Haftarah Parshat Hukkat
Shabbat Rosh Hodesh (Isaiah 66:1-24)
June 28, 2014 / 30 Sivan 5774
This special haftarah from the last chapter of Isaiah is read when Rosh Hodesh coincides with Shabbat. Its concluding prophecy foresees a new age in which God will create the heavens and earth anew and God’s people, the children of Israel, will live eternally: “For as the new heaven and the new earth which I will make shall endure by My will, declares the Lord, so shall your seed and your name endure.” (66:22)
Rashi, in the previous chapter in Isaiah (65:17), offers two interpretations of this verse: “the angels of the nations of the world will be renewed, this time with Israel’s angels on top and the angels of the nations underneath and so, too, on earth. There are those who say that the heavens will be created anew and this [second] interpretation is primary.” Rabbi Saadia Gaon, on the other hand, asserts that in messianic times, no new worlds will be created. Instead, the condition of the world will change so that it will be as if the world was created anew. (Emunot v’Deot 8:6) Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra rejects this stand. He maintains that God will make changes in the world: “What is meant by “sky” here is actually the “firmament”. God will purify the “firmament” so that the earth will again have fresh air.” (65:17)
Rabbi David Kimche seems to hone closely to Saadia Gaon’s interpretation. He claims that the heavens and earth will be called “new” because they will maintain their pristine state and not become worn out. His focus, though, on the second part of the verse which speaks of Israel’s status. He claims that this verse illustrates the eternal nature of the Jewish people: “You should not think that the Jewish people will be exiled again or that their name will become lost in exile. This will not be the case! – [For just as the renewed world will be eternal, so too], this goodly status will hold for them (Israel). Israel’s seed will be eternal just like the heavens over the earth. Israel’s name will not be lost nor will they again be exiled from their land even though the nations which ally themselves with Gog or Magog (Israel’s enemies) will come to do war with it over Jerusalem, thinking they will force Israel into exile and banish their name.” (66:22)
As much as the world changes, some things never change. Rabbi David Kimche reminds us that as hard as some might try, in all of their false piety and hypocrisy, to try to wrench Israel from its home and its security, they will not succeed.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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