Haftarah for Vayikra

Israel did not call upon G-d. Instead, they turned to idols. They didn't sacrifice to G-d, but to false gods. G-d made it easy to serve Him - a handful of meal, a pinch of frankincense - but they still ignored Him. Instead, they tired Him with their sins. But G-d will erase those sins for His sake and will not recall them. (This verse is part of the Amidah prayer on Yom Kippur.) G-d encourages the Jewish people to remind Him of the reward earned by the Forefathers. Even Abraham erred when he asked G-d for a sign and nobody speaking on behalf of Israel is free from sin, which is why G-d allowed the nation to be isolated and scorned.

Chapter 44

G-d tells Israel to listen: the One Who made us and formed us in utero, He will save us. He will pour His spirit upon us like water on the thirsty. The Jews will "sprout" from it like willows by the water. They will identify themselves as being for G-d and part of Israel. (According to Rashi, the various names they use to describe themselves refer to varying levels of righteousness.)

G-d is the first and the last; beside Him there is no other. Who besides G-d can lay out the path of future events? Don't be afraid or discouraged, for G-d told the Jewish people at Sinai that we are His witnesses and there is no power except that given by Him. Idol makers come to nothing. The idols are a testimony against their worshippers, who pray to lifeless lumps. They will all end up ashamed of this.

A blacksmith has to work until the job is done, despite tiring muscles and thirst. (If he stops working before the work is finished, the iron will cool and harden "as is.") The carpenter makes a figure of a person to sit in a pagan temple. He takes wood and uses half of it to warm himself and cook his food. The other half he uses to make an idol, which he prays to. Where's the sense in that? He uses half for fuel and worships the other half? Ridiculous! He has been deceived and is trapped in the lie.

Israel is told to remember this, for they are G-d's servants. He made them a nation to Him, so they must remember Him, even when the other nations forget. He erased Israel's sins like a cloud dispersing, so they should return to Him. The Heavens and Earth will sing that G-d has done this. The mountains and forests will sing that G-d has redeemed Israel.

Excerpted from The OU's Nach Yomi