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Things Can Be Different

“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted,
    I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
    your foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies,
    your gates of sparkling jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children will be taught by the LORD, 
    and great will be their peace.” — Isaiah 54:11–13

The Torah portion for this week is Re’eh, which means “see,” from Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:11–55:5.

In this third of the “Seven Comforts,” the seven readings leading up to the High Holy Days, we read a beautiful description of Israel’s future as told to us by the prophet Isaiah. The Haftorah begins with a call to Zion to make room because her children are coming home. Although the prophet described the great return of the nation of Israel, which should inspire joy and celebration, Zion refused to be comforted. Isaiah noticed: “Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted . . .”

What’s holding Zion back from being comforted?

The Jewish sages explain by taking an overall look at the long history of Israel. This was the typical cycle: the nation sinned, they called out to God, God sent a redeemer, and they were saved. This cycle occurred numerous times just in the book of Joshua alone! On a larger scale, it is the summation of all Jewish history.

Even when the Jews were brought back to Israel after the destruction of the First Temple, they were exiled again hundreds of years later. So Zion refused to be comforted because, even though her children had returned once more, what was to stop the cycle from repeating itself again?

The prophet continued that this time things would be different. He said this time the children of Israel were not going to be as they had been before. Isaiah described how the very walls and streets of Jerusalem would be paved with precious stones. In addition, all of Zion’s children would learn directly from God Himself. This time, Israel would be restored to even greater glory than ever before. This time it would be a complete change that would last forever.

This is a great message of hope for any of us who have ever fought a battle and then had to fight it all over again. You thought you kicked that habit, you thought that relationship was healed, you thought you had seen the end of financial worries, but the cycle seems to repeat itself. How do we break out of that cycle and live in a new reality?

The answer is faith and perseverance.

No matter how many times we fail, we must try again, knowing that one day, we will achieve our goals. This reading encourages us to never give in to despair. It may take a long time, and we may suffer setbacks along the way, but if we press on, with the help of God, we will ultimately succeed.

And when we do reach our goals, we will be stronger than ever before. All those failures will create one glorious victory. So whatever battles face you today, keep fighting. Everlasting victory is on its way.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President


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