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Never Forgotten

Man with hands on sons for priestly blessing at the Western Walll.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me,
    the LORD has forgotten me.”

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!” — Isaiah 49:14–15

The Torah portion for this week is Eikev, which means, “therefore” or “heel,” from Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 49:14–51:3.

Imagine being a young Jew in Europe during the late 1800s. The Holocaust has not happened yet, but pogroms, blood libels, and poverty abound. Life is tough for the Jewish people without a secure homeland. You have read the Bible and learned with the rabbis. You are told that somewhere in the Middle East there is a place for the Jews. You are told about how the Jews once flourished there until they were exiled.

You are promised that someday the Jews will return, and you pray daily for redemption. But it has been 2,000 years. For two millennia Jews have been asking to return to their homeland, and yet, they still are in exile. Is there hope? Will it ever happen? In your darkest hours, you wonder, “Has God forgotten us?”

This week’s Haftorah is the second of seven portions of Scripture that are read between Tisha B’av, the day that commemorates a series of tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people throughout history, and the High Holy Days, beginning with Rosh Hashanah. Appropriately, these readings are called “The Seven Comforts.” They are selections from the prophets that speak about better times for the Jewish people, and they are designed to bring the people from the despair of Tisha B’av to the salvation and redemption of Yom Kippur.

In the opening verse of this week’s Haftorah we read, “The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me.” Just as the Jews must have wondered during the long exile before the miraculous rebirth of Israel, they then wondered if God had forgotten them.

Can you relate? Sometimes we pray and pray for something, and our prayers seem unanswered. When will I find a job? When will we be blessed with children? Sometimes the wait is so long that we feel forgotten. But our Father in Heaven never forgets.

The very next verse reads, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast?” It’s almost impossible for a mother to forget about her dear, precious child. God is just as attentive to us and more so: “Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Even if those closest to us abandon us, God will never forget us. We are His children, His loved ones. We are never forgotten!

Next time you or someone you know thinks that God has forgotten them, read Isaiah 51:3, “Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” After 2,000 years of waiting, God’s promises have been fulfilled in our times. There is joy and singing in Jerusalem once again, just as the prophets promised. Though their wait was long, God never forgot His children, the Jewish people, and He will never, ever forget you.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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