Seven of Comfort #4 (Shoftim)

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Taken from the final third of the book of Isaiah, the “Seven of Comfort” (Aramaic: שבע דנחמתא) that are recited on the Shabbatot between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah do not relate to the weekly Torah reading. Instead, they powerfully describe the complex workings of the covenant between God, His people, His Land, and humanity as God redeems His people from exile, in Babylon and beyond, to return them to the Land.

Seven of Comfort #4 (Shoftim): Isaiah 51:12-52:12

This week’s fourth Haftarah of Comfort reverses its predecessors’ orderly progression through Isaiah’s chapters (40, 48, 54) to convey a dramatically different tone and message.[1] Gone are the sins and protests of Jerusalem and the exiles, God’s protests, others’ attempts to comfort them, and the prophet’s words and woes.

Instead, God takes center stage, in the first person (“I”), to restore Jerusalem and join His people in ending their shared exile. God takes responsibility for brutally punishing them, for their constant terror, and for the incomparable misery that has knocked them out, asleep like a drunkard sprawled on the ground. God “realizes” that their exile has made humanity think He, too, is exiled from His land and too weak to save His people. God promises to never again punish them in this way. He will now punish their captors who unjustly mistreated them, and to whom they owe nothing. He repeatedly rouses Jerusalem and the exiles to awaken and rise from their stupor to renewed glory. The exiles must purify themselves so that God can “visibly” lead them out of exile, calmly and peacefully, to a rebuilt, redeemed Zion. Jubilation and international recognition of God’s sanctity and power will herald their arrival.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 51:12-16: God, the Creator, will “personally” comfort His people and Zion. The exiles constantly fear their oppressors because they have forgotten that God protects them from mortals- but as bearers of God’s word, they need to fear no mortal.

Isaiah 51:16

I placed My words into your mouth and covered you with My hand’s shadow. [I] affixed the heavens and founded the earth [in order to] say to Zion, “You are My people.”

וָאָשִׂ֤ים דְּבָרַי֙ בְּפִ֔יךָ וּבְצֵ֥ל יָדִ֖י כִּסִּיתִ֑יךָ לִנְטֹ֤עַ שָׁמַ֙יִם֙ וְלִיסֹ֣ד אָ֔רֶץ וְלֵאמֹ֥ר לְצִיּ֖וֹן עַמִּי־אָֽתָּה׃ (ס)

Verses 51:17-20: God punished the exiles for their sins by having them drink His “cup” of poison. Jerusalem’s “children” have all collapsed from war and famine. No other nation’s suffering is comparable. Only God can comfort Jerusalem, so He calls to awaken them from their slumber.

Isaiah 51:17

Awaken, awaken, arise, Jerusalem! You have drunk from the Lord’s hand a cup of His wrath - you have drunk and drained the poisoned cup.

הִתְעוֹרְרִ֣י הִֽתְעוֹרְרִ֗י ק֚וּמִי יְר֣וּשָׁלִַ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁתִ֛ית מִיַּ֥ד ה' אֶת־כּ֣וֹס חֲמָת֑וֹ אֶת־קֻבַּ֜עַת כּ֧וֹס הַתַּרְעֵלָ֛ה שָׁתִ֖ית מָצִֽית׃

Verses 51:21-23: Jerusalem and her exiles lie in a “drunken stupor.” God tells them He will never again punish them, and instead will punish those who humiliated them by trampling them underfoot.

Isaiah 51:22

Thus says Your Master, the Lord, the God who contends for His people, "Behold, I have taken the poisoned cup from your hand. The cup of My wrath- you shall never again drink it.”

כֹּֽה־אָמַ֞ר אֲדֹקיִךְ ה' וֵאלֹקיִךְ֙ יָרִ֣יב עַמּ֔וֹ הִנֵּ֥ה לָקַ֛חְתִּי מִיָּדֵ֖ךְ אֶת־כּ֣וֹס הַתַּרְעֵלָ֑ה אֶת־קֻבַּ֙עַת֙ כּ֣וֹס חֲמָתִ֔י לֹא־תוֹסִ֥יפִי לִשְׁתּוֹתָ֖הּ עֽוֹד׃

Verses 52:1-2: God awakens the holy city, Jerusalem, whose invaders shall never return. Formerly captive, Zion must now sit upright[2] and don her finest.

