגָ֑עוּ וּבַחוּרִ֖ים כָּשׁ֥וֹל יִכָּשֵֽׁלוּ׃
40:31 וְקוֹיֵ֤ יְהוָה֙ יַחֲלִ֣יפוּ כֹ֔חַ יַעֲל֥וּ אֵ֖בֶר כַּנְּשָׁרִ֑ים יָר֙וּצוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א יִיגָ֔עוּ יֵלְכ֖וּ וְלֹ֥א יִיעָֽפוּ׃
41:1 הַחֲרִ֤ישׁוּ אֵלַי֙ אִיִּ֔ים וּלְאֻמִּ֖ים יַחֲלִ֣יפוּ כֹ֑חַ יִגְּשׁוּ֙ אָ֣ז יְדַבֵּ֔רוּ יַחְדָּ֖ו לַמִּשְׁפָּ֥ט נִקְרָֽבָה׃
41:2 מִ֤י הֵעִיר֙ מִמִּזְרָ֔ח צֶ֖דֶק יִקְרָאֵ֣הוּ לְרַגְל֑וֹ יִתֵּ֨ן לְפָנָ֤יו גּוֹיִם֙ וּמְלָכִ֣ים יַ֔רְדְּ יִתֵּ֤ן כֶּֽעָפָר֙ חַרְבּ֔וֹ כְּקַ֥שׁ נִדָּ֖ף קַשְׁתּֽוֹ׃
41:3 יִרְדְּפֵ֖ם יַעֲב֣וֹר שָׁל֑וֹם אֹ֥רַח בְּרַגְלָ֖יו לֹ֥א יָבֽוֹא׃
41:4 מִֽי־פָעַ֣ל וְעָשָׂ֔ה קֹרֵ֥א הַדֹּר֖וֹת מֵרֹ֑אשׁ אֲנִ֤י יְהוָה֙ רִאשׁ֔וֹן וְאֶת־אַחֲרֹנִ֖ים אֲנִי־הֽוּא׃
41:5 רָא֤וּ אִיִּים֙ וְיִירָ֔אוּ קְצ֥וֹת הָאָ֖רֶץ יֶחֱרָ֑דוּ קָרְב֖וּ וַיֶּאֱתָיֽוּן׃
41:6 אִ֥ישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵ֖הוּ יַעְזֹ֑רוּ וּלְאָחִ֖יו יֹאמַ֥ר חֲזָֽק׃
41:7 וַיְחַזֵּ֤ק חָרָשׁ֙ אֶת־צֹרֵ֔ף מַחֲלִ֥יק פַּטִּ֖ישׁ אֶת־ה֣וֹלֶם פָּ֑עַם אֹמֵ֤ר לַדֶּ֙בֶק֙ ט֣וֹב ה֔וּא וַיְחַזְּקֵ֥הוּ בְמַסְמְרִ֖ים לֹ֥א יִמּֽוֹט׃
41:8 וְאַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עַבְדִּ֔י יַעֲקֹ֖ב אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּחַרְתִּ֑יךָ זֶ֖רַע אַבְרָהָ֥ם אֹהֲבִֽי׃
41:9 אֲשֶׁ֤ר הֶחֱזַקְתִּ֙יךָ֙ מִקְצ֣וֹת הָאָ֔רֶץ וּמֵאֲצִילֶ֖יהָ קְרָאתִ֑יךָ וָאֹ֤מַר לְךָ֙ עַבְדִּי־אַ֔תָּה בְּחַרְתִּ֖יךָ וְלֹ֥א מְאַסְתִּֽיךָ׃
41:10 אַל־תִּירָא֙ כִּ֣י עִמְּךָ־אָ֔נִי אַל־תִּשְׁתָּ֖ע כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ אִמַּצְתִּ֙יךָ֙ אַף־עֲזַרְתִּ֔יךָ אַף־תְּמַכְתִּ֖יךָ בִּימִ֥ין צִדְקִֽי׃
41:11 הֵ֤ן יֵבֹ֙שׁוּ֙ וְיִכָּ֣לְמ֔וּ כֹּ֖ל הַנֶּחֱרִ֣ים בָּ֑ךְ יִֽהְי֥וּ כְאַ֛יִן וְיֹאבְד֖וּ אַנְשֵׁ֥י רִיבֶֽךָ׃
41:12 תְּבַקְשֵׁם֙ וְלֹ֣א תִמְצָאֵ֔ם אַנְשֵׁ֖י מַצֻּתֶ֑ךָ יִהְי֥וּ כְאַ֛יִן וּכְאֶ֖פֶס אַנְשֵׁ֥י מִלְחַמְתֶּֽךָ׃
41:13 כִּ֗י אֲנִ֛י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ מַחֲזִ֣יק יְמִינֶ֑ךָ הָאֹמֵ֥ר לְךָ֛ אַל־תִּירָ֖א אֲנִ֥י עֲזַרְתִּֽיךָ׃
41:14 אַל־תִּֽירְאִי֙ תּוֹלַ֣עַת יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב מְתֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אֲנִ֤י עֲזַרְתִּיךְ֙ נְאֻם־יְהוָ֔ה וְגֹאֲלֵ֖ךְ קְד֥וֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
41:15 הִנֵּ֣ה שַׂמְתִּ֗יךְ לְמוֹרַג֙ חָר֣וּץ חָדָ֔שׁ בַּ֖עַל פִּֽיפִיּ֑וֹת תָּד֤וּשׁ הָרִים֙ וְתָדֹ֔ק וּגְבָע֖וֹת כַּמֹּ֥ץ תָּשִֽׂים׃
41:16 תִּזְרֵם֙ וְר֣וּחַ תִּשָּׂאֵ֔ם וּסְעָרָ֖ה תָּפִ֣יץ אוֹתָ֑ם וְאַתָּה֙ תָּגִ֣יל בַּֽיהוָ֔ה בִּקְד֥וֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל תִּתְהַלָּֽל׃
1. From Haran to Canaan
2. Down to Egypt
3. Parting from Lot
4. War with the kings of Canaan
5. Divine promise
6. Hagar and Ishmael
7. Covenant and circumcision
The central theme of the haftarah is wrestling with fear. The prophet repeatedly prods the people: "Why do you say, O Jacob, why declare, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the Lord'" (Isaiah 40:27); "Fear not" (Isaiah 41:10); "Fear not, O worm Jacob" (Isaiah 41:14). Over and over again he invokes God's promise to watch over Jacob/Israel: "You are My servant; I chose you, I have not rejected you" (Isaiah 41:9); "I am with you; be not frightened, for I am your God. I strengthen you and I help you; I uphold you with My victorious right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
