Haftarah Parshat Ki Tavo
September 8, 2012
21 Elul 5772
In the creation story found in the first chapter of the Torah, God conquered the darkness or chaos by bounding it with light. The darkness however was not banished totally. It was made to alternate with light: “there was evening and there was morning”. It is noteworthy, that Shabbat – the ideal day, is the only day in this creative process described as being without night. (See Genesis 2:1-3) As it were, the sanctity and holiness of Shabbat banishes the darkness. (J. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil, p. 123)
As just noted, God did not entirely rid the world of darkness. He simply puts it in its place and controls it and so, the task of creation is only partially completed. The prophet in this week’s haftarah sees this state as insufficient for the future redeemed world and consequently prophecies that God will reorder creation so that darkness has no place: “No longer shall you need the sun for light by day nor the shining of the moon for radiance by night. For the Lord shall be your light everlasting – your God shall be your glory. Your sun shall set no more, you moon no longer withdraw; for the Lord shall be alight to you forever and you days of mourning shall end forever.” (60:19-20) In this description, the alternation of night and day will end. God’s light will provide eternal healing and God will have totally eradicated darkness and chaos. (Ibid. p. 125)
If the “darkness” in these prophecies is a metaphor for evil, then we still live in a world which is only partially redeemed. The dream of eradicating the darkness and chaos is still unfulfilled. God’s total rule over His world is yet to be realized. The repair of this situation is, in part, in our hands. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, we are reminded that one of the themes of this sacred day is the crowning of God as King – not just as King and God over the Jewish people but as King over the world that is the glory of His creative powers. This is a task that we carry out in a prayerful way on Rosh Hashanah when we hear the sound of the shofar and acknowledge our relationship with God. It is also a role we have an imperative to carry out each day in how we act since it our role to act as God’s agents in the world like our ancestors – Abraham and Sarah, spreading the message of God’s light to others in the world. If we carry out this task, then we will help God’s light to shine forth and overcome the darkness.
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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