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Haftarah: Eikev: Confrontation

Isaiah 49:14 – 51:3: This Haftarah affords us an opportunity to listen to a conversation between Israel and God:  “And Zion said: God has forsaken me. My Master has forgotten me.” (49:14)

God responds: “Can a woman forget her nursling, withdraw from feeling compassion for the child of her womb? Even were these to forget, I will not forget you.”

There is nothing you can do to erase the connection, the umbilical cord. You are attached whether you like it or not. So do not worry. I am going to lift you up. I am going to bring you back to me. You are going to be dressed in the most beautiful clothes. (49:18)

I am going to take care of all of those people who bothered you. “So says the L-rd, ‘I will lift up my hand to the nations, and I am going to take care of everything that happens.”

“I am going to save you. You say this, I am in chains in a dungeon, and G-d says, “I am going to save you, everything is going to be great.”

Israel speaks again: “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty? Or the captives of the victorious be delivered?”

How are You going to get us out the hands of the Babylonians? Excuse me, but if You had all this power, we would not be here in the first place.

How are You going to get us out?

G-d says, “Thus says the Lord, even the captains of the mighty shall be taken away and the terrible shall be delivered and I will contend with him that contends with you and I will save my children.”

The Talmud (Sanhedrin, 105) tells the following story based on the next steps of the conversation: Ten men came and sat in front of Isaiah. The prophet said to them, “Repent!” They said to Isaiah, “If you have a woman, who was driven from her home by her husband yelling, “Get out! Get out!” How would she respond if, all of the sudden, he says, “Listen, can you do my laundry for me?” So you are telling me to do Teshuva? You just chased me out of the house like a man chases his wife out of the house. And now you are telling me of please, do the laundry? Do Teshuva?

The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to the prophet,  “Go and say to them. I never divorced you. Where is the divorce document? Where is it?

Why did you let it happen in the first place? Why did you chase me out?”

“Excuse me. I did not chase you out. Where is the divorce document?”

You are sold with your own sins. It was for your transgressions that your mother was sent away. It is your fault. I did not send you away, you sent yourselves away.

We are reading the Haftarot of Consolation and yet we find confrontation.

Part of the true reconciliation demands that there be confrontation. Part of Nechama is to have confrontation over the things that went wrong.  It is confrontation for the sake of reconciliation. Consolation is not possible without this stage of confrontation.

Teshuva – Repairing our relationship with God – is a process of Consolation. This means that as we prepare to do Teshuva, we must be prepared for a certain degree of confrontation.

One of the reasons that we are doing Teshuva is because there is a confrontation in which God says to us, “Many of the things that happened to you, and things that you would like to have that you do not, are results of your own actions.”

We must be prepared for that confrontation.

We have to be willing to say to G-d, “I do not understand. You want me to accomplish x, y, and z, so why do you not give me what I need to accomplish x, y, and z?”

This Haftarah of Confrontation for the sake of Consolation teaches us that it is possible to say to God, “I understand there is a system and I understand that I cannot comprehend all the details of the system and it is beyond my comprehension I understand, but You also said that You relate to me on my level. I am doing this, I have worked on this, I am learning, I am trying to be a better person, and more sensitive. I am davening, I am doing what You want me to do, and this is what I need to do in order to fulfill my mission in life.”

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