Seven of Comfort #7 (Nitzavim)

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Taken from the final third of the book of Isaiah, the “Seven of Comfort” (Aramaic: שבע דנחמתא) that are recited on the Shabbatot between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah do not relate to the weekly Torah reading. Instead, they powerfully describe the complex workings of the covenant between God, His people, His Land, and humanity as God redeems His people from exile, in Babylon and beyond, to return them to the Land.

Seven of Comfort #7 (Nitzavim): Isaiah 61:10-63:9

The final Haftarah of Comfort describes God’s final redemption of His people and city. Humanity will hail this redemption, and the righteousness and sanctity of God’s people. They will clear paths for the exiles’ return home to Zion, God’s new “crown.” God will grant Jerusalem new names, protect her from enemies, and ensure that her residents can sustain themselves and praise Him. Later identified by Talmudic tradition with all enemies of the Jewish people, the nation of Edom is destroyed “personally” by God as He returns from exile to Jerusalem. The Haftarah concludes with Isaiah’s praises for God’s extraordinary benevolence to His people, and God’s promise to eternally lift them up in love.

Together, the Seven Haftarot of Comfort have portrayed how the rocky road from exile’s suffering to redemption’s joy transforms the emotions, thoughts, and actions of Jewish people and humanity, Zion and Jerusalem, Isaiah, and even God. These positive transformations are inspirational heralds for the forthcoming Days of Awe.

Haftarah Breakdown 

Verse 61:10-11: Zion and God’s people rejoice that He saved them from their enemies, crowning them among the nations with victory and praise.

Isaiah 61:10

I will surely rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God. For He has dressed me with garments of salvation, wrapping me with a robe of righteousness- like a bridegroom crowning himself with priestlike glory, and a bride adorned with her jewelry.

שׂ֧וֹשׂ אָשִׂ֣ישׂ בַּֽה' תָּגֵ֤ל נַפְשִׁי֙ בֵּֽאלֹקי כִּ֤י הִלְבִּישַׁ֙נִי֙ בִּגְדֵי־יֶ֔שַׁע מְעִ֥יל צְדָקָ֖ה יְעָטָ֑נִי כֶּֽחָתָן֙ יְכַהֵ֣ן פְּאֵ֔ר וְכַכַּלָּ֖ה תַּעְדֶּ֥ה כֵלֶֽיהָ׃

Verse 62:1-5: God will not rest until He saves and renames Jerusalem. Nations will recognize her righteousness and God’s delight in her. Judah and Jerusalem will be His crown. God and the people will rejoice in them as does a groom upon marrying his bride.

Isaiah 62:1

For Zion’s sake I [God] will not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still- until her righteousness goes forth like radiance, and her salvation like a burning torch.

לְמַ֤עַן צִיּוֹן֙ לֹ֣א אֶחֱשֶׁ֔ה וּלְמַ֥עַן יְרוּשָׁלַ֖͏ִם לֹ֣א אֶשְׁק֑וֹט עַד־יֵצֵ֤א כַנֹּ֙גַהּ֙ צִדְקָ֔הּ וִישׁוּעָתָ֖הּ כְּלַפִּ֥יד יִבְעָֽר׃

Verse 62:6-7: Divinely appointed watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls must never be silent. They will speak constantly of God until Jerusalem is praised throughout the world.

Isaiah 62:6

On your walls, Jerusalem, I [God] have appointed watchmen. All day and all night, they shall never be silent. Those who mention the Lord, be not silent!

עַל־חוֹמֹתַ֣יִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַ֗ם הִפְקַ֙דְתִּי֙ שֹֽׁמְרִ֔ים כָּל־הַיּ֧וֹם וְכָל־הַלַּ֛יְלָה תָּמִ֖יד לֹ֣א יֶחֱשׁ֑וּ הַמַּזְכִּרִים֙ אֶת־ה' אַל־דֳּמִ֖י לָכֶֽם׃

Verse 62:8-9: God swears that Zion’s residents- not her enemies- will consume her produce while praising God, in the Temple and elsewhere.

