Second haftarah of consolation

Rabbi Jan Uhrbach
Va'et-hannan By :  Jan Uhrbach Director of the Block / Kolker Center for Spiritual Arts Posted On Aug 3, 2018 / 5778 | The Voice of the Prophet

Underlying this second haftarah of comfort is a sense of near-despair: the people lament having been abandoned by God, and God responds to their unspoken fear that God is powerless to save them. As the honest grief of the heart and soul that knows what it has lost, such despair is necessary; without it, comfort and hope are false. But despair is dangerous too; it can lead to helplessness, disengagement, and resignation to injustice. It can also create an inability to embrace a redemptive message: while the people lament being abandoned by God, God is calling to them and being ignored.

The prophet sees his role—and gift—as the ability “to speak timely words to the weary.” He offers himself as a role model of resilience and courage, not denying the daunting nature of the task ahead, but reminding the people that he himself “did not run away.” Comfort and strength are to be found in unity (“Let us stand up together!”), and in returning to the foundations of the covenant with God (“Look to the rock from which you were hewn, the quarry from which you were dug; look back to Abraham your father and Sarah who gave birth to you”).

Food for thought:

  • When in your life has weariness or despair caused you to miss signs of hope?
  • What solutions and opportunities for repair are we as a society missing?
  • What opportunities do you have to comfort and strengthen others, offering timely words or serving as a role model? 

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