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Sheva deNechemta

Elul 5781 | August 2021
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R David Abudraham of Seville, talmid of the Baal HaTurimwho was the son of the  Ashkenazi Tosafist, Rabbenu HaRosh, created a fascinating narrative from the first words of the 7 haftarot from the Isaiah passages read between TishaBAv and Rosh Hashana known as 7deNechemta

In his compilation of Sidur and Haftarot published around 1340 he writes

“According to the Pesikta (see Tosefot Megila 31b ) from Beraishit to 17 Tamuz we read haftara according to weekly Torah reading  and from  then according to the times and the event: 3 haftarot of Retribution 7 of Consolation then 2 of Teshuva…..”

Pesikta de Rav Kahana, an early Eretz Yisraeli collection of aggadic midrashim for Shabbatot through  the year, provides the earliest source  for this minhag from Talmudic times and yet the weekly order of presentation  of the haftara text passages in the Midrash is not identical with their  order of appearance in the book of Isaiah.  Like a good detective or psychoanalyst,  Avudraham constructs a three way process of dialogue including the prophets, Hashem and the Jewish people finding existential meaning in this 7 step  nonlinear order from trauma of exile and destruction to final joy and trusting re attachment in rebuilding mutually desired relationship. In the calendar time frame as well as the historical one,  the movement is from suffering to healing from mourning to re-connection and to visions of ultimate redemptive bonding

The sages of Pesikta mine the Isaiah text without compromising on the  people’s struggles of acceptance of compassion in the midst of despair and breakdown of trust in Hashem. Although the Nachamu announcement of consolation is originally rejected when voiced through the prophets, and the sense of rejection and abandonment expressed, Hashem is gradually accepted when coming Himself, directly addressing the people

Abudraham continues

“ and I will say in the midrash bederech tzachut  (in a clear way):

the first consolation is Isaiah Haftara to VaEtchanan

Gd says to the prophets  (1 VaEtchanan) ch 40

Nachamu Nachamu.“You go and comfort my people”

but to this  Knesset Yisrael  say (2 Ekev) ch 49

Vatomer Zion “Gd has abandoned me and the Lord has forgotten me. ”I will not be appeased by the comfort.

The prophets bring the reply of the people to Gd (3 Re’eh)  ch54

Aniya Saara lo Nuchama “ Afflicted one storm tossed not comforted”

ie the prophets bring the people’s rejection of consolation back  to Gd

and Gd replies (4 Shoftim) ch51

Anochi, Anochi Menachemchem“I Myself will comfort you ”

and also I will say (5 Ki Tetze) ch54

Rani Akara “Rejoice barren one who has not given birth”

and I will say (6Ki Tavo) ch60

Kumi  Ori“Arise Shine your light”

and finally Knesset Yisrael reply jubilantly (7 Nizavim) ch61-62

Soss Assis ch“I will rejoice  I will surely rejoice.”

Furthermore,  Abudraham focuses on  specific midrashic passages  based on the first line of the haftara text , often not the first midrash of the Pesikta haftara  text. The Pesikta midrash suggests  the basis for the  unfolding narrative of  nechama, after acknowledging the unconsolable grief and sense of abject rejection.

Two feminine dimensions appear through these haftarot : Zion as the potential mother and eventually Zion in intimate relationship. The redemption of Yerushalayim is  beautifully described in the textual switch  from being forgotten, abandoned,  and childlessness to redemption in stretching, giving birth and being overwhelmed with returning children .  The second aspect of redemption is the mutual joy of shared light in week 6 Kumi Ori  “Arise and shine your light” and the ultimate joy in the last haftara of  the restored intimacy between Gd and Zion or the Jewish people who are potentially bound again in ultimate closeness like  a bride and groom.

With this hint of  creative healing and of an illumined future bonded with Hashem we can move from the restrictions and mourning of  Av and the past year’s difficulties , whole hearted in the teshuva process, open to the compassion of Elul to start a hopeful New Year on Rosh Hashanah

Deena Garber

trained in psychology at University College, London, Tavistock Institute, and Yale Psychiatric Institute. She has taught psychology academically, and worked with Prof. Eliane Amado Levi Valensi . Deena studied Torah and Talmud widely including at Matan and researches and teaches Torah and Jewish thought emphasizing interdisciplinary issues. Deena lives in Jerusalem with her family.