Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah


The haftarah for Ki Tavo, Isaiah chapter 60, is the sixth of the Seven Haftarot of Consolation, which begin on the Shabbat following Tishah B’Av, and conclude on the Shabbat before Rosh Ha-Shanah.  Here, the unknown author, known as Deutero-Isaiah, or Second Isaiah, brings a message of joy and renewal, that pulsates with lyrical intensity: ‘Your sun shall no longer set, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Eternal shall be your light forever, and your days of mourning shall be completed’ (60:20).


Twenty-two verses of ecstatic proclamation – with not a word sounding a negative note:  Quite remarkable – and, one might say, most essential, given the substance of much of the Torah portion:  sixty-four verses devoted to setting out the small print of the covenant; the curses that will befall the people if they disobey God (Deuteronomy 27:15-26; 28:15-68).  The parashah makes gruesome reading – so what a relief, to read the haftarah!


It is interesting to see how the Sages used the readings from the books of the N’vi’m, the Prophets, that follow the Torah reading each Shabbat, to moderate the biblical theology of reward and punishment: Three haftarot of ‘Affliction’; seven haftarot of ‘Consolation’; the ratio of comfort to chastisement reflects a new rabbinic theology, which, emerging after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, taught that God suffered and wept with the people.