Haftarat Noach: Unconditional Love

[Ashekanzim and Yemenite Jews: Yeshayahu 54:1-55:5

Sefardim: Yeshayahu 54:1-10]


Can the covenant between the Master of the Universe and the Nation of Israel be cancelled on account of our sins?


This is one of the central claims of Christian theology: the Jews ceased being the Chosen Nation. The Nation of Israel remains only in body but not in spirit.  We were replaced by "Verus Israel – the true Nation of Israel," which, according to their opinion, is Christianity.


This is certainly not the teaching of Yeshayahu in our Haftarah: "For the mountains may move and the hills falter, but my kindness will not move from you and My covenant of peace will not falter, says Hashem, who has mercy on You" (Yeshayahu 54:10).


There is no "Old Covenant" and there is no "New Covenant," just one eternal love of the Eternal G-d for His Nation, which is also eternal.  This is the "love which is not dependent on anything" which is mentioned in Pirkei Avot (5:20); it is not conditional and it therefore cannot be nullified.  This is the love which we mention in "Shacharit" (the morning prayers) before the Shema, i.e. "Ahavah Rabbah" according to Ashkenazic tradition or "Ahavat Olam" according to Sefardic tradition.


The prophet Yirmiyahu is even more explicit: "Thus says Hashem, who gives the sun for a light during the day and the laws of the moon and stars for a light during the night, who sets the sea in motion and its wave to roar, the G-d of Hosts is His Name.  If these laws move from before Me, says Hashem, then the offspring of Israel will also cease from being a Nation before Me forever.  Thus says Hashem, if heaven above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below searched, then I will cast off all of the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, says Hashem" (Yirmiyahu 31:34:36).  Just as the laws of nature are immutable, so too is the law of the great history of the Chosen Nation of Israel.  Yirmiyahu emphasizes that "for all that they have done" (36), that is to say, despite all of our sins.  Even if the entire natural world crumbles, the Nation of Israel – the soul of the world – will not be consumed.


In light of this incredible Divine love, how can we understand the Exile, and its horrible suffering, which we experienced for such a long period?  The prophet Yeshayahu encouraged us to see this painful page of our history in the proper perspective: "For a brief moment have I forsaken you, but with great mercies will I gather you" (54:7).  Is two thousand years of Exile only a "brief moment"?!  For the Master of the Universe, and in relation to eternity, yes it is!  Israel pleasantly confirms this in the Psalms: "For a thousand years in Your eyes is like yesterday when it passed and like a watch in the night" (Tehillim 90:4).  In fact, we passed through the worst night, but now the light of morning is shining on the horizon: "For you will break forth to the right and the left, and your offspring will possess nations and settle desolate cities" (Yeshayahu 54:3).


Are all of these events not materializing right before our very eyes?  Instead of giving our attention to the bad news, which is spread daily by the media to depress us, we should once again read the optimistic, positive and realistic promises of the prophet Yeshayahu. 


The truth of the matter is that the prophet already knew that it would be difficult for us to free ourselves from the trauma of the Exile, and the constant concern and fear of our wanderings. So he teaches us about trust in Hashem.  "Do not fear, for you will not be shamed; and do not be humiliated, for you will not be mortified; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will not remember the mortification of your widowhood anymore" (4).


Do not lose trust in Hashem, nor in ourselves, because of the difficult “moment” in Exile.  This period of lowliness and destruction is finished once and for all – "In the overflowing of wrath I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have mercy on you" (8).


The era of love has returned: "Break out into song and be joyous" (1), "Enlarge the place of your tent and stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not" (2), "Stay away from oppression for you do not need to fear" (14).


The era of love has arrived.