Haftaras Shuvah

This week’s haftarah begins with the following exhortation (Hoshea 14:2): “Return, O Israel, up to Hashem your God, for you have stumbled in your iniquity.” The Maggid notes that the verse does not say el Hashem, meaning simply to Hashem, but rather ad Hashem, which I have rendered as up to Hashem. He explains the idea behind this choice of language with an analogy.
Consider a person who has a legal dispute with his neighbor. If he says “let us go to the king,” this implies that he has already gone to the magistrates of law but did not prevail. Believing that they did not judge the case properly, he says: “I will go with the opposing litigant to the king himself.” But if the person says “let us go up to the king,” this means that he wishes to bypass the royal magistrates and bring his claim directly to the king.
The Maggid elaborates the analogy further. Suppose it is a pauper who is embroiled in the dispute, and he does not have the means to bribe the judges. He will then say to himself: “What will it help to go from officer to officer? I have nothing to offer them. Instead I will go straight to the king, who is not interested in bribes. Because he is kind, he will accept my claim and will not send me away empty-handed.”
The Maggid explains the parallel as follows. The Kingdom of Heaven operates like an earthly kingdom. There are Heavenly officers whose task is bring our prayers before Hashem. [Note: We do not pray to these officers, far be it. Rather, we pray to Hashem, and rely on the officers to carry out their appointed task.] These officers do not allow our prayers to pass on to Hashem unless the prayers are accompanied by a proper measure of good deeds. Without that, they do not register our prayers at all. Not so with Hashem Himself: in His great kindness, He pays attention even to the prayers of those barren of good deeds.
Thus, the way to seek acquittal is to turn directly up to Hashem. We cannot work with the usual channels, relying on our merits, for our iniquity is readily apparent. As our Sages put it (Berachos 31a): “What Torah and what mitzvah is there to protect us?” Turning directly up to Hashem is our only hope.
In the same vein, the Torah declares (Devarim 4:30): “In your distress, when all these things come upon you, in the end of days you shall return up to Hashem your God and you shall hearken unto His voice.” Here again, ad is used in place of el. When we are in distress, our only recourse is to return straight up to Hashem, since we have nothing to give the Heavenly officers. All this is hinted at in the Gemara’s statement (Yoma 86a): “Great is repentance, which reaches up to (ad) the Throne of Glory.” This teaching expresses precisely the same idea.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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