|June 12, 2010
Rosh Chodesh Tamuz
The haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Hodesh is taken from the final chapter of the book of Isaiah. Its connection to Isaiah chapter one is indicative of an editor's work but that will not be addressed in this d'rash. The haftarah was chosen to be read on Rosh Hodesh as a result of a quote in line twenty three. And new moon after noon, and Sabbath after Sabbath, All flesh shall come to worship me.
The haftarah is a collection of diverse prophecies, judgments and salvation from a late selection of the Book of Isaiah. The reference to the building of the new Temple (66:1) reflects the concern of those living in the period immediately following Cyrus the Medes (538 BCE) granting permission to the Judean exiles in Babylon to return to our homeland. We find references to the discussions of how the Temple should be rebuilt some eighteen years later in the first two chapters of the book of Haggai.
The tone of the text changes at line 17 and focuses on an ingathering of all the exiles.
It is important for us to realize that Isaiah's vision of an ingathering of exiles and bringing everyone to worship God is a much broader and inclusive vision than that of any other prophet. Isaiah's final vision includes non-Jews, some of whom God will take and make priests. This represents a radical diversion from the Torah which is much more restrictive. Isaiah in chapter 56 states that if eunuchs or foreigners keep the Sabbath and hold fast to the divine commandment then they shall be accepted into the Temple mound and will be able to offer sacrifices on the alter.
Let not the foreigner say, Who has attached himself to the Lord, The Lord will keep me apart from His people; and let not the eunuch who keeps my Sabbaths, who have chosen what I desire...
As for the foreigners who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it, and who hold fast to My covenant and let them rejoice in MY house of prayer. Their burnt offerings shall be welcome on my alter. Is. 56-3-8
The haftarah for Rosh Hodesh, raises the major challenge for the Jew in modernity today. It also challenges us as members of families to consider on a regular basis the non-Jew who seek to be live Jewishly. How we treat the supportive non-Jewish spouse is the litmus test of our survival as a modern ever growing people. The prophet openly violates tradition and says they will be welcome at “My Alter” a much more far reaching approach to than where most of us stand today. The prophet challenges us to consider and to rethink where the supportive non-Jewish spouse should stand and what role they should play in our future.
1 Samuel 11:14-12:22
Had the calendar not interrupted the normative haftarah reading we could have felt a connection between Korah and last week's haftarah for Sh'lah L'kha. Last week we learned that Joshua, the successor to Moses, modified a divine imperative and allowed Rahav and her descendants, as a result of her willingness to assist in the downfall of Jericho, to live even though it violated a Divine commandment. With the death of Joshua the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham could be understood as being fulfilled. A major period of Biblical history has drawn to a close and from this point until the establishment of the monarchy, Israel will be governed by charismatic leaders who we came to call Judges. This morning's haftarah is an indication that the period of Judgeship is drawing to a close.
Our rabbis compared Samuel to Moses and demonstrate it in the way they selected this haftarah. The haftarah tells us as soon as Saul had been declared King that Samuel announced his retirement. He asked the people if he had acted justly. He asked if anyone can testify that he might have stolen or defrauded. Samuel needed the people to acknowledge that was an honest person.
Similarly, in the aftermath of the rebellion of Dathan and Abiram, Korah's conspirators, Moses announced to God that he has not wronged them or taken anything of from them. Moses also lead by example. He was a just and honest man. The haftarah in a more developed way makes a similar point about the way Samuel conducted himself.
Leaders need to set examples. The venue doesn't matter nor does the title. What does matter is the manner in which we conduct ourselves.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon,
Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish"
Jewish Lights Publishing.
Translation of the Haftarah may be found here: http://www.jtsa.edu/PreBuilt/ParashahArchives/jpstext/
The FJMC weekly haftarah commentary is one of the few haftarah commentaries available on line. The USCJ through its Fuchsberg Center in Jerusalem has also been posting a weekly haftarah commentary for a number of years. We highly recommend it. If you are interested you can find a link on the left side of our weekly commentary and click through.
In 2003 the FJMC commissioned a Sefer Haftarah, a scroll consisting of all the Haftarot which follows the Haftarah order that appears in the USCJ and Rabbinical Assembly Torah translation and commentary Etz Hayim. The FJMC Sefer Haftarah visits a different synagogue in North America every week.This scroll contains vowels and cantillation and allows the haftarah reader to experience the Haftarah in a more personal way. FJMC also produces individual personalized Haftarot for those who wish to recognize a special occasion. Scrolls of Haftarot have been in use since the early middle ages.