Download PDF

Bereishit: Isaiah 42:5-43:10[1]

The Haftarah expands upon the Parashah’s presentation of God as Creator. It recounts God’s creation and choice of His servants, Israel, to be a righteous “covenantal people,'' a “light of the nations,” and “My witnesses.”

The unprecedented exiles and redemptions of His people should lead them, and all humanity, to reject idolatry and recognize Him as the only true god. In reality, however, those exiled in Babylon and beyond do not understand that they suffer as God’s punishment for their earlier sins, as part of their role in God’s plan. They do not believe that God will redeem them from their dispersion and punish His and their idolatrous enemies. Their very suffering magnifies their inability to understand these things.

Since Israel is blind, deaf, and lacks its own righteousness, God must make His teaching great for the sake of His own righteousness, and redeem them. Humanity will then sing new songs to honor God for redeeming Israel. Israel and humanity will finally understand that the Creator’s role in Israel’s redemptions and exiles, particularly when predicted in advance by His prophets, testifies to God’s eternity and omnipotence and to the error of idolatry.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 42:5-9: The Creator designated His righteous “covenantal people”, Israel, as a “light of the nations.” Just as He fulfilled earlier promises, so too He will fulfill His promise to redeem them from their exile.

Isaiah 42:6

I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness and will hold your hand. I protected you, and appointed you as a covenantal people, as a light of the nations.

אֲנִ֧י ה' קְרָאתִ֥יךָֽ בְצֶ֖דֶק וְאַחְזֵ֣ק בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וְאֶצׇּרְךָ֗ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ֛ לִבְרִ֥ית עָ֖ם לְא֥וֹר גּוֹיִֽם׃

Verses 42:10-13: People across the world will celebrate with a “new song” to God as He arises as a mighty warrior to defeat His enemies and redeem His people.

Isaiah 42:10

Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from Earth’s end, you who go down to the sea, and all therein; isles, and their inhabitants.

שִׁ֤ירוּ לַֽה' שִׁ֣יר חָדָ֔שׁ תְּהִלָּת֖וֹ מִקְצֵ֣ה הָאָ֑רֶץ יוֹרְדֵ֤י הַיָּם֙ וּמְלֹא֔וֹ אִיִּ֖ים וְיֹשְׁבֵיהֶֽם׃

Verses 42:14-17: Ending His self-restraint, the Creator will dramatically alter nature to create a straight, lit path for the returning exiles. This redemption will certainly occur, and will humiliate idolaters.

Isaiah 42:16

I [God] will cause the blind [exiles] to walk on a route that they have not known. I will lead them in paths that they have not known. I will make the darkness in front of them into light, and crooked things into a straight path. I have done these things, and have not forsaken them.

וְהוֹלַכְתִּי עִוְרִים בְּדֶרֶךְ לֹא יָדָעוּ בִּנְתִיבוֹת לֹא־יָדְעוּ אַדְרִיכֵם אָשִׂים מַחְשָׁךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם לָאוֹר וּמַעֲקַשִּׁים לְמִישׁוֹר אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים עֲשִׂיתִם וְלֹא עֲזַבְתִּים׃

Verses 42:18-21: Although the exiles utterly fail to understand Isaiah’s messages, God’s own righteousness causes Him to make His Torah great and glorious.

Isaiah 42:19

Who is blind, but My servant? And deaf, as My messenger whom I sent? Who is blind, as the perfect one? And blind, as the Lord’s servant?

מִ֤י עִוֵּר֙ כִּ֣י אִם־עַבְדִּ֔י וְחֵרֵ֖שׁ כְּמַלְאָכִ֣י אֶשְׁלָ֑ח מִ֤י עִוֵּר֙ כִּמְשֻׁלָּ֔ם וְעִוֵּ֖ר כְּעֶ֥בֶד ה'׃

Verses 42:22-25: The terror and helplessness of exile prevent the exiles from understanding that their exile is God’s punishment for their sins.

Isaiah 42:25

He [God] has poured upon him the fury of His anger and strength in battle. It has set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.

וַיִּשְׁפֹּ֤ךְ עָלָיו֙ חֵמָ֣ה אַפּ֔וֹ וֶעֱז֖וּז מִלְחָמָ֑ה וַתְּלַהֲטֵ֤הוּ מִסָּבִיב֙ וְלֹ֣א יָדָ֔ע וַתִּבְעַר־בּ֖וֹ וְלֹא־יָשִׂ֥ים עַל־לֵֽב׃

Verses 43:1-8: Nonetheless, Israel need not fear because even in exile, God is always with His beloved, chosen people, protecting them from every danger. God will end their exile by instructing their captors to free them, whom He will replace with other captive nations.

Isaiah 43:6

I will say to the north, “Give up!”; and to the south, “Do not withhold!”: Bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth!

אֹמַ֤ר לַצָּפוֹן֙ תֵּ֔נִי וּלְתֵימָ֖ן אַל־תִּכְלָ֑אִי הָבִ֤יאִי בָנַי֙ מֵרָח֔וֹק וּבְנוֹתַ֖י מִקְצֵ֥ה הָאָֽרֶץ׃

Verses 43:9-10: No other nation has accurately predicted its own future. By contrast, God’s prophets have correctly foretold Israel’s past redemptions, just as Isaiah’s prophecy about their future redemption will be fulfilled. In this way, Israel’s history testifies to God’s existence and providence, and the falsity of idols.

Isaiah 43:10

“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen so that you know and rely on Me, and understand that I am He: before Me, no god was formed; nor shall there be after Me.”

אַתֶּ֤ם עֵדַי֙ נְאֻם־ה' וְעַבְדִּ֖י אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּחָ֑רְתִּי לְמַ֣עַן תֵּ֠דְע֠וּ וְתַאֲמִ֨ינוּ לִ֤י וְתָבִ֙ינוּ֙ כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י ה֔וּא לְפָנַי֙ לֹא־נ֣וֹצַר אֵ֔ל וְאַחֲרַ֖י לֹ֥א יִהְיֶֽה׃ {ס}        


The Mishnah interprets 42:21 to describe the spiritual impact of the Torah and its numerous precepts on the Jewish people.

Mishnah Makkot 3:16

Rabbi Ḥananya ben Akashya says: “The Holy One, Blessed be He, sought to confer merit upon the Jewish people. Therefore, He increased Torah and mitzvot for them, as [Isa. 42:21] stated, ‘The Lord desired for His righteousness’s sake to make the Torah great and glorious.’”

רַבִּי חֲנַנְיָא בֶּן עֲקַשְׁיָא אוֹמֵר, רָצָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְזַכּוֹת אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְפִיכָךְ הִרְבָּה לָהֶם תּוֹרָה וּמִצְוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ה' חָפֵץ לְמַעַן צִדְקוֹ יַגְדִּיל תּוֹרָה וְיַאְדִּיר:

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

[1] Sephardim read up until 42:21.