This Week’s Haftarah

Va’etchanan ואתחנן

Isaiah 40:1–26

The Announcement of Comfort

General Overview

This passage represents Isaiah at his best. Of course, that statement is a hyperbole; all of his writing is superb and demonstrates the same outstanding literary qualities. But this passage is perhaps, one of his most well-known. It introduces the second half of his book and centers on comforting God’s people, as the opening words indicate to us. The reason for the comfort, according to the text, is because God is coming! Therefore, Israel is to make the way ready for His arrival. The haftarah concludes with a great section comparing the follies of idolatry with the blessings of knowing the one true God, the One who is coming

Connection to the Parasha

This haftarah, like most of the ones assigned to the book of Deuteronomy are not necessarily designed to be running commentaries on the text of the Torah. (This is basically the purpose of most of the other haftarot, but not necessarily true with those from Deuteronomy.) However, in a sense, they are. Deuteronomy is, in essence, not just a list of God’s teachings on righteous living. It is in its very format and structure, a covenant document. In it, the Torah takes the form of a Divine covenant, which it is. The haftarot from Isaiah assume the existence of that covenant. They encourage Israel to keep that covenant and warn them of the consequences for not being faithful to it.

Furthermore, the haftarot from Isaiah present to us a grand and majestic view of God. This is the same with the book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy, particularly in Parashat Va’etchanan, God is depicted as the God who elects, the God who loves, and the God who is the supreme Judge of all mankind, as well as the God who keeps covenants.