The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs
The 7 Haftarot of Consolation- Sheva DeNechmata
By: Rav Eli Schenkolevsky
Dean of the Teachers College of Yeshivat Sha'alvim and rav of Nofei Aviv, Beit Shemesh
The prevailing custom (minhag) of the Jewish People is to read haftarot focused upon consolation, for the 7 Shabbatot that follow Tisha Ba'av. This minhag is mentioned in Tosafot (Megila 31b) and originates in the Pesikta Rabati (30). The verse in Isaiah mentions consolation (nechama) twice- nachamu, nachamu. Yet a verse refers to empty consolations (hevel). Rabi Abba the son of Kahana and the rabbis of the south mention that Hashem sends prophets to console the Jewish People as follows.
Hoshea instructed the Jewish People to rise and accept the cup of consolation. This cup heralded the message that the wrath from on high will be annulled and replaced with dew. The Jewish People were not convinced; previously they were informed that Hashem would approach them as a lion, panther or distraught bear. Now the parable has changed to dew? Which version should they accept?
Yoel instructed the Jewish People to rise and accept the cup of consolation. He informed them that the hills will flow with juice. Based on previous prophecies of doom and destruction, the Jewish People were confused. They had already been subject to false promises of consolation.
Amos instructed the Jewish People to rise and accept the cup of consolation. The realization of this cup signifies the ingathering of the exiled, the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash and the restoration of the sukkah of David HeMelech. The Jewish People responded by quoting a prophecy that seemingly negated the option of reconstruction. Whom should they belive?
Nachum attempted to console the Jewish People. In the name of the Almighty, he informed the Jewish People that salvation was near, and that foreigners of low moral standards will not invade the land. The Jewish People recalled a verse that depicts the wicked designs of such an individual. Whom should they believe?
Zephania endeavored to comfort the Jewish People. He foresaw the ingathering of the exiles (kibbutz galutyot). The Jewish People recounted a prophecy concerning the expulsion of Jews from The Land.
Chagai consoled the Jewish People with tidings of agricultural bounty. The Jewish People recalled a prophecy concerning desolation of The Land and the resulting dearth of produce.
Zecharia tried to console the Jewish People. He conveyed the prophecy of tremendous Divine wrath focused upon the Nations of the World. The Jewish People recalled Divine wrath directed upon themselves. What is the accurate account?
The various prophets complained to Hashem that they were unsuccessful in consoling the Jewish People. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, responded that they should come with Hashem and comfort the Jewish People. "Be consoled, be consoled My nation, says your G-d" (Nachamu, Nachamu ami ..).
It appears that the message of this Midrash is as follows. Many worthy people attempt to heal our wounds. Many arrive in the calling of prophecy and promise exalted visions. However, the people have lost their confidence in the agents of Hashem. They have been saturated with promises and frustrations. The people no longer know whether the complete redemption is around the corner, or Heaven forbid, a false promise is being presented.
Ultimately, the Holy One, Blessed Be He, announces the redemption in conjunction with His servants, the Prophets. A stage will be reached when the redemption is certain, and the people will be convinced of its arrival.
It is difficult to provide an exact and convincing explanation for the order of the 7 haftarot of consolation. Perhaps it is related to the idea expressed above. The redemption is not a simple process, devoid of questions and setbacks. Despite low periods when the redemption is not apparent, nevertheless the process is constantly in operation and advancing towards the goal.
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