Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. Isaiah 40:2
The Torah portion for this week is Va'etchanan, which means "I pleaded," from Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 40:1-26.
This week's Haftorah reading has less to do with this week's Torah reading and more to do with the time period that we are now in on the Jewish calendar. We have just passed the darkest day, Tisha B'Av, on which we mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and all other tragedies, and we have begun our journey toward the High Holy Days. To that end, the Haftorah readings for the next seven weeks are called "The Seven Comfortings," and all contain messages of comfort and encouragement for the nation of Israel.
Appropriately, this week's reading begins "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God" (Isaiah 40:1). The next verse begins, "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem . . ." However, the literal translation of the original Hebrew actually reads, "Speak on (the heart of) Jerusalem."
Is this a grammatical mistake? In Hebrew, the words "to" and "on" are nearly identical, and indeed, most understand this verse as speaking to Jerusalem, not on Jerusalem. However, we can learn an extremely important and relevant lesson by taking the words at face value.
Perhaps the prophet is encouraging us to speak about Jerusalem, "on Jerusalem." Let Jerusalem and Israel be the topic of conversation. Let us spread the truth about Israel as well as the needs of Israel. In this way, we comfort God's people greatly.
I can't tell you how many times I have spoken to individuals receiving aid from The Fellowship who have said these words to me, "Christians around the world know about us? They care about us? They are providing us with this support?"
So many Jews in Israel, and around the world for that matter, are shocked to know that they are the topic of conversation and concern for many Christians. Their initial surprise melts into comfort and gratitude. Especially in Israel, where much of the world attempts to isolate and vilify us, it is extremely comforting to this war-torn nation to know that there are those who care about us, who stand up for Israel, who provide lifesaving aid to Israel, and who speak the truth about Israel. Sometimes I am left wondering which was the greater gift the physical support provided by The Fellowship or the emotional gift that comes in the form of a virtual hug from a stranger across the globe?
Friends, I invite you to join us in fulfilling the words in this week's Haftorah reading. Together, we can comfort God's people. Let's talk about the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Israel who need our help at this time. Let's pray for the peace of Jerusalem and let's speak up for Jerusalem, letting it be known that she is the eternal capital of the Jewish state.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President