Haftarat Ki Teitze: An Unconditional Covenant

[Yeshayahu 54:1-10]


Through the voice of the prophet Yeshayahu, Hashem has expressed his immense love of and fondness towards the Nation of Israel.  He has promised that after a "small moment" (Yeshayahu 54:7) of anger – 2000 years of exile! – He will not forsake us again.


"For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness will not depart from you, and My covenant of peace will not be removed, so says Hashem who has compassion on you" (ibid. v. 10).


Our Sages distinguish between two types of love: "Love dependent on a specific cause" and "love not dependent on a specific cause."  The first type can vanish if the conditions change, but the second type is eternal (Pirkei Avot 5:9).  The love of Hashem for the Nation of Israel is clearly the second type, which is not dependent on our merits or our repentance.  The future, promised Redemption by Hashem, through the prophets, is a free gift, and is not dependent on any prior condition.


When we read the verses of our Haftarah which promise the awaited Redemption, we see that there is no condition placed upon us: "For your Maker is your husband, Hashem of Hosts is His Name, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, who will be called the G-d of the whole world" ((ibid. v. 5).  The prophet is discussing a marriage between Hashem, the Creator of all existence, and the Nation of Israel.  Hashem chose us from all of the nations in order to make a covenant of marriage with us.  


"For Hashem has called you a wife as if forsaken and depressed in spirit, but your G-d says: 'Could the wife of one's youth be rejected?'" (ibid. v. 6).  Hashem never forgot the love of our bridal days, i.e. the amazing events which occurred between the Master of the Universe and his modest spouse, the Nation of Israel.


If this is so, how can we explain the horrible suffering we have experienced throughout the course of the Exile?  As explained in Shir Ha-Shirim (6:1), the nations of the world have mocked and taunted us: "Where has your beloved gone?"  In this song, the Nation of Israel declares that it has merited the love of its Beloved, but in reality, it appears that the Beloved has neglected His spouse.


Yeshayahu responds to us: "For a small moment have I forsaken you, but with great compassion will I gather you" (ibid. v. 7).  The two-thousand year Exile was a "small moment" when viewed in the proper prospective.  What is two-thousand years according to the Divine calculation?  Doesn't the sun have enough energy for billions of years?  All of the oceans together are only a drop of water.  All of the gold and silver are only a small coin.  All of the stars are only a small spark.  According to the same principle, two thousand years is only a small moment.  For human beings, two thousand years is a lengthy experience, but in relation to eternity, it is miniscule.


Therefore, Hashem forsaking us was not true abandonment since it was only temporary.  "When I was a little angry I hid My face from you for a moment, but I will have compassion on you with everlasting kindness" (ibid. v. 8).  Exile is a Divine expression of anger which we deserved, since we sinned severely.  But the sin and its punishment does not nullify the Divine covenant.


In our times, if we open our eyes we can see the Divine love towards the Nation of Israel.  For more than one hundred years, Hashem has given us an abundance of kindness.  The desert is blossoming once again, the Land is being rebuilt, Jews are being gathered from their places of exile, the army of Israel is victorious, the economy is succeeding and the Torah is spreading throughout the entire length and width of the Land.  All of these kindnesses speak volumes about the immense love which Hashem is showering upon us.


This is the reason we do not need to fear seeing our State crumble.  Yeshayahu delivers a Divine promise: despite our numerous sins, there will not be a third destruction, just as there will not be another flood. "For this is as the waters of Noach to Me, for as I have sworn that the waters of Noach will not go over the Earth again, so have I sworn that I will not be angry with you nor rebuke you" (ibid. v. 9).


We certainly suffered greatly during the course of the Exile, especially during the Holocaust, but it is clear today that the situation is completely different, despite the difficulties which pain us.


Now, our problems are those of a free Nation, a proud Nation, which can no longer be lowered: "Do not fear, for you will not be put to shame.  And do not be embarrassed, for you will not be found wanting, for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the embarrassment of your widowhood you will not remember anymore" (ibid. v. 4).


After such an extended period bereft of nationalism, we have begun again to live fully: "Sing barren woman, you who could not bear, break forth into song, and cry aloud, you who never felt the pains of labor, for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife – says Hashem" (ibid. v. 1).


Despite all of these amazing occurrences, and the unconditional Divine promise, we cannot simply sit waiting with our arms folded and rely on a miracle to solve all of our problems with the help of Hashem.  We do not rely on miracles.  On the contrary, the miracles rely on us!  Hashem brings greatness by us and through us, through our efforts.  It is therefore incumbent upon us to rebuild our Land and expand our settlement within it.  "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of your dwelling places, spare not!  Lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.  For you shall spread to the right and to the left" (ibid. v. 2-3).


Our obligation is to do everything in our ability to strengthen our Land in every realm, in order to prepare for the Redemption.  We see with our own eyes the actualization of everything which Yeshayahu promised, and we therefore hear his call: "Sing!" (ibid. v. 1).