Isaiah 52:2

Shake yourself from the dust! Arise [and then] sit, Jerusalem! Loosen your neck bands, O captive daughter of Zion!

הִתְנַעֲרִ֧י מֵעָפָ֛ר ק֥וּמִי שְּׁבִ֖י יְרֽוּשָׁלִָ֑ם התפתחו [הִֽתְפַּתְּחִי֙] מוֹסְרֵ֣י צַוָּארֵ֔ךְ שְׁבִיָּ֖ה בַּת־צִיּֽוֹן׃ (ס)

Verses 52:3-6: Since the exiles’ captors oppressed them without basis, the exiles owe them nothing when freed. Since His People’s exile makes nations and the exiles scorn God as exiled and unable to save, God too must “leave” exile and redeem His people so that all will recognize Him.

Isaiah 52:5

“Now why am I here?” says the Lord. “My people have been taken away for naught.” “Their rulers howl,” says the Lord, “and My name is blasphemed continually every day!”

וְעַתָּ֤ה מַה־לִּי־פֹה֙ נְאֻם־ה' כִּֽי־לֻקַּ֥ח עַמִּ֖י חִנָּ֑ם מֹשְׁלָ֤ו יְהֵילִ֙ילוּ֙ נְאֻם־יְהֹוָ֔ה וְתָמִ֥יד כׇּל־הַיּ֖וֹם שְׁמִ֥י מִנֹּאָֽץ׃

Verses 52:7-10: God’s peaceful, “visible” return as king to Zion will comfort it and His people. Jubilation will greet Jerusalem’s rebuilding. God’s power to redeem Zion and His people will demonstrate His sanctity to all nations.

Isaiah 52:9

Burst out in song, sing together, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people- He has redeemed Jerusalem!

פִּצְח֤וּ רַנְּנוּ֙ יַחְדָּ֔ו חָרְב֖וֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם כִּֽי־נִחַ֤ם ה' עַמּ֔וֹ גָּאַ֖ל יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃

Verses 52:11-12: The exiles must purify themselves and promptly depart their cities of exile, bearing God’s vessels. Unlike the rushed Exodus, this departure will be calm. God will lead and guard them.

Isaiah 52:12

You shall not depart in haste nor leave in flight, for the Lord goes before you, and your rear guard is Israel’s God!

כִּ֣י לֹ֤א בְחִפָּזוֹן֙ תֵּצֵ֔אוּ וּבִמְנוּסָ֖ה לֹ֣א תֵלֵכ֑וּן כִּֽי־הֹלֵ֤ךְ לִפְנֵיכֶם֙ ה' וּמְאַסִּפְכֶ֖ם אֱלֹקי יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃


“Lekha Dodi”, the poem sung at the beginning of Shabbat, echoes verses 51:17, and 52:1-2 of the Haftarah.

Lekha Dodi 5-6

Shake yourself, arise from the dust / Dress in your garments of splendor, my people! / By the hand of Jesse’s son of Bethlehem / Draw near to my soul and redeem it!

Arouse yourself, arouse yourself! / For your light has come - arise, my light![3] / Awaken, awaken, utter a song! / The glory of the Lord is revealed upon you.

הִתְנַעֲרִי מֵעָפָר קוּמִי/לִבְשִׁי בִּגְדֵי תִּפְאַרְתֵּךְ עַמִּי/עַל יַד בֶּן יִשַׁי בֵּית הַלַּחְמִי/קָרְבָה אֶל נַפְשִׁי גְאָלָהּ

הִתְעוֹרְרִי הִתְעוֹרְרִי/כִּי בָא אורֵךְ קוּמִי אוֹרִי/עוּרִי עוּרִי שִׁיר דַּבֵּרִי/כְּבוֹד ה' עָלַיִךְ נִגְלָּה

With emendations, all translations are from To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email

[1] Machzor Vitry (11th C., France) and Abudarham (14th C., Spain) also note this Haftarah’s sharp break from its predecessors.

[2] Targum Yonatan, Rashi, and Metzudat David suggest that the command is for Jerusalem to sit on her throne.

[3] This line is taken from Isaiah 60:1, the opening verse of the sixth Haftarah of Comfort, read with Parashat Ki Tavo.