Bereishit: Redemption as Creation
The haftara for Parashat Bereishit (Yeshayahu 42:5-43:10) is taken from the chapters of consolation in the book of Yeshayahu, and is a continuation of the series of prophecies that began with the prophecy of "Comfort, My people, comfort them, says the Lord" (Nachamu) (Yeshayahu 40). Thus, the haftara presents the creation from the unique perspective of a prophecy of consolation, in a manner that is different from the way that the creation is presented in Parashat Bereishit. We will, therefore, open with an examination of the aim of creation as found in the haftara and how the haftara relates to our parasha, and then see how the haftara fits in to the chapters of consolation and redemption.
THe aim of creation in parashat Bereishit
In the second chapter the picture indeed changes. Man is no longer just another creature in the world of nature, but rather the unique creature for the sake of which the earth and its fullness were created. In this chapter, we are also presented with the relationship between man and his Maker, which finds expression in God's breathing of life into the nostrils of man, in His worrying about a world that will provide for his needs, in the imposition of the task "to work it and preserve it," and in the concept of the commandment that is cast upon man. All this creates a picture that is very different from the one painted in the previous chapter regarding man's relationship to nature and his status as a unique creature. There is nothing new in what I have said thus far.
Needless to say, in the framework of a shiur relating to the haftarot, we will not concern ourselves with a comparative analysis of chapters one and two of the book of Bereishit, but with an examination of the relationship between the two and the prophecy of Yeshayahu. An examination of the differences between the Torah's depiction and that of the prophet points to the significant difference between them.
THe aim of creation in the Haftara
Fundamentally, the Torah's account of creation focuses on man and his world. Whether we examine the matter in the context of nature as in chapter one, or from the perspective of the uniqueness of man and his centrality in creation as depicted in chapter two either way the Torah's account describes man and his place in creation. God provides man with his needs, He blesses and commands him, and He extends His providence over him. God's role in creation is to worry about man and direct him to his mission, but it is man who is the focus of the story. It is for this reason that Ben Azai declared that "this is the book of the generations of man" (Bereishit 5:1) is the great principle of the Torah.
Sing the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, you that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and their inhabitants. Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits: let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands. (Yeshayahu 42:10-12)
As we see, singing God's praises and glory is what stands at the heart of man's attitude toward creation. Truth be said, not only does the prophet cast upon man the obligation of giving praise, but he also defines the glory of heaven as the very objective and aim of creation. In one of the haftara's most important verses, which was later discussed at great length by thinkers dealing with these issues, the prophet declares: "Every one that is called by My name: for I have created him for My glory; I have formed him" (43:7). All of creation was intended solely for the recognition of the relationship between it and God. Thus, the haftara opens with the declaration of God as Creator: "Thus says God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; He that gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein" (42:5). And this perforce leads to the conclusion offered by the prophet later in the passage: "I am the Lord, that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to carved idols" (42:8).
THE MEANING OF EXILE
If, however, the people of Israel are not promised redemption as a result of their actions, but because their glory is a component of God's glory, then alongside the promise of redemption for the sake of the glory of His name, a question arises regarding the exile: inasmuch as the exile of Israel impairs the glory of God, how could God have allowed for His great name to be impaired?
This is the question that the prophet raises when he asks: "Who gave Yaakov for a spoil, and
We see then that the prophet presents us with the built-in tension between exile and redemption that follows from the fact that the people of
In light of this, we must once again analyze the key verse cited above: "Every one that is called by My name: for I have created him for My glory; I have formed him." We explained above that the verse describes the purpose of creation in general. In truth, however, two exegetical approaches to the verse are found in the biblical commentaries. The first indeed sees the verse as referring to creation in general ("The verse may be interpreted as referring to the entire world" Radak, in his second interpretation), as we explained above. The second, in contrast, sees "Every one that is called by My name" as referring to
This process is a process of redemption that follows from seeing the world as the glory of God. This is why the haftara of Parashat Bereishit does not deal exclusively with the creation in and of itself, but rather integrates it into the prophecies of redemption.
REDEMPTION AS RENEWED CREATION
There is, however, yet another process that Yeshayahu integrates into the framework of his prophecy seeing the redemption as sort of a renewed creation.
Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth, you that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and their inhabitants. Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits: let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the tops of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands. The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, He shall stir up ardor like a man of war: he shall cry, indeed, roar; He shall show Himself mighty against His foes.
I have a long time held My peace; I have been still and refrained Myself: now will I cry like a woman in travail; I will gasp and pant together. I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These are the things which I have done, and I have not forsaken them. They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in carved idols, that say to the molten images, You are our gods. (Yeshayahu 42:10-17)
These verses describe the redeemed world as an entirely new reality; God will destroy and wipe out the current world order and replace it with a redeemed world. The song is a new song because the world is a new world. The inhabited wilderness ("Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice") symbolizes the recreated world, for the wilderness is the most primal and desolate area on earth, an uninhabited zone that does not belong to the world of man. To the extent that the created world was given over to man's rule so that he may "work it and keep it" and by force of the blessing to "conquer it," the wilderness is located outside this world, for it is neither worked nor kept nor conquered by man. Yeshayahu's description of the process of redemption as turning the wilderness into an inhabited area with cities is meant to give it the meaning of recreating the world. The idea of settling the wilderness during the period of the redemption as connected to the principle of a recreated world, is explicitly mentioned in the chapter that precedes our haftara (Yeshayahu 41:18-20):
I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shitta tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the Arava cypress, maple, and box tree together: that they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it. (Yeshayahu 41:18-20)
As may clearly be seen in these verses, bringing life to the wilderness is described as a Divine act of creation. The next verses in the haftara "the villages that Kedar inhabits" also testify to a similar process of settling the nomadic tribes in organized communities.
In the wake of this new "creation," the nations of the world will be obligated to give God glory and honor:
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits: let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the islands.
We saw above that the appropriate response to renewed creation is offering praise and glory to the Creator, and therefore the song that they will sing is a new song in honor of the new times. Redemption is described not as an improved historical world, but as an altogether new world.
In addition to the elation of spirit afforded by seeing the redemption as a new and smooth beginning vis-a-vis the past, the idea of redemption as creation is of great importance in giving hope to a stricken and afflicted nation. A nation given as spoil one that is described at the beginning of the haftara as a prisoner locked up in jail and as a captive rotting away in a prison house cannot imagine that the world is capable of changing. Like a prisoner who does not believe that his situation will improve, so too the nation is given to despair and loss of hope. Presenting the redemption as a process of creation attests to the possibility of sudden change. Just as the previous creation created a world ex nihilo, so too the redemption can come into the world ex nihilo. It can suddenly enter the historical arena through Divine providence, even if its buds are nowhere yet to be found.
The connection, then, between the haftara and the parasha is sharpened and strengthened. We are not dealing merely with an added perspective on creation or with the tidings of redemption because of the glory of heaven, but with a prophecy that speaks of a recreation of the world that will yet occur in the future. The parasha, then, describes the original creation, whereas the prophet presents the "future creation," and thus completes the idea of creation, as a future that draws on the past.
 According to the Ashkenazi rite. According to the Sefardi rite, the haftara ends earlier at Yeshayahu 42:21.