This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
הַפְטָרָה שֶׁל פַּרָֺשַת נִצָּבִים
ז׳ משבע דנחמתא
“Happy Ever After?”
At last, we’ve reached the seventh and final Haftarah of the Sheva D’Nechamasa (Seven of Consolation) [Yishaiyah 61:10-63:9]. We’ve used the Haftaros in this series to get to the root of what Nechamah, to understand what it is and what it is not. We’ve learned that Nechamah, beyond comfort, means reconsideration, a change in attitude despite the existence in a state of Galus. It means finding comfort from within. And we’ve explained how through this comfort, we enable ourselves to move forward in life, despite life’s challenges.
We’ve taken this mentality a step further in the most recent Haftarah when we saw that even past Nechamah, there is a higher level to strive for, how we can tap into this fundamental light source of goodness and happiness, and not merely consoled enough move forward, but find a means for celebration even in Galus, a means which also emerges from within.
So, what do we need to know for the grand finale? What is the final bullet point of the Sheva D’Nechamasa?
From a broader glance, the Haftarah seems to send a typical message of encouragement, like we’d expect from any lyrical Haftarah. Similarly to the previous one, there is a sense of celebration in a salvation and redemption to come. We’re familiar with that kind of a read. There’s a positive feeling and all, but we would expect that at the end of the series, the Navi would not only leave us with a feel-good message, but go out with some kind of bang. As we search for that spectacular culmination, is there perhaps an underlying and unifying theme in this Haftarah’s message of encouragement that we should be walking away with?
The text of the Haftarah itself opens as the Navi speaks with the voice of Israel [Yishaiyah 61:10], “Sos Asis BaHashem Tageil Nafshi Beilokai…”-“I will rejoice in Hashem and my soul will exult in My G-d…” which is obviously the basis for the fifth Brachah of Sheva Brachos, “Sos Tasis V’Sageil HaAkarah…”-“Be surely joyful, and the barren one shall be glad…” And why these words bear any relevance to the wedding celebration is evident in the rest of the verse, as the Navi continues [Ibid.], “…Ki Hilbishani Bigdei Yesha Me’il Tzedakah Yi’atani KeChassan Yichahein Pe’eir V’ChaKallah Ta’deh Cheilehah”-“…for He has dressed me in garments of salvation, a robe of righteousness, he has cloaked me like a groom who is prepared priestly [like a priest] with splendor, and like a bride who bedecks herself in jewelry.”
And the above would not be the only references to the celebration of a Chassan and Kallah in this Haftarah. The Haftarah continues into the next Perek at which point, the Navi declares in Hashem’s Name [62:1], “L’Ma’an Tziyon Lo Echesheh…”-“For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent…” And in this passage, when the Navi elaborates on how nations and kings will take note of the Zion’s newfound honor, it tells us that Israel would be crowned with an Ateres Tiferes, a splendorous tiara, and a Tznif Meluchah, a headdress or better yet, a veil, of kingship [62:3]. And if we weren’t certain, the Navi assures us that we will not be desolate, but that Israel’s children would reside in her like a Bachur, a young man, with a Besulah, a virgin maiden [62:4-5]. And when, exactly, does a Bachur resides with a Besulah if not on the day of their wedding? And indeed, the Navi itself fleshes this point out as it continues to say that “U’Mesos Chassan Al Kallah Yasis Alayich Elokayich”-“and as a groom rejoices over his wife, Your G-d will rejoice over you” [Ibid.].
Obviously not a coincidence, the Navi has latched onto the wedding theme, imagery of a young bride and groom. And if we think about it, the wedding celebration represents the complete opposite extreme of the state of mourning which we have been looking for comfort from in the first place. That is why, on the one hand, we have a week of Shiva, seven days of mourning, following the death of a loved one, where the goal is Nichum Aveilim (Consolation of the Mourners), while on the other hand, there is this week of Sheva Brachos following the wedding, where the goal is to build on the Simchas Chassan V’Kallah (Rejoicing of the Groom and Bride). One is comfort despite separation from a loved one, and the other is rejoicing over the union between loved ones.
This second extreme is the extreme which the Navi is promising. And this is significant because the Haftarah now is not merely telling us how to get Nechamah, how to deal with separation. It is a complete turnaround of the mourning, a reuniting with Hashem as joyous as the Chassan and Kallah’s first night of marriage.
This theme of Simchas Chassan V’Kallah would appear to be a sufficient end to the series. It’s not only comforting, but it is gladdening. It is as we could want it positive. However, the Haftarah oddly continues its route into some unexpected territory.
It starts off seeming pretty innocent as the Navi proceeds to describe how Hashem assigns “Shomrim,” guardians, for the walls of Yerushalayim [62:6], which does sound reassuring. Then, the Navi assures us that Hashem will not give our grain and wines away to foreign nations [62:8-9]. Again, a positive message which we surely hope to be the case.
So, how do these proposals make us feel? We said that they’re positive promises, right? But, despite the objective positivity of this arrangement, for some reason, they do seem kind of eerie. Because, once Hashem has joined us in marriage again, we certainly hope for there to be a happy ever after. We certainly hope that we’ll be forever guarded and well-fed. But, again, these are things we would expect, without a Navi needing to promise things—at least after he has essentially told us that Hashem would marry us again. The fact that the Navi needs to tell us that our gates will be guarded and that our food won’t be given away, as if the alternative is an available option, seems a bit unnerving. Why does the Navi need to guarantee these things? What is the Navi hinting to? What happened to the seemingly unconditional happy ever after?
