Seven of Comfort #1 (Va’etchanan-Nachamu)

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The weekly Haftarot recited between the 17th of Tammuz and Sukkot relate not to the weekly Torah reading, but instead to the workings of the covenant between God, His people, His Land, and humanity. Following the past “Three of Affliction (Aramaic: תלת דפורענותא), the upcoming “Seven of Comfort” (Aramaic: שבע דנחמתא) are recited until Rosh Hashanah. Taken from the final third of the book of Isaiah, they powerfully describe the exiles’ eventual redemptive return to God’s covenant and Land.

Seven of Comfort #1 (Va’etchanan-Nachamu): Isaiah 40:1-26

The Haftarah opens with God’s declaration that His harsh punishment of His exiled people is over: They are once again “My people.” Their sins are no more, so all must now comfort them from their afflictions. The call of prophecy resumes, though not always clearly. From Jerusalem’s peaks, it boldly proclaims that all must clear paths through varied landscapes so that God can powerfully and lovingly shepherd each and every one of the exiles home to Judah. Seeing this great redemption, even the most powerful individuals and nations will perceive God’s glory, His promises’ inviolability, and, by contrast, their own mortality.

The Haftarah then shows the folly of idolatry and, by contrast, God’s transcendent greatness. His power as Creator enables Him to fulfill His redemptive promise. From beyond, God created all without the slightest assistance. People neglect this basic truth, instead fabricating gilded idols. They forget God’s power over even the mightiest earthly powers, whom He can destroy just as He made them. Contemplating the heavens God created can return people to Him.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 40:1-2: God made Judah’s exiles serve as captives twice more intensely than their sins warranted. This punishment restored its relationship with God. All must now comfort them in their affliction.

Isaiah 40:2

ישעיהו מ:ב

Speak unto Jerusalem’s heart. Declare to her that she has completed her term of captivity, that her iniquity is expiated, and that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

דַּבְּרוּ עַל־לֵב יְרוּשָׁלַ͏ִם וְקִרְאוּ אֵלֶיהָ כִּי מָלְאָה צְבָאָהּ כִּי נִרְצָה עֲוֺנָהּ כִּי לָקְחָה מִיַּד ה' כִּפְלַיִם בְּכׇל־חַטֹּאתֶיהָ:

Verses 40:3-5: A voice declares that God is on a path through the wilderness. Every valley, hill, and obstacle will be straightened, flattened, and cleared. As God fulfills His word, unified humanity will see His glory.

Isaiah 40:3

ישעיהו מ:ג

A voice cries, “In the wilderness, prepare the Lord’s path. Straighten a highway in the desert for our God.”

ק֣וֹל קוֹרֵ֔א בַּמִּדְבָּ֕ר פַּנּ֖וּ דֶּ֣רֶךְ ה' יַשְּׁרוּ֙ בָּעֲרָבָ֔ה מְסִלָּ֖ה לֵאלֹקינוּ׃

Verses 40:6-8: Another voice is heard. After initially not being understood, its message is clarified: Like plants,

 humanity and its kindness last only as long as God permits, but God’s word endures forever.

Isaiah 40:8

ישעיהו מ:ח

The grass withers [and] the flower fades [but] our God’s word shall endure forever.

יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ וּדְבַר־אֱלֹקינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעוֹלָֽם׃

Verses 40:9-11: A herald must ascend Zion’s heights to fearlessly proclaim God’s return, as a powerful ruler with his entourage, to Judah. Like a shepherd, God will ensure each individual’s return from exile.

Isaiah 40:10

ישעיהו מ:י

Behold! The Lord God will come with might, and His arm shall rule for Him. Behold! His reward is with Him, and his hire before Him.

הִנֵּ֨ה אֲדֹקי ה' בְּחָזָ֣ק יָב֔וֹא וּזְרֹע֖וֹ מֹ֣שְׁלָה ל֑וֹ הִנֵּ֤ה שְׂכָרוֹ֙ אִתּ֔וֹ וּפְעֻלָּת֖וֹ לְפָנָֽיו׃

Verses 40:12-14: With transcendent power and knowledge, God constructed the world as a master craftsman, measuring the sky, seas, land, and mountains. No entity assisted the Creator in any way.

Isaiah 40:12

ישעיהו מ:י״ב

Who measured the waters in his palm, meted out the heavens with a span, included earth’s dust in a measure, weighed mountains in a scale, or hills in a balance?

מִֽי־מָדַ֨ד בְּשָׁעֳל֜וֹ מַ֗יִם וְשָׁמַ֙יִם֙ בַּזֶּ֣רֶת תִּכֵּ֔ן וְכָ֥ל בַּשָּׁלִ֖שׁ עֲפַ֣ר הָאָ֑רֶץ וְשָׁקַ֤ל בַּפֶּ֙לֶס֙ הָרִ֔ים וּגְבָע֖וֹת בְּמֹאזְנָֽיִם׃

Verses 40:15-17: Even together, all nations are powerless. Their greatest burnt offerings are worthless to God.

Isaiah 40:17

ישעיהו מ:י״ז

All nations are as nothing before Him. They are considered to Him as less than nothing and vanity.

כָּל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם כְּאַ֣יִן נֶגְדּ֑וֹ מֵאֶ֥פֶס וָתֹ֖הוּ נֶחְשְׁבוּ־לֽוֹ׃

Verses 40:18-20: Idolaters craft materials they can afford into idols, but these images are incomparable to God.

Isaiah 40:19

ישעיהו מ:י״ט

The idol? A craftsman casts it, and a refiner plates it with gold, he forges silver chains.

הַפֶּ֙סֶל֙ נָסַ֣ךְ חָרָ֔שׁ וְצֹרֵ֖ף בַּזָּהָ֣ב יְרַקְּעֶ֑נּוּ וּרְתֻק֥וֹת כֶּ֖סֶף צוֹרֵֽף׃

Verses 40:21-26: People fail to understand that God dwells beyond the heavens and earth He created. At His will, the Creator’s power overwhelms even the most powerful among humanity. To recognize the Creator, all must contemplate the stars, all created and named by the powerful, incomparable Holy One.

Isaiah 40:22

ישעיהו מ:כ״ב

[God is the one who] dwells above earth’s circle, its inhabitants like grasshoppers. The One who spreads the heaven like a thin curtain, stretching them out like a tent for dwelling.

הַיֹּשֵׁב֙ עַל־ח֣וּג הָאָ֔רֶץ וְיֹשְׁבֶ֖יהָ כַּחֲגָבִ֑ים הַנּוֹטֶ֤ה כַדֹּק֙ שָׁמַ֔יִם וַיִּמְתָּחֵ֥ם כָּאֹ֖הֶל לָשָֽׁבֶת׃

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