Haftarat Nitzavim: Loyal Spouses


[Ashkenazim/Sefardim: Yeshayahu 61:10-63:9

Yemenite Jews: Yeshayahu 61:9-63:9]

 

In addition to simply being a place for us to dwell, the Land of Israel is a Divine gift to the Nation of Israel.  The legitimacy of our right to the Land is beyond question, since it is an  integral part of our identity as a Nation.

 

"You will no longer be called 'Forsaken,' nor will your Land be called 'Desolate,' but you will be called 'My Desire is for her,' and your Land will be called 'Espoused,' for Hashem desires you, and your Land will be espoused" (Yeshayhu 62:4).

 

There are two ways for a nation to relate to its Land.  On the one hand, it is possible to relate to the Land as a necessity, since a nation requires a place in which to dwell.  This is especially true for the Nation of Israel, which did not find a safe haven in which to settle during the course of two thousand years of Exile.  One might say that this was advantageous for us since we then understood, as Theodore Herzl said, that it was essential for us to find a secure home for ourselves, where we could have physical and spiritual independence from the threats of persecution and assimilation.  For this fact alone we are obligated to thank Hashem day and night.  But according to this understanding, the Land is nothing more than a means to provide us with protection and comfort – and in fact could reasonably be exchanged or divided if it was not fulfilling this function.  But there is a second way for the Nation to relate to its Land: to see the Land of Israel as our spouse, as the poet Alexander Fine, who lived during the beginning of the return to Zion declared: "You are betrothed to me through blood."  According to this understanding, it is obvious that if the neighbors begin to covet our spouse, we are obligated to protect her with all of our might, since a spouse is an integral part of a person and cannot be exchanged or divided.

 

Yeshayahu compared Eretz Yisrael to a spouse.  When he turned to the Nation, he said: "But you will be called 'My Desire is for her,' and your Land will be called 'Espoused' (ibid.).  This prophecy describes a renewed marriage between Hashem and the Nation, and between Hashem and the Land.  "For as a young man espouses a virgin, so shall your sons espouse you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so shall your G-d rejoice over you" (ibid. v. 5).  Only a prophet could make such a statement!  And since this comparison has been made, that our Land is like our spouse, we are obligated to sacrifice ourselves for her and she will sacrifice herself for us.

 

As we see, for more than 100 years, the Nation of Israel has been embracing its Land anew, and many Jews are abandoning their professions and high material standards, which are often the source of jealousy, and are returning home.  In return, the Land is giving off its fruits plentifully (Sanhedrin 98a with Rashi), and a desolate Land is being transformed into a flowering garden.

 

This deep connection must also be seen by the nations of the world: "For the sake of Zion I will not hold My peace, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be quiet, until her righteous triumph emerges as a light, and her salvation burns like a torch" (ibid. 61:1).

 

We must believe wholeheartedly that Eretz Yisrael is a part of us, and belongs to us completely!  Only then will the nations of the world recognize this fact.  We therefore are not returning to our Land as poor beggars with our hands out to accept help from the nations of the world, but as a free and proud Nation regaining control over its Land.  "I have set watchmen upon your walls day and night, Jerusalem, they will take no rest.  You who are  Hashem's watchmen, do not be silent.  And give Him no rest, until He establishes, and until He makes Jerusalem a praise on the Earth (ibid. v. 6-7).

 

We therefore are not silent.  We constantly emphasize our right to this Land and to our eternal capital of Jerusalem.  People like to ask: which takes precedence, the Nation or the Land?  But we are not discussing two separate entities, rather one united whole.  A nation does not live without a land, and the fact that we survived for two thousand years of exile does not contradict this fact.  We survived but suffered the greatest tragedy in human history.  And a land does not live without its nation.  During the course of two thousand years, this Land was desolate and destroyed.  Only when her children returned to her did she begin to live anew.  This is the reason the Land is called the Land of Israel because without the Nation of Israel she is an empty shell, desolate, forsaken and awaiting her children.

 

For more than one hundred years, the covenant of marriage has been occurring, stage after stage; sometimes there are difficulties and sometimes there is light, but perfection will be achieved.

 

"Go through! Go through the gates!  Clear the way of the Nation.  Pave, pave the highway!  Gather up the stones, lift up a banner for the nations.  Hashem has proclaimed to the ends of the Earth, say to the daughter of Zion: 'Your salvation has come, its reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.  And they will call them the Holy Nation, the Redeemed of Hashem, and you will be called 'Sought Out,' a city not forsaken" (ibid. v. 10-12).