Saturday, January 25, 2020

Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
Parshat Re’eh

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh as well, and as a result we take a “break” from the series of “consolation” haftarot (sheva d’nechemta) to read the final perek in Sefer Yeshayahu, a selection that ties into the theme of Rosh Chodesh. The connection of this special reading to the day itself is found in the final pesukim where the navi foretells of a time when “midei chodesh b’chod’shi umidei Shabbat b’shabbato,” on each Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh (or “weekly and monthly”) all flesh will come to the Beit Hamikdash to worship God.

And yet, we are hard-pressed to accept that it is only the “fleeting” mention of Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat at the very end of the haftarah that led Chazal to select this prophecy as being a fitting choice for this day. In truth, however, as we are still experiencing post-Tisha B’Av emotions, our haftarah truly is fitting. Rav Yehuda Shaviv points out that on the Shabbat before the fast of Tisha B’Av, Shabbat Chazon, we read the very first perek in Sefer Yeshayahu in which the prophet cries out: “Chodsheichem Umo’adeichem san’ah nafshi,” that God “hates” your Rosh Chodesh, He rejects your sacrifices, He regards your visits to the Beit Hamikdash as “trampling” His courtyards. But in this final chapter the navi ends his book with the vision of all mankind gathering to the Holy Temple, there to sacrifice to Hashem! Rosh Chodesh: no longer “hated”; our sacrifices: no longer rejected; our pilgrimages: no longer considered trampling upon the sacred or trespassing the holy courtyards.

Words of comfort that grant us solace during these weeks. Indeed, if we study the entire chapter we would find that it is completely a prophecy of comfort, replete with visions of a glorious future and of new beginnings.

And it is here, I believe, that Chazal saw the connection to Rosh Chodesh as a major theme and not simply a “fleeting” reference. For as the navi closes his nevuah and his book, he speaks of “hashamayim hachadashim” and “ha’aretz hachadasha,” a “new,” revitalized and refreshed heaven and earth and, therefore, declares that on the new month, when the moon is renewed and we begin the monthly cycle once more, on these Roshei Chodesh, all mankind will gather to worship God.

Rosh Chodesh is not simply a recognition of the arrival of a new month but an opportunity of self-renewal and revitalization. It is for this reason that many observe the day before the new month as “Yom Kippur Katan,” a “mini” Yom Kippur, when they fast and pray for forgiveness so they can begin the new month reborn and refreshed.

This is the true message of our haftarah and the true message of Rosh Chodesh. It is a message that helps explain why it supersedes the usual haftarah on consolation.

For that is the very message of this haftarah as well.

By Rabbi Neil N. Winkler

Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.