Generally speaking, the weekly Haftorahs, the sections of the books of our Prophets that our sages chose to accompany the portion of the week, have a theme or reference to something that appears in the Torah portion.
However, when let’s say Rosh Chodesh coincides with Shabbos, the Haftorah follows the theme of Rosh Chodesh.
During the ten weeks prior to Rosh Hashana the theme of the Haftorah concerns the Temple. The first three Haftorahs that precede Tisha B’av are words of rebuke and warning that the prophets shared with the Jews concerning the impending destruction of the Temple if they did not repair their relationship with G-d and with mankind.
After Tisha B’av until Rosh Hashana we read seven Haftorahs in which the prophets give consolation and hope to the nation that we will return to a rebuilt Temple and have a restored relationship with the Almighty.
In this week’s Haftorah Isaiah shares a prophesy of when G-d will be willing to take the Jews back but G-d sees the reluctance and standoffish conduct of the Jews and states, “So said G-d, where is the bill of divorce that indicates that I sent the Jewish people away? Or, where are My creditors to whom I sold you?”
One of the commentators explains that it is unfeasible for G-d to literally deliver a divorce document to the Jewish people because the laws states that if a husband delivers a divorce to his wife and places it in on his own property, the divorce is invalid.
The divorce must reach her hand, her messenger or be placed on her own property. Since the entire world belongs to G-d, any divorce document directed to the Jews would be invalid based on the fact that it would wind up in G-d’s own property!
Therefore, G-d asks through the prophet, why are the Jews keeping a distance from Me? Did I ever divorce them?
G-d allowed the Babylonians and Romans to destroy His Temple and distance Himself from us because we were unworthy of having a tangible intimate relationship with Him that was manifest through the Temple existence. However, G-d never cut ties with us – He never divorced us. Our relationship is intact. The separation is compared to a husband who traveled out of town and left his wife. So too, in the case of the Jewish people, G-d left His Temple where His presence was evident.
Our Haftorah also captures a beautiful imagery of how dear the Jewish people are to G-d no matter how far they stray.
Isaiah prophesizes, “Behold on My hands have I engraved you.” G-d says about His beloved Israel, “I see you as though you are engraved in My hands – I see you and always remember you.”
Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz o.b.m. explained this through the following.
The source of the thirty-nine categories of creative activities that we are forbidden to perform on the Shabbos is based on the creative activities that were necessary to build the Mishkan – Temple in the desert. Since G-d forbade them from constructing the Temple on Shabbos – those creative forms of creation are forbidden for us to perform on Shabbos.
One of the Torah’s categories that are forbidden on Shabbos is dismantling a structure in order to build a new one in that same place.
The Talmud asks, “This category is apparently not possible concerning the Temple since they dismantled it to be constructed in a different location, which is not a Torah prohibited form of destruction.”
The Talmud answers, since the verse states, ‘On the word of G-d they settled and on the word of G-d they traveled,’ – since all space in the world belongs to G-d, no matter where they dismantled and reconstructed the Temple, it is considered as if it is in the same location!
Reb Chaim beautifully explained this concept. Take a mother who is traveling from one city to the next while her infant is being carried in her arms. Yes the mother is in the car, plane or bus. However, the infant is in one place – she is in her mother’s arms.
The aforementioned verse states; “Behold on My hands have I engraved you.” That means G-d ‘carries’ the Jewish people in His arms.
Isaiah tells us to always remember, “Wherever we may be – we are always being carried by the Almighty!