"For I am a Father to Israel, and Efrayim is My Firstborn"
"For I am a Father to
The Haftara of the Second Day of Rosh Ha-Shana
By Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE TWO HAFTAROT
The haftara for the second day of Rosh Ha-shana (Yirmiyahu 31:1-19) is entirely different than the haftara for the first day. First, the haftara of the first day, regarding Chanas prayer for a child, is a narrative, at the heart of which stands an individual and her own personal story, whereas the haftara of "Matza chen ba-midbar" is a prophecy about the future that relates to the nation as a whole. More importantly, however, the two haftarot reflect different spiritual worlds.
In the story of Chana, we read about a woman of amazing spiritual strength, whose prayer is answered and whose aspirations are realized by virtue of her actions. God remembers her in the wake of the self-sacrifice that she demonstrates and the powerful prayer that she offers. It is not by chance that Chana's prayer serves as the foundation for the laws of prayer for all generations. The ode of praise that breaks forth from Chana's lips at the end of the haftara also testifies to the religious profundity that lies deep in her soul. In short, Chana is inscribed for life and receives her reward, because she emerges victorious in judgment.
REDEMPTION OUT OF WRETCHEDNESS
In the haftara read on the second day, on the other hand, we
encounter the opposite situation.
Yirmiyahu prophesies during the time of the destruction, about which he
and other prophets had harshly rebuked the nation for the longest time. He does not explain the redemption as
For thus says the
Lord: Sing with gladness for Yaakov, and shout on the hilltops of the nations;
announce, praise, and say, O Lord, save Your people, the remnant of Israel. Behold, I will bring them from the north
country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, and with them the blind and
the lame, the woman with child and her that travails with child together: a
great company shall return there.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I
will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, in which they
shall not stumble: for I am a father to
The redeemed are the remnants of the people who return to
Therefore they shall
come and sing in the height of
The goal of redemption lies in satisfying their needs, and the wheat, wine, oil and the young of the herd and the flock are the means to bring about that satisfaction. Everything is directed at bringing their soul to be like a watered garden, satiated with all goodness and knowing no further pain or sorrow.
The redemption described here does not follow from good deeds nor does it
come in the wake of repentance.
Rather, it is God's will to help those miserable souls, who have known so
much grief and affliction, and to show them benevolence. Yirmiyahu teaches us that bestowing rest
upon the remnants of the sword, in and of itself, has religious
significance. Not only redemption
accompanied by repentance and the love of God, but even the ingathering of
miserable and wretched exiles and bringing them back to the
The reason for this is two-fold. First of all, God is abundant in His lovingkindness, merciful and gracious, and He acts charitably towards His creatures. As the Gemara states in Sota:
As He clothes the naked, for it is written: "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skin, and clothed them" (Bereishit 3:21), so do you also clothe the naked. The Holy One, blessed be He, visited the sick, for it is written: "And the Lord appeared unto him by the oaks of Mamre" (Bereishit 18:1), so do you also visit the sick. The Holy One, blessed be He, comforted mourners, for it is written: "And it came to pass after the death of Avraham, that God blessed Yitzchak his son" (Bereishit 25:11), so do you also comfort mourners. The Holy one, blessed be He, buried the dead, for it is written: "And He buried him in the valley" (Devarim 34:6), so do you also bury the dead. (Sota 14a)
A FATHER'S CONCERN FOR HIS SON
This is one reason, but there is also another reason, which is emphasized by the prophet:
For I am a father to
The concern about the remnant of
Is Efrayim my dear son? Is he a darling child? For whenever I speak of him, I earnestly remember him still: therefore my inward parts are moved for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord. (31:19)
The benefaction in the present because God is Israel's heavenly Father from time immemorial, who always cares and worries about them, is the prophet's starting point, when he says: "I have loved you with an everlasting love" and therefore "I have remained true to you" (31:2).
Second, this aspect of the haftara is the reason that it includes
the prophecy of "A voice is heard in Rama" (31:14), for that prophecy deals with
the suffering of
Repentance in the wake of redemption
The final section of
the haftara speaks about the beginning of a process of repentance. This takes place, however