Isaiah 62:8

The Lord swore by His right hand and by the arm of His strength: “I will never again give your grain as food to your enemies, and foreigners will never drink your wine, for which you toiled.”

נִשְׁבַּ֧ע ה' בִּֽימִינ֖וֹ וּבִזְר֣וֹעַ עֻזּ֑וֹ אִם־אֶתֵּן֩ אֶת־דְּגָנֵ֨ךְ ע֤וֹד מַֽאֲכָל֙ לְאֹ֣יְבַ֔יִךְ וְאִם־יִשְׁתּ֤וּ בְנֵֽי־נֵכָר֙ תִּֽירוֹשֵׁ֔ךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָגַ֖עַתְּ בּֽוֹ׃

Verse 62:10-12: God instructs the world to declare that the time for Zion’s redemption has arrived, that they must smooth the exiles’ path home, and that God’s redeemed people are a holy nation.

Isaiah 62:12

[The nations] shall call them, “The people of holiness, the Lord’s redeemed ones.” You [Zion] shall be called, “Sought out - a city not forsaken.”

וְקָרְא֥וּ לָהֶ֛ם עַם־הַקֹּ֖דֶשׁ גְּאוּלֵ֣י הֹ' וְלָךְ֙ יִקָּרֵ֣א דְרוּשָׁ֔ה עִ֖יר לֹ֥א נֶעֱזָֽבָה׃

Verse 63:1-6: God’s enemy, Edom, must be destroyed. Astounded that no nation even tries doing so, God alone bloodily filthies His “garments” while vengefully crushing them like red grapes for wine as He returns to Zion.

Isaiah 63:3

I [God] alone trod the winepress; from the peoples, none was with Me. I trod them in My wrath, and trampled them in My fury. Their blood sprinkled on My garments, and I soiled all My garments.

פּוּרָ֣ה ׀ דָּרַ֣כְתִּי לְבַדִּ֗י וּמֵֽעַמִּים֙ אֵֽין־אִ֣ישׁ אִתִּ֔י וְאֶדְרְכֵ֣ם בְּאַפִּ֔י וְאֶרְמְסֵ֖ם בַּחֲמָתִ֑י וְיֵ֤ז נִצְחָם֙ עַל־בְּגָדַ֔י וְכָל־מַלְבּוּשַׁ֖י אֶגְאָֽלְתִּי׃

Verse 63:7-9: Isaiah praises God for all the mercy and kindness He bestowed upon His suffering children. In love, God suffered with them, saving and exalting them at all times.

Isaiah 63:9

In all [the people’s] affliction, He was afflicted - the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and in His pity, He redeemed them. He uplifted them, and carried them forever!

בְּֽכׇל־צָרָתָ֣ם ׀ (לא) [ל֣וֹ] צָ֗ר וּמַלְאַ֤ךְ פָּנָיו֙ הוֹשִׁיעָ֔ם בְּאַהֲבָת֥וֹ וּבְחֶמְלָת֖וֹ ה֣וּא גְאָלָ֑ם וַֽיְנַטְּלֵ֥ם וַֽיְנַשְּׂאֵ֖ם כׇּל־יְמֵ֥י עוֹלָֽם׃


The familiar poem, known as “Anim Zemirot”, echoes chapter 63’s description of God’s destruction of Edom.

Shir HaKavod 

Bright and red, His garment is red; He trods [the winepress] when coming from Edom.

צַח וְאָדוֹם לִלְבוּשׁוֹ אָדוֹם, פּוּרָה בְּדָרְכוֹ בְּבוֹאוֹ מֵאֱדוֹם.

