"Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes." Isaiah 54:2
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Teitzei, which means "when you go out," from Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1-10.
This week's Haftorah reading is the fifth of the "Seven Comforting" readings that bridge the gap between Tisha B'Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year, and the High Holy Days. As we prepare for this inspirational and transformational time, we engage in intense introspection. Our verse reads: "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes."
On the surface, the prophet Isaiah was speaking to Jerusalem. His message was that the exile was coming to an end, her children were coming home, and she needed to prepare and make room for them. However, an alternate reading suggested by the rabbis is that the verse is speaking to us.
During this time of self-reflection, it's as if the prophet is addressing us all and encouraging us to "Enlarge!" We need to use this time to grow, expand, and become bigger and greater than ever before. Another understanding of this verse is that the prophet is encouraging us to enlarge our homes, expand our minds, and lengthen the cords of our hearts. The greatest thing that we can do to become better people is to extend kindness to others.
Our homes need to be more open, providing hospitality and a place of nourishment physically and spiritually for others. Our minds need to expand so that we don't only gravitate to those who are just like us, but that we have enough room for those who think differently than we do. We need to be able to consider other people's perspectives, becoming more tolerant, sympathetic, and understanding individuals. Finally, we need to grow our hearts larger and reach out our hands more often. We need to cultivate a love for humanity that propels us toward greater giving and caring, even for those we may not know personally.
It is told that years ago in Jerusalem, when people sat down to eat a meal, they would hang a tablecloth outside their homes. It was a sign to all that a meal was taking place in the home and that anyone was welcome to come inside and partake of the family's food. Imagine if an entire city would observe this custom today! Imagine if the entire world would open up their homes in this way!
As we transition into the holiest time of the year, this reading delivers the message loud and clear that the way to live a life of holiness, connected to God, is to connect with His children. If we want to grow to our fullest potential, we need to begin by enlarging our homes, our minds, and our hearts.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President