Haftaras Nitzavim

Haftaras Nitzavim is the last of the seven haftaros of consolation following Tishah B’Av, the day of mourning over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. It speaks lyrically about the final redemption. One passage in the haftarah discusses how Hashem has set watchmen over Jerusalem. I present here the Maggid’s moving commentary on this passage.
Yeshayah 33:7 states: “Their herald screams out, and the emissaries of peace cry bitterly.” The Gemara in Chaggigah 5b interprets this verse homiletically as referring to how the angels cry over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and the Jewish People’s plight in exile. Other teachings also describe the angels’ crying. The Maggid raises a question about this crying. If Hashem grants requests of angels when they cry, then He should have redeemed us long ago. On the other hand, if He does not grant requests voiced by angels, then their crying seems to have no purpose. What does the angels’ crying actually accomplish?
In truth, the redemption will come only through our own crying and pleading. Thus Yirmiyahu declares (verse 31:8): “With weeping they shall come and with supplications I shall lead them.” When we pray, we show Hashem our submission to Him and our broken-heartedness over our plight. As we explained in last week’s piece, an intermediary cannot properly convey these feelings on our behalf. We must convey them ourselves.
What, then, is the role of the angels’ crying? The answer can be seen, the Maggid says, through a teaching of the Arizal. In Avos 6:2, our Sages say that each and every day a heavenly voice issues forth from Sinai and indicts us for our laxity in Torah study, proclaiming: “Woe to man on account of the disgrace of the Torah.” The Arizal says that the purpose of this proclamation is to jolt us into an awareness of what a grave sin it is to be lax in Torah study, and to spur us on to be more diligent. Similarly, the Maggid says, the angels’ crying over our plight is directed not toward Hashem, but toward us. Their crying is meant to prod us to keep crying until we are redeemed.
Thus, in this week’s haftarah, it is written (Yeshayah 62:6-7): “Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen on vigil continually all day and all night – they shall not quiet. Do not fall silent, you who raise remembrance before Hashem. Give Him no peace until He establishes Jerusalem and makes her praised within the world.” The angels are the watchmen. Their crying serves as a constant vigil, to ensure that we do not fall silent – that we give Hashem no peace until He redeems us and restores Jerusalem to its former glory.
The Gemara in Chaggigah 5b relates further that Hashem Himself also cries over our plight, and we can understand His crying to have the same purpose as that of the angels. directed toward us. Thus, it is written (Yirmiyah 25:5): “Hashem roars from above.” The word “from” indicates that Hashem’s voice is directed toward us – to stir us to turn to Him with a plea for redemption.
The Gemara in Yoma 86b states: “Great is repentance, for on account of a single person who repents, the entire world is forgiven.” On the surface, this teaching is bewildering. But we can understand it, the Maggid says, in terms of the idea presented above. The angels are always ready to cry over our plight, but the initiative above must be must be triggered by some initiative from below. The repentance of a single person, though, is enough to set the process in motion. As this lone repenant fervently seeks to draw close to Hashem, and cries over the dishonor Hashem bears and the degradation His people suffer, the angels are prompted to start crying. If the rest of us are paying attention, we will detect their cries, and we ourselves will be led to plead with Hashem to forgive us and redeem us. And if we persist, we will indeed be forgiven and redeemed.
L’ilui nishmas Yitzchak Dov Ber ben Yosef, my dear uncle Irwin Zucker, who passed away on the 16th of Elul.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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