The Haftarot of Comfort: Conclusion

Traditional commentaries offer differing narrative arcs for the seven Haftarot of Comfort. Rashi’s student, Simchah ben Samuel (France, 12th C), states that in weeks 1, 2 & 3, God’s “prophets” (i.e., Isaiah) provide small, incremental encouragement to God’s destroyed nation. Only then are they ready to receive comfort, which God decisively grants them in week 4. Weeks 5, 6 & 7 no longer reference “comfort” at all, instead concluding the series with great promises:

Machzor Vitry, Tammuz and Av

מחזור ויטרי, תמוז ואב

...The subsequent Haftarot all speak of the way that one comforts (a human mourner) slowly in stages. For someone who offers excess comfort to a destroyed person is like one who tells one collecting charity door-to-door, "Tomorrow you will be king!", which he doesn’t believe… Therefore [the 1st and 2nd] are "Comfort you," and "Zion shall say" - i.e.,  although Zion is destroyed, do not say that she is abandoned. Thereafter is [the 3rd] “O afflicted [storm-tossed one who is not comforted” which, even though it appears later in the book of Isaiah, tradition] placed before [the 4th], “I, I am He who comforts you": Once God has "comforted" her in His kindness, He never again refers to her as “Comforted.” Moreover, until this point the prophets comforted her; from here onwards, He comforts her. After she accepted consolation, God grants her many good, great things: [the 5th,] "Sing, O barren one!" [the 6th,] "Arise, shine!", [and the 7th,] "I shall rejoice."

...והאחרונות שכולן נחמה אומ' ... כדרך המנחמים לנחם מעט מעט. שהאומ' לנחרב נחמה יותר מדאי דומה כמי שאומר למחזיר על הפתחים למחר אתה מלך שאינו מאמין... לפיכך נחמו. ותאמר ציון. אע"פ שהיא נחרבת אל תאמר שהיא נעזבת. ואחר כך ענייה. לפיכך הקדימוה לאנכי. אנכי אנכי הוא מנחמכם. מאחר שניחמה הק' בחסדיו שוב אינו קורא לה נוחמה. ועד כאן ניחמוה נביאים. מיכן ואילך הוא מנחמה. ואחר שקיבלה תנחומים פוסק לה כמה טובות וגדולות: רני עקרה. קומי אורי. שוש אשיש

R. David Abudarham (Spain, 14th C.), author of a comprehensive commentary on Jewish liturgy, also notes that the 4th Haftarah is the turning point of the series, which he describes as a seven-part conversation between God, “the prophets” (i.e., Isaiah), and the Jewish people.  (1) God asks the prophets to comfort His nation; (2) the nation rejects the prophets; (3) the prophets report their rejection to God; (4, 5 & 6) God directly comforts the nation; (7) the comforted nation rejoices in God:

Abudarham, Order of Parashiot and Haftarot

The Midrash states...that [Chazal] established the 1st of these Haftarot of Comfort as, "Comfort, comfort My people"- i.e., God tells the prophets to comfort the nation.  [The 2nd is] the nation’s response: "Zion says, 'The Lord has abandoned me'”- i.e., “I am not assuaged by the prophets’ comfort.” [The 3rd is], "O afflicted storm-tossed one who is not comforted"- i.e., “the prophets report back to God, “The people is not assuaged by our comforting.” To this, God replies [with the 4th,] "I, I am He who comforts you", [the 5th,] "Sing, O barren one who has borne [no child]!", [and the 6th,] “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” To these, the people reply [with the 7th,] "I shall surely rejoice in the Lord" - i.e., “Now I have reason to rejoice and celebrate!”

אומר במדרש... כי תקנו לומר בתחלת הפטרות הנחמות נחמו נחמו עמי כלומ' שהקב"ה אמר לנביאים נחמו נחמו עמי. על זה משיבה כנסת ישראל ותאמר ציון עזבני ה' כלומ' איני מתפייסת מנחמת הנביאים... עניה סוערה לא נוחמה כלומ' הנביאים חוזרים ואומרים לפני הקב"ה הנה כנסת ישראל לא נתפייסה בתנחומין שלנו, על זה חוזר הקב"ה ואומר אנכי אנכי הוא מנחמכם ואומר עוד רני עקרה לא ילדה ואומר עוד קומי אורי כי בא אורך. על זה משיבה כנסת ישראל שוש אשיש בה' כלומר עתה יש לי לשוש ולשמוח