Haftaras Ki Savo

In this week’s haftarah, it is written (Yeshayah 60:19-20):
The sun will no longer be for you for light in the day and for glow, and the moon will not shine light for you. Hashem will be an eternal light for you, and your God will be your splendor. Never again will your sun set, and your moon will not be withdrawn, for Hashem will be unto you an eternal light, and the days of your mourning will be completed.
The Maggid builds his explanation of this passage on the following Midrash (Devarim Rabbah 2:37, middle):
Said Yisrael: “Master of the Universe! This soul that sings praises to you, until when will it be set down in the dust?” [As it is written,] “For our souls are bowed down in the dust” (Tehillim 43:26). Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to them, “By your lives, the end will come and your souls will rejoice!”
The Maggid notes that Hashem’s answer seemingly does not match the question. The Jewish People were not asking whether their suffering would end, for they had firm faith that Hashem would ultimately redeem them. Rather, they were asking when the suffering would end. What, then, was Hashem trying to tell them?
The Maggid explains as follows. When a person is going through a period of joy that has a set duration, his joy is unavoidably tinged with sadness that increases day by day, for with each passing day the end of the rejoicing grows nearer. And similarly, when a person is going through suffering that has a set duration, with each passing day he grows happier, for he sees that the end of his suffering is growing nearer. By contrast, when a person experiences enjoyment of unlimited duration, even after a long time he remains happy. In this vein, regarding the end of days it is written (Yeshayah 35:10 and 51:11): “Those redeemed by Hashem shall return and come to Zion with exuberant song, with eternal joy upon their heads. They shall attain gladness and joy, and anguish and groaning shall flee.” Since the joy will be eternal, it will be completely free of any anguish or groaning. Similarly, when a person is going through suffering of unknown duration, and he suspects that the suffering will be permanent, he remains constantly in the same state of anguish.
This idea is reflected in the following Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Nach 816):
When Hashem shows the prophets the misfortunes that will come upon the Jewish People, they rise up and protest before Him. We find this in Tehillim 77, a psalm concerning ידותון. What does “concerning ידותון” mean? It means concerning the edicts and the judgments (על הדתות ועל הדינין) destined to be cast upon the Jewish People, which Hashem showed to the prophets. When they saw these edicts and judgments, they lifted up their voices and cried out before Hashem, as it is written (Tehillim 77:2): “I lift up my voice to God and cry out.” Similarly in Havakkuk: “I stand upon my watch (verse 2:2), I cry out to You regarding violence (verse 1:2).” Why? “For there is yet another vision about the appointed time (verse 2:3)” [i.e., homiletically, another misfortune is in the offing].  Further in Tehillim 77 (verse 3): “My soul refuses to be comforted.” Why does my soul refuse to be comforted? Because it does not know how long the suffering will last. Tell me what duration You have set, and I will be comforted.
An analogy: A man sets out to whip his son, and he tells him, “You’re going to get ten whippings.” He whips him once and says: “Another nine.” He whips him a second time and says: “Another eight.” As the count of remaining whippings decreases, the boy is comforted more and more. When is he not comforted? When the father does not tell him how many whippings he will get.
Similarly, Knesess Yisrael says to Hashem: “My soul refuses to be comforted. Why? Because I do not know the end.” As it is written (Tehillim 39:5): “Inform me, Hashem, of when my end will be.”
It is exactly as we have described.
This phenomenon is one of the reasons why Hashem, in His wisdom, has hidden from us when our exile will end. He wants our mourning and pain over the exile to be at exactly the same level throughout the entire period of exile, from beginning to end, with no diminishment. The reason for this is that the suffering itself is what brings about the eventual salvation with its ensuing blessings. It would not be possible for the blessings to come if we did not undergo the suffering beforehand. And Hashem wants to make sure that we receive the full measure of suffering that He designated, so that afterward we can receive the full measure of blessing. He must therefore conceal from us when our suffering will end. For if we knew when the end would be, with each passing day we would feel less pain and more gladness upon seeing the day of redemption approaching, so that in the final days of exile we would feel no pain at all.
We can now understand the Midrash in Devarim Rabbah. The Jewish People ask Hashem when the end of the exile will be. Hashem answers: “By your lives, the end will come and your souls will rejoice!” Hashem is saying that He cannot reveal the end, for if He did, then with the approach of the end our souls would rejoice, and the quota of suffering would not be met.
With this, we turn to the passage from the haftarah. Yeshayah declares:
The sun will no longer be for you for light in the day and for glow, and the moon will not shine light for you. Hashem will be an eternal light for you, and your God will be your splendor. Never again will your sun set, and your moon will not be withdrawn, for Hashem will be unto you an eternal light, and the days of your mourning will be completed.
The final redemption that we await will not be like the previous redemptions we experienced. The previous redemptions were like the sun and the moon which eventually recede from the sky, but the final redemption will be everlasting. The days of our mourning must therefore be fully completed. When we meet the full quota of suffering, Hashem will grant us eternal blessing in full measure.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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