Thoughts and Teachings: Haftarah Noach

This week’s Parasha, Noach, is the second in the one-year reading cycle and covers Genesis 6:9 through 11:32. While the Flood and Babel lend to the negative aspects of this Parasha, the LORD’s care for creation through Noach and the LORD’s covenant of peace with creation more than balances the positive side. The passage is familiar but it is worth reading, afresh, to see what the LORD might bring forth in our situation today.

The Haftarah is found in Isaiah 54:1 through 55:5 if following an Ashkenazi pattern, Sephardim read 54:1-10. The connection with Parasha Noach is immediately noticeable. In Isaiah 54:9-10 the LORD compares His eternal fidelity to Israel to His eternal covenant with Noach and all creation.

The Haftarah begins with the LORD’s care being expressed for Israel, in the midst of her discipline and judgment, while looking forward to her redemption. Isaiah begins with the LORD’s proclamation, “Sing barren one, who has not given birth. Burst into singing and shout, you who have not travailed” (54:1a). In the time of the scriptures, the childless condition of the woman was a great shame and disgrace. Families depended upon the children for lineage survival and well as care for elderly parents, specifically widowed mothers. Remember the stories of Rachel and Channa, the pain and agony they experienced, even though their husbands obviously loved and cared for them; they still felt the shame.

Israel was the barren one, the rejected wife due to her shortcomings but guaranteed to be restored to her former position according to the LORD’s great compassion. Before the redemption and restoration, the LORD comforts Israel with this promise:

Fear not for you will not be ashamed. Nor cringe, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will remember the reproach of your widowhood no more. (Isaiah 54:4)[i]

Now outlining the promised redemption and restoration:

For your Maker is your husband, ADONAI Tzva’ot is His Name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He will be called God of all the earth. “For ADONAI has called you back like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of one’s youth that is rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment I deserted you, but I will regather you with great compassion. In a surge of anger I hid My face from you a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says ADONAI your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:5-8)

Most commentators recognize that this promise will be fulfilled in the final redemption of the Messianic Age. However, as with other prophecies and promises, there are often partial or pre-fulfillments. Yeshua told Jerusalem that she would not see Him again until it was proclaimed, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD,” (Matthew 23:39 echoing Psalm 118:26). The fact is, today in Jerusalem there are many who have seen Yeshua, that believe in His Messiahship; both Jews and non-Jews make up this crowd of modern day witnesses. A partial fulfillment has come and like at the Pesach Seder, we are awaiting the arrival of Elijah to announce the full restoration in introduction of the Messianic Age.

How have the Sages understood this situation? Concerning verse six, “Isaiah declares that Israel was never actually a widow, but only temporarily forsaken [in anger (Radak)] by her ‘husband.’ In truth, however, her ‘husband’ is her Maker, Hashem, Master of Legions.”(Ibn Ezra) Continuing with verse seven, “Even though a millennia of exile are much more than ‘but a brief moment,’ they are insignificant compared to the abundant mercy with which He will gather you in, with all its attendant good (Radak), or compared to the time after the Redemption when Hashem will be our unquestioned Ruler (Ibn Ezra).[ii] Finally, there is the capstone promise – no matter what happens “My love will not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace be shaken says ADONAI who has compassion on you,” (54:10).

The next chapter begins, “Ho, Everyone who is thirsts, come to the water, and you who have no money, come, buy, and eat,” (Isaiah 55:1a). R. Sherman notes that the “purchase price of spiritual treasures is not money, but the desire to learn and improve.”[iii] This understanding clarifies the words of Yeshua to the Samaritan woman,

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never be thirsty. The water that I give him will become a fountain of water within him, springing up to eternal life! (John 4:14; also proclaimed in John 7:37-38)

As well as the words of Yeshua to the crowds on the mountainside in the Galilee,Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)

The spiritual sustenance is available, to all who seek it, but it must be sought. Returning to Isaiah we hear the LORD say, “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, so that your soul may live,” (Isaiah 55:3a). It is with this same sentiment, the same urgency that Yeshua encouraged His talmedim, “Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it shall be opened,” (Matthew 7:7-8). The key in both verses is that it requires movement on our part. The LORD is waiting to redeem, to restore, to heal, to show compassion; but we must first come to Him and ask. This leads to the verse immediately following the Haftarah is the challenge to each of us:

Seek ADONAI while He may be found,
call upon Him while He is near.
(Isaiah 55:6)

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life Version of the Bible, Snellville, GA: MJFB, 2014.

[ii] Rabbi Nossom Scherman, The Later Prophets: Isaiah Mesorah Publications, Brooklyn, 2013, p 411.

[iii] Ibid. p 415.

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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.