Isaiah 49:14 – 51:3
Isaiah (prophet)- c. 740 – 681 B.C.E
This is the second haftarah of Consolation after Tisha B’Av.
Although B’nei Yisrael feel that God has abandoned them Isaiah tells the people that just as a mother cannot abandon her children God cannot abandon His nation. Interestingly the parsha begins with text reminding the Jews that if they obey and observe God’s rules He will reward them. The parsha stresses the importance of trusting in HaShem, even when the enemy seems unbeatable.
The Jews had been exiled from Judea to Babylon in 597 BCE and then again 10 years later. It’s possible Isaiah spoke these words to the Jews when they were allowed back into Judea – sometime after 538 BCE.
The first part of the haftarah describes B’nei Yisrael’s feeling that they have been abandoned and rejected by God. Isaiah says that G-d will never reject B’nei Yisrael, and promises the return of the Judeans to their land. “As for your ruins and desolate places and your land laid waste- You shall soon be crowded with settlers while destroyers stay far from you.” (Isaiah 49:19)
The quotation, “I will contend with your adversaries, and I will deliver your children.” made me think of times when B’nei Yisrael were in danger and afraid of the enemy but were saved by a seemingly impossible hero. One such incident was the battle between David and Goliath. I came across a unique and witty illustration from the Russian Museum of Ethnography, from the late 19th C, and showing David fighting Goliath. Goliath and the Pelishtim are depicted as Czarist soldiers and David is a Russian Jew. His cohorts are Hassidim complete with payot and hats. The picture is entertaining and unexpected- I never expected to see Davis as a Russian craftsman and Goliath as a Russian general. However it gives the same message as does the haftarah. Although the Jews were being persecuted in Czarist Russia – as they had been in Judea and Babylon – God had not forgotten them. Like David, they would not be vanquished by their enemies. (Illustration. P.161, The Illustrated History of the Jewish People edited by Nicholas de Lange)