Seven of Comfort #3 (Re’eh)
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 #3 (Re’eh): Isaiah 54:11-55:5
In the first two Haftarot of Comfort, God announced the end of His punishment of the exiles for their sins as well as His power, as Creator, to redeem them. Their redemption will lead humanity to recognize Him as God. The exiles and bereft “mother Zion” reject God’s plan. Abusing God’s prophet, many interpret their exile and suffering to mean that He ended His covenant with them, or is powerless to save them. Isaiah replies that the exiles who reject God will die, but that God will redeem those who keep faith through exile’s darkness from amidst their powerful captors. As God punishes the nations who oppress them, other nations will escort them gloriously to Zion which He will restore to an Eden-like state. God will again build the nation from small numbers to blessed greatness, just as He long ago did with Abraham and Sarah.
In this third Haftarah, the exiles and Jerusalem nonetheless remain distraught. In response, Isaiah offers new promises and visions. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with splendor and dazzling jewels. The returned exiles- her inhabitants and rebuilders- will know God. Living in tranquility, they will establish Jerusalem with righteousness and without oppression. As Creator and Redeemer, God will protect the renewed city of His righteous servants from every military or diplomatic attack. To the exiles who disregard God’s promises and seek and pay for physical and spiritual satisfaction elsewhere, Isaiah replies that God’s promises are free and as eternal as His promises to King David. Led by David’s restored royal house, Israel will dominate all nations and reflect God’s glory; nations will run to Israel to know God.
Verses 54:11-14: Jerusalem is afflicted and not comforted. God responds by promising to restore her physical splendor. He also promises that her inhabitants will be righteous, live in peace, know God, and rebuild her.
O afflicted, storm-tossed one who is not comforted! Behold, I will lay your stones with fair colors and your foundations with sapphires.
עֲנִיָּ֥ה סֹעֲרָ֖ה לֹ֣א נֻחָ֑מָה הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֜י מַרְבִּ֤יץ בַּפּוּךְ֙ אֲבָנַ֔יִךְ וִיסַדְתִּ֖יךְ בַּסַּפִּירִֽים׃
Verses 54:15-17: As Creator of weapons and armies, God further reassures Jerusalem that He will reward her