The Ninth of Av marks the destruction of both Holy Temples. Three Haftoros
, known as "The Three [Haftoros
] of Punishment" are read on the three Shabbasos
that precede the Ninth of Av. Then, on the Shabbos
following the Ninth of Av, there begins the series of "The Seven [Haftoros
] of Consolation."
The first Haftorah of consolation is Nachamu, which accompanies the Torah portion of Vaes'chanan. The Haftorah of VaTomar Tziyon follows the week after, and is read in conjunction with the portion of Eikev. This, in turn, is followed by the Haftorah of Aniyah so'arah that is read in connection with Re'eh.
All matters relating to Torah are precise. Surely, the juxtaposition of these particular Torah portions with these particular Haftoros is not mere happenstance. What is the relationship between these portions and their Haftoros?
The destruction of both Holy Temples caused much more than mere physical annihilation; it also caused G-dliness to depart, as it were, from this world. This occurrence is annually relived on the Ninth of Av - and following this occurrence it is necessary to begin spiritual service anew.
Every new beginning, particularly a new spiritual beginning, must first be empowered by G-d and receive His blessing - an "arousal from Above that precedes the arousal from below."
This is why we read the portion of Vaes'chanan on the first Shabbos after the Ninth of Av. It is then that spiritual service begins anew, and it is then that we ask for G-d's blessing in this quest - a plea implicit in the word Vaes'chanan. For as our Sages explain, Vaes'chanan means a plea for "an undeserved gift," i.e., a gift not necessarily commensurate with our spiritual efforts.
Appropriately, then, we also read the Haftorah of Nachamu: "Comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d" - a form of blessing and consolation that comes entirely from Above.
However, merely receiving G-d's gift does not suffice; it is necessary for man to rouse himself - "an arousal from below" - and serve G-d as well. This second stage is alluded to in the portion of Eikev, which informs us that even the level of eikev in man - "eikev" meaning a "heel," the lowest level of an individual, a level that does not perceive G-dliness at all - is sublimated to G-dliness, so that it too "listens" and hearkens to G-d's word.
This concept is further buttressed by the Haftorah of Eikev, VaTomar Tziyon, wherein the Jewish people - "forsaken and forgotten" - bitterly lament their estrangement from G-d. And this heartfelt lament wholly results from the Jews' own spiritual service, a manner of service that heightens their spiritual sensitivity and causes them to mourn their distance from their Creator.
While the service of listening to G-d is laudable, it is not the ultimate manner of spiritual service. The highest form of service is one in which a person attains so rarefied a level that he is able not merely to hear, but also to see, G-dliness. It is this third stage that is hinted at both in the Torah portion as well as in the Haftorah of Re'eh.
The opening words of this portion are: "Re'eh Anochi - See [that] I [G-d]...."; this means that a Jew is to see and behold G-d Himself. Anything less than that should feel wholly unsatisfactory for the Jew.
This gives rise to the lament in the Haftorah of Re'eh, Aniyah so'arah, wherein the Jewish people express their anguish at their "tempestuous [spiritual] impoverishment that can find no consolation" through the words of the prophets alone, for they desire to be united with and consoled by G-d Himself.
Indeed, G-d accedes to their request and assures them, "It is I, and I alone, Who shall console you." Granting their request is G-d's response to the Jews' service - "an arousal from Above that follows the arousal from below."
This also explains why Eikev is always read during the month of Av, while Re'eh is read either on the Shabbos that blesses the month of Elul or on Rosh Chodesh Elul itself. Av is the month during which G-d gave vent to His Divine wrath; Elul is the month during which He expresses His Divine mercy.
During the former month we feel mostly the distance, gloom and concealment epitomized by Eikev. When the month of Elul arrives, at which time the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy are dominant, then G-d is seen in all His glory, for: "It is I, and I alone, Who consoles you."
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, pp. 76-78.
- (Back to text) See Zohar I, 210a; III, 20b, 75a.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Vayikra, p. 2b.
- (Back to text) Sifri, Devarim Rabbah, Tanchuma, and commentary of Rashi on Devarim 3:23.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 40:1.
- (Back to text) Devarim 11:26.
- (Back to text) Yeshayahu 54:11.
- (Back to text) Ibid. 51:12.
- (Back to text) Zohar, Shmos 12a.
- (Back to text) See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 581; Likkutei Torah, Re'eh 32a ff.