Why do the Israelites need such reassurance? Tradition tells us that Isaiah lived in Judea in the time of the First Temple and prophesied against the people's arrogance and corruption. According to Biblical scholars, however, there were two Isaiahs: chapters 1-39 reflect the enraged prophet's diatribes, whereas the chapters beginning with 40 are those of a prophet who lived during the Babylonian exile, following the destruction of the First Temple.
What is the basis for God's words of comfort? The fact that Jacob/Israel is from "the seed of Abraham, My friend" (Isaiah 41:8)—the very same Abraham who heeded the command: "Go forth from your native land and from your father's house to the land that I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). Like the Israelites, Abraham, too, went into the unknown. Like the Israelites, he, too, wrestled with fear: fear of the Canaanites; fear of the drought that took him away from the land into Egypt; fear that Pharaoh might covet his wife and kill him; fear of a falling-out with Lot; fear during the war with the Canaanite kings who had kidnapped Lot.
Like the Israelites, Abraham, too, experienced moments of despair as the promise of progeny eluded him. Like the Israelites, he was in need of encouragement and received support from God, who reiterated his promise many times: "I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted" (Genesis 13:16); "He took him outside and said, 'Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them;' and He added, 'So shall your offspring be'"(Genesis 15:5); "I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding, and I will be their God" (Genesis 17:8).
Thus Isaiah repeats the ancient vow: "For I am the Lord your God Who grasped your right hand, Who says to you: Have no fear; I will be your help" (Isaiah 41:13)
Rinah Sheleff is a retired lecturer in Bible Studies at the Kibbutzim College of Education, Tel Aviv. She specialized in teaching methodologies that incorporate the creative arts as a way of emotionally connecting students with the human dilemmas inherent in Bible stories. Rinah is also a professional storyteller and a movement instructor. Currently she is working with a team of storytellers on a project designed to make Talmudic and Hassidic stories accessible to the public at large. She is a founding member of a women's Rosh Hodesh group that has been meeting for over 20 years, and was also active in creating the Tali School in Hod HaSharon. And she loves Susie Dvoskin.
Tzvia grew up in Hod VeHadar in Kfar Saba. She learned to read Torah from Susie Dvoskin for her Bat Mitzvah in 1985. She wanted to do "more than just a party" so she read the Maftir and Haftarah of Korah, and gave a devar torah about questioning authority. She never really planned on going to synagogue again afterwards, except she was asked to teach one of the upcoming bar mitzvah students, then another, and another, then she kept being assigned more and more Torah readings - and she is still reading and teaching today. She has a special connection with anyone reading Korah, including Susie's daughter Tamar z"l. Tzvia helped Tamar practice Korah for her Bat Mitzvah while Susie and Danny were away in Hawaii (they brought back beautiful earrings as a mahalo). Tzvia still uses a Tikkun in which she has marked every reading she has read or taught since she was 12 years old. Now, in 2015, you can find her reading Torah most Shabbat mornings at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington DC. Tzvia says, "I dislike women-only projects, but I like the people involved in this website, so here I am."