Commentary on Parashat Ki Tavo, Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8
This is the penultimate Haftarah between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah; the seven-week period when Haftarot of consolation are read in synagogue. All these Haftarot, including this week’s, feature comforting themes for a nation traumatized by the destruction of the Temple and the exile.
Read the full text on Sefaria: Isaiah 60:1-22
In the Haftarah for Ki Tavo, Isaiah focuses on images of light to remind the people that though they may be experiencing a dark time, God’s countenance and light will eventually return. The first verse of the Haftarah typifies this: “Arise, shine, for your light has dawned; the Presence of the Lord has shone upon you!” (60:1) This line has famously been adapted for use in Lecha Dodi, a song that is part of the Friday night liturgy, sung to greet the Sabbath queen.
Isaiah tells the people that they will one day all be gathered together again. Not only will the nation be reunited, but they will be greeted by camels bringing them gold and frankincense, and sheep that are suitable to be sacrificed to God. The walls of Jerusalem will be rebuilt by other nations, foreign kings will serve God’s people, and wealth from distant lands will pour into Israel. The future glory is described in great detail, and this section concludes with Isaiah promising that, “The cry ‘Violence!’ shall no more be heard in your land, nor ‘wrack and ruin!’ within your borders. And you shall name your walls ‘Victory’ and your gates ‘Renown.'” (60:18)
At the end of the Haftarah, Isaiah returns to the light and dark imagery he began with, and promises that even the rules of physics will be suspended in this apocalyptic future. There will be no need for the sun or moon, because God’s light and glory will shine in their stead. The people of Israel will grow and be successful, just as God always planned.
Connection to the Torah Portion
As one of the seven Haftarot of consolation, this reading acts as a bridge between the mourning of Tisha B’Av and the renewal of Rosh Hashanah. This Haftarah, which emphasizes Israel’s bright future, is also an appropriate antidote for the lengthy curse that is contained in Parashat Ki Tavo. For a congregation that has just heard of the devastation that God will wreck on a disobedient nation, the soaring glory that Isaiah describes is especially poignant and hopeful.
Pronounced: hahf-TOErah or hahf-TOE-ruh, Origin: Hebrew, a selection from one of the biblical books of the Prophets that is read in synagogue immediately following the Torah reading.