The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - DR AN­NETTE BOECKLER

“Ah, sin­ful na­tion” Isa­iah” 1:4

IN a com­pet­i­tive so­ci­ety, we are sup­posed to fo­cus on suc­cess and strength. It is un­likely that some­one would suc­ceed think­ing: “I’m a sin­ful person, I’m weighed down by in­iq­uity, I usu­ally act per­versely, my head is full with sick­ness, my heart with in­fir­mity, from the sole of the foot to the head noth­ing is right” — the un­spar­ing self-crit­i­cism en­cour­aged by this haf­tarah.

Haf­tarat Cha­zon (“Vi­sion”) is the last of three haf­tarot of ad­mo­ni­tion be­tween the 17th of Tam­muz and Tishah b’Av, which be­gins on Mon­day night. Verses 2 to 15 and 20 to 23 are chanted in the melody of Eichah, Lamen­ta­tions (as is 1:12 of the sidrah) to set the tone for this week. Haf­tarot are, like medicine, bit­ter but they heal. The heal­ing power lies in the fact that the prophet laments not the catas­tro­phe but the causes that led to it. Our litur­gi­cal mourn­ing this week, too, should not dwell on the past de­struc­tion of the Tem­ple but rather on our Jewish sit­u­a­tion to­day. Would our time and place be a wor­thy en­vi­ron­ment for God’s pres­ence in our midst? Are we ob­scur­ing this vi­sion?

In­ter­est­ingly this week’s haf­tarah is taken from the book of Isa­iah, the very book that will pro­vide the seven most com­fort­ing haf­tarot of con­so­la­tion to be read af­ter Tishah b’Av, lead­ing to Rosh Hashanah. How­ever, not only the name of the book but also the text of this week’s haf­tarah con­tains sparks of hope. These spe­cial haf­tarot are the begin­ning of the long way to­wards Yom Kip­pur, bol­stered by the be­lief that God will not aban­don us what­ever we are, that there­fore we, too, can re­new Ju­daism, as our an­ces­tors did in past times.

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