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Consolation and Renewal

08/23/2023 12:24:17 PM


Our Torah portion this week, “Ki Tetze,” connects to its own Haftarah reading, as all portions do. Sometimes the link between the two is subtle; one line from the Torah portion is enough to guide the accompanying Haftarah reading into place beside it. Other times the Haftarah reading has many parallels to its Torah portion. Ki Tetze’s counterpart, words from the prophet Isaiah, is also known as our Fifth Haftarah of Consolation. Following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, these Haftarot (seven in all) are meant to offer healing and encouragement that the Exile would end, and the Jewish people would once again experience wholeness and strength. 

It may be that this was an act of grounding us in Jewish time. The first Haftarah of Consolation marks seven weeks until the arrival of Rosh Hashanah. I believe there is an additional rationale however, beyond making congregational rabbis nervous! The rabbis of old, through our literary tradition, just may have been reminding us that finding our way following illness or tragedy, or any unexpected turn in life that brings us pain, is neither quick nor linear. We want nothing more than to move through grief as quickly as possible, and to return to the selves we were before. Judaism however, has a different approach. We are encouraged to give in to our sorrow when it comes. And it does come to all of us in this life. Voicing that aloud need not be a cause for self-consciousness, as we often fear. It may even draw people closer to us; people who have also been there, or who are there with us now and we did not know. 

As for returning to the selves we were before, just as the Haftarot of Consolation turn and transform, we do too. We all go through different iterations at different times; some joyous and some terrible. In these waning days of summer, may each of us find ways to be honest about our sorrow, and may the comfort we need find us. Only then will we be as ready as we can to fulfill our tradition’s central mandate we’ll read on Yom Kippur morning: that of choosing blessing, goodness and life. 


Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman 

Thu, December 7 2023 24 Kislev 5784