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Rosh Hashanah I 5771

Haftarah The First and Second Days of Rosh Hashanah
(1 Samuel 1:1-2:10),(Jeremiah 31:1-19)
September 9-10, 2010
1-2 Tishre 5771

The First and Second Days of Rosh Hashanah
(1 Samuel 1:1-2:10),(Jeremiah 31:1-19)

The Torah readings for the two days of Rosh Hashanah portray episodes in which our ancestors were faced by traumatic situations – Sarah\’s , and the potential loss of a child – the story of the binding of Isaac. In each of these incidents, God recognizes the plight of the afflicted parents and redeems them from their desperate situations. We see this same pattern in the story of the barren Hannah, who was remembered by God and granted a child, Samuel, who grew up to be a great prophet and leader of the children of Israel.

If we examine the story of Hannah a little more closely, we note that its story line also bears an amazing resemblance to the story of Rachel, another of the matriarchs who was barren before being answered by God. Rachel was the beloved wife of Jacob, who after a long period of infertility, gave birth to Joseph, who eventually redeemed his people from national affliction. Similarly, Hannah was the beloved wife of Elkanah, who gave birth to Samuel after a long period in barrenness. Samuel also became saved his people from national affliction.

The haftarah for the second day of Rosh Hashanah seemingly combines the themes of all of the other liturgical readings of the two days. Jeremiah bemoans the loss of the children of Rachel, the northern kingdom, who are collectively carried into exile. Rachel symbolically bemoans the loss of her children only to be comforted, with the promise that God will eventually redeem them: \”Thus said the Lord: A cry is heard in Ramah – wailing, bitter weeping – Rachel weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted for her children who are gone. Thus said the Lord: Restrain your voice from weeping, your eyes from shedding tears; for there is a reward for your labor – declared the Lord: They shall return from the enemies land. And there is hope for your future – declared the Lord: Your children shall return to their country\” (31:15-17)

What we see in this passage on a national level is what we have seen in these previous passages on an individual or familial plain. (See Jon Levenson, Resurrection and the Restoration of Israel, pp. 147-8) On Rosh Hashanah, we hope and pray that God will remember us and continue to act on both.

About This Commentary

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.

The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives.
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