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Rosh Hashanah II 5772

Haftarah: Rosh Hashanah Second Day
(Jeremiah 31:1-19)
September 30, 2011
2 Tishre 5772

The Second Day of Rosh HaShanah (Jeremiah 31:1-19)

The primary message of the haftarah for the Second Day of Rosh HaShanah is one of redemption. God who loves Israel will bring His children home. He will bring them from afar, provide them with tranquility and help them rebuild their land and their lives. Over all of these blessings, God’s people will rejoice. This promise is buttressed with an assurance from the past: “For the Lord has redeemed (padah) Jacob and rescued (uge’alo) him from a power stronger than his own.” (31:11) This verse is familiar because it forms a liturgical introduction to the blessing over God’s redemptive power in the Maariv (Evening) service.

The two verbs in this verse (Padah – Gaal) are often associated with the redemption from Egypt and serve as the inspiration for the following midrash: The children of Israel said to the Holy One Blessed be He: ‘Master of the Universe, all of the years that we have been enslaved have been filled with shame and confusion. Redeem us so that we will no longer live in shame. Why [will our shame end]? Because Your redemption is eternal. [How can we be sure?] Said the Holy One Blessed be He: ‘I redeemed you in the past, so, too, will I redeem you in the future’, as it says: ‘For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and rescued him from a power stronger than his own.’ Here we don’t say: ‘I will redeem you’, instead we read “I have redeemed you.’ I (God) have spoken the word and the deed is done.’ (Midrash Tehillim 31:2 according to the Cambridge manuscript – see Buber ed. p. 237) The author of this midrash exhibits confidence in the future because of the assurances of the past. The redemption from Egypt is the key to the future.

In his drashot S’fat Emet, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Alter (the second Gerer Rebbe) noted a strange association found in the Talmud. He noted that Rabbi Eliezer associated the end of slavery in Egypt with Rosh HaShanah. (See Rosh Hashanah 11a; Sfat Emet Holidays vol. 1, Or Etzion ed. p.19) ). Why link this event with Rosh HaShanah? Redemption is not just a national concept. It is also something very personal. Each of us becomes enslaved by the wrongs we have done in the past. Since we cannot turn back the clock, there is seemingly no way to escape the wrongs that we have done. Rosh HaShanah, however, represents time renewed. It is our opportunity to redeem ourselves. We can make ourselves anew through repentance and be freed from the slavery of our past. God’ assistance in this process in ensured, just as surely as His redemption of our people from Egypt.

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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