Haftarah: Yeshayahu 49:14-51:3 (all) | Second of the “Seven of Consolation”
[על התורה] הפטרה: ישעיהו מט יד-נא ג (ע”פ כל המנהגים) | שבע דנחמתא 2
- Blessings and Conquests
- Remembering the 40 Years of Wandering
- Remembering the Difficulties
- Remembering the Obligations
- Haftarah Summary: ותאמר ציון עזבני ה’
In Eikev, Moshe continues with his speech (begun in Parashat Devarim) to Bnei Yisrael in arvot Moav (the plains or steppes of Moab) as they are preparing to cross into Eretz Yisrael. As he did in the previous parsha, Va’etchanan, Moshe reviews the journey that Bnei Yisrael have taken out of Egypt and in the wilderness, in this case, remembering the low points as well.
Blessings and Conquests
If Bnei Yisrael listen to the commandments, G-d will keep the covenant (brit) and kindness (chesed) that he made as an oath to the nation’s forefathers. The nation will grow, the earth will bring forth sustenance, there will be no illness, and Yisrael will be blessed among the nations. The more numerous enemy nations will fall; G-d will vanquish them just as He did the Egyptians, although they will be conquered gradually. Israel, upon conquering them, must destroy their idols. He continues to implore the Jews to follow G-d’s commandments as they establish their new life in the promised Land.
Remembering the 40 Years of Wandering
Bnei Yisrael receive a rejoinder to reflect on the purpose of their 40 years of wandering in the desert, which are now drawing to a close. These years served as a laboratory for observance: and when the people had a need, such as for food or clothing, it was supplied, strengthening their faith. Now, however, they are about the enter a fertile land where they will settle permanently. It may be easy to forget in a land of plenty, but the people are commanded to give thanks to Gd for their sustenance, even though it no longer falls from the sky as does the man (manna). Sitting in well-appointed houses, there is a danger of forgetting.
Remembering the Difficulties
Moshe reviews the hardships Bnei Yisrael have faced in their journey, as well as those which they have brought upon themselves. The wilderness has been “great and terrible” (ha-gadol ve-ha-nora – הַגָּדֹל וְהַנּוֹרָא); there have been seraf serpents (in Parashat Chukat) and scorpions; lack of water necessitating bringing water of the rock (first in Sefer Shemot, in Parashat Beshalach, and then again in Chukat). Just as G-d is the source of the miraculous man, so is He the source of all sustenance and well-being.
So, too, when Yisrael proves victorious against powerful nations, including the Anakim (“giants”), this is Gd’s doing, and not based on Yisrael’s righteousness, but rather on the foreign nations’ bad behavior. Yisrael, in point of fact, is a stick-necked, i.e., difficult, people (am kesheh-oref – עַם קְשֵׁה עֹרֶף). The people have complained since leaving Egypt, and at Chorev (also known as Sinai) they were almost destroyed on account of Chet ha-Egel, the sin of the golden calf, which they built while Moshe was up on Har Sinai for 40 days and nights. Moshe was so distressed he broke the original two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, but he also interceded with Gd on behalf of Bnei Yisrael and specifically of his brother, Aharon. The people also complained and transgressed at Tavera (in Bamidbar, Parashat Behaalotcha), Masa (in Shemot, Parashat Beshalach), and Kivrot ha-Taava (also in Parashat Behaalotcha).
Moshe then recalls the sin of the Meraglim (12 spies, in Parashat Shelach), in which the scouts sent forward to report on the conditions in Eretz Yisrael convey negative reports, conferring the people to hopelessness and so, lack of faith.
Returning to the events at Sinai, Moshe retells the story of the making of the second set of Luchot (tablets). Then, when Bnei Yisrael went from Beerot Bnei Yaakan to Mosera, Aharon died and was buried there. Bnei Yisrael continued to Gudgod and then Yotvat, where the Leviim (Levites) were singled out for service to Hashem and thereby forfeit being assigned a landholding in Eretz Yisrael.
Remembering the Obligations
Given these many events, Israel is to revere and love G-d and follow the commandments. Because Bnei Yisrael were strangers and slaves in Egypt, they are to always help the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. Though Yisrael went down to Egypt as only 70 people, they have multiplied to become a nation.
Attention is called to the fact that the generation to enter Eretz Yisrael is not the same generation that witnessed the wonders done during the exodus from Egypt, but one that experienced the travails of the wilderness years. The events surrounding the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the two elder sons of Aharon, are remembered (from Parashat Shemini).
Eretz Yisrael is unlike Egypt, Moshe says, in that it relies on rainfall and not irrigation for its crops. As such, G-d will provide rains at the proper times if the people have faith and keep the commandments, and teach them to their children.
Haftarah Summary: ותאמר ציון עזבני ה’
This haftarah belongs to the Seven Shabbatot of Consolation (Sheva de-Nechemta) following Tisha be-Av and leading up to Rosh Hashana. As such, it features themes of consolation. If Tziyyon thinks Hashem has forsaken them, that is impossible, just as it’s impossible for a mother to forget her baby. The desolated places of Yisrael will soon be teeming with people, and it will be exalted among the nations. The haftarah then returns to bitterness of exile, but, recalling Avraham and Sarah, ends on a note of hope for return.