It could be that, indeed, the Navi does want us to consider the alternative for an instant, because, let’s be honest; it will not have been our first marriage to Hashem. We’ve married Hashem and entered a covenant with Him before. And while we’re considering reality for a second, the end-all and be-all of life is not marriage! As happy as the celebration appears, there are pitfalls and setbacks in every relationship. There is a constant need for guarding. Life continues way after marriage, and without proper guarding, Chas Va’Shalom, things can always get messed up. Our “sustenance” can be given into the hands of other nations, and it would be all our own faults. Why did we end up in Galus in the first place if not for our own violation of our marriage with Hashem? There had been a nice wedding followed by a lot of darkness. And, now, the Navi wants us to know that there will be a wedding again. And the question we have to consider immediately after things get better again, is will they stay that way? Will the relationship be properly guarded?
And it may be that for this reason, the Haftarah does not stop there, but it continues its message with a somewhat haunting imagery. “Mi Zeh Ba MeiEdom Chamutz Bigadim MiBatzrah?”-“Who is this coming from Edom, [of] sullied garments, from Botzrah?” [63:1]. There is someone coming from the lands of Edom, Israel’s greatest oppressor, wearing dirty clothes. “Who is it?” asks the Navi through Israel’s nervous voice.
And the Navi answers: “Zeh Hadur Bilvusho Tzo’eh B’Rov Kocho”-“This is the One Who is majestic in His clothes, girded with abundant strength” [Ibid.]—it is Hashem. But, the once majestic clothes are not just dirty…
We will then ask [63:2], “Madu’a Adom Lilvushecha U’Vigadecha K’Doreich B’Gas?”-“Why are Your clothes red, and Your garments like that of one who treaded in a winepress?”
The clothes are red and the source of the redness is obviously not wine. But, Hashem plays along and responds [63:3], “Purah Darachti Livadi U’MeiAmim Ein Ish Iti V’Edricheim B’Api V’Ermiseim BaChamasi V’Yeiz Nitzcham Al Bigadai V’Chal Malbushai Egalti”-I have trodden a winepress Myself, and from the nations, not a man was with Me; I trod them with My anger and in My wrath, their vitality spurted onto My clothes, and all of My garments, I’ve soiled.” In simpler words, Hashem’s clothes are blood-soaked. He has returned from war by Himself, a war He had apparently fought on our behalf.
What is the message of this imagery? That, indeed, things don’t just end after the wedding. Hashem’s love for us does not end after the wedding, and it never did before! After one wedding, things got dark, and wars had to be had. But, at the end of all of it, Hashem is there. And our happy ever after is not the picture perfect sight of a handsome, showered groom in a tux. Hashem returns to us as a warrior in blood-soaked clothes, having fought a battle for us which we hardly knew was going on. The wedding is nice, but it is not reality. It is the wars after the wedding that demonstrates the truest nature of Hashem’s love for us. Even when things get dark, whether we know it or not, Hashem is fighting the battles, and most of the time, He is doing it by Himself, trying to keep our relationship afloat. And the question we have to consider is if we are doing our part? What part of this relationship are we contributing to?
And lest we think for a second that really, Hashem had left us high and dry during the dark times of our Galus, the Navi assures us in the final verse of this Haftarah that [63:9] “B’Chal Tzarasam Lo Tzar”-“in all of their troubles, He was troubled.” Hashem never wanted us to be in trouble. That was our own doing. And at the end of everything, we will see Hashem, as it were, covered in the blood of war which He fought for the sake of our relationship, to get us out of trouble.
In the end, there will be a happy ever after. That was never a real question. We have plenty to be comforted about, and certainly plenty worth celebrating. But, at the end of the Sheva D’Nechamasa, when apparently another wedding has taken place, we have to consider what we will be giving back to that relationship. We have to consider what of the war we’re prepared to commit to fighting in, for the sake of our relationship with Hashem. Every bump in the road of this relationship’s past, we will realize, that Hashem suffered in it with us. And for our sake, He will not be silent. He will continue to fight our battles whether we see it or not. Yes, be comforted. And yes, be celebratory. But, cannot we do more? Can we not get up from this Shiva with an even higher goal of being there for—not just our husband—our hero?
The Sheva D’Nechamasa culminates with the very beginning of the Yomim Nora’im. And in their essence, the Yomim Nora’im are actually the preparation for a remarriage between us and Hashem which takes place on Yom Kippur when we received the second Luchos. It is awe-inspiring, it is frightening, and it is also exciting. And we have to realize that in the very end, there will be an unconditional happy ever after. That is not the question for now. For us at this time, the question that faces us as we stand at the threshold of the Chuppah is: Are we prepared for a lifetime commitment? Are we ready for the day after the wedding?
May we all be Zocheh to not only be comforted and experience the joy of a remarriage to Hashem, but to be prepared for a lifetime commitment to our marriage with Hashem every day after and earn the truest “happy ever after,” our Geulah in the times of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos, an uplifting and awe-inspiring Yom Nora’im, and L’Shannah Tovah Tichaseiv V’Seichaseim! -Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