Commentary on Parashat Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Haftarat Shoftim is the fourth of the seven haftarot of consolation read in the weeks following Tisha B’Av. It is taken from the Book of Isaiah–a prophet who lived in the time of the Babylonian Exile and consoled Israel with comforting prophecies of the return to Zion. The haftarah for Shoftim begins, characteristically enough: “I, I am He who comforts you!” (51:12)
It continues using Isaiah’s colorfully metaphorical language to describe people in turmoil who are saved by God–“the crouching one who is freed” (51:14) and “an antelope caught in a net” (51:20). All these people will come to praise God, Isaiah promises.
Read the full Haftarah on Sefaria: Isaiah 51:12-52:12.
He also describes Jerusalem as God’s chosen one, with the special status of “you who drink from My hand.” (51:17) There has been much destruction and turmoil that has plagued Jerusalem, but God says the tormentors of Jerusalem will get what they deserve.
The haftarah climaxes with a classic and oft-quoted proclamation of triumph: “Awake, awake, O Zion! Clothe yourself in splendor, put on your robes of majesty.” (52:1) The verses that follow recall the weight of the exile, and express hope for the greatness of the promised future redemption.
The haftarah concludes with a plea to God for the people’s departure out of exile–which, still, has not been assured at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy.”Turn, turn away, touch naught unclean as you depart from there…for the Lord is marching before you, the God of Israel is your rear guard” (52:11-12).
The theme of the week’s Torah reading is based around the fact that, though Israel has many judges, there is only one true Judge: God. Similarly, as the beginning of the haftarah rhetorically asks: “What ails you that you fear Man who must die?”–there is only one true savior, and only one comfort…and this is in God.
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.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.