Special Shabbatot

Sabbath services throughout the year highlight upcoming holidays.

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This third Shabbat, right before Tisha B'Av, is called Shabbat Hazon after the haftarah that warns the "sinful nation" that has "forsaken the Lord" about the potentially disastrous consequences of its actions; yet it also reminds the people: "be your sins like crimson, they can turn snow-white, but if you refuse and disobey, you will be devoured by the sword." This haftarah prefigures the mood of the subsequent month of Elul, with its focus of repentance. Isaiah says, "Cease to do evil; learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged," implying that mourning the loss of the Temple and Jerusalem is not sufficient without a commitment to ethical action.


Not only is Tisha B'Av preceded by a Shabbat that sets its mood, but it is followed by a Shabbat of Comfort, Shabbat Nahamu, whose haftarah, Isaiah 40:1-26, begins: "Comfort, oh comfort My people, says your God." The haftarah suggests that Israel's "term of service is over, that her iniquity is expiated, for she has received at the hand of the Lord double for all her sins." This is the first of seven haftarot from Isaiah, called "the seven consolations," which are read on the Shabbatot after Tisha B'Av. Offering hope of ultimate redemption, these consolatory readings bridge the period from Tisha B'Av to Rosh Hashanah, as Jews are beginning their own move towards self-judgment, self-renewal, and personal redemption.

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Michele Alperin is a freelance writer in Princeton, New Jersey. She has a masters degree in Jewish education from the Jewish Theological Seminary.