Sixth Haftorah of Consolation: Arise Shine, for your Light has come
Last Shabbat the Jewish community read the 6th Haftorah of Consolation, Isaiah 60.
This Haftorah is linked to the Torah reading for the day, Deuteronomy 26-29:8, When you enter the Land.
Here Moses tells the children of Israel what to expect from their life in the Promised Land and what G-d expects from them as a people charged with bringing His truth to the entire world.
This Torah reading includes many glorious phrases which are now part of our general culture.
Included are such phrases as 'a Land flowing with milk and honey', 'a treasured people' and 'the fruit of your womb'.
All these blessings are however contingent on the behaviour of the Jewish people ongoing, and are not theirs by right alone. The covenantal relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is continuous and both sides have their part to play.
The Haftorah continues the upbeat and joyous mood with its sublime opening lines immortalized by Handel in the Messiah:Arise! Shine! For your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has shined upon you.'
I recommend all readers watch this wondrous 1946 rendering by the Huddersfield Choral Society, performed the year after the end of WWII, accompanied by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Malcolm Sargent. The soprano is Mancunian Isobel Baillie (the first British person to appear at the Hollywood Bowl in 1933) and the contralto is Gladys Ripley.
Just imagine how members of Huddersfield Choral Society would have felt singing this song of praise to the glorious light after the 'gross darkness' of constant bombardment by Hitler. Truly a case of 'from darkness to light.'
The recording has an ethereal quality, matched only by its dignity and subdued passion. Certainly a gem to be treasured.
For Isaiah is declaring that those nations that 'were in darkness' shall now 'go by your light.' The depression and hopelessness depicted in the previous Haftorahs is now completely lifted as 'the wealth of nations' is shared with the people of Israel.
And those few peoples who continue to treat the Jewish people with scorn will not last long.
'Violence (Hebrew word: 'hamas') will no longer be heard in your land, neither robbery nor destruction within your borders and you shall call salvation your walls and your gates praise.'
The Torah and Haftorah need to be read together, as Jewish people did last Shabbat in Shul. What G-d is demanding of His people as Rosh Hashana approaches is not easy to achieve. This is why leading an observant Jewish life is called 'the yoke of Torah'.
But with 10 days to go until Rosh Hashana, when the miracle of creation of the world is celebrated through the story of two childless women (the biblical Sarah and Hannah), both of whom miraculously give birth through the power of prayer, this Haftorah celebrates the eventual rebirth in our own day of a nation and resurrection of a people wedded to the Torah of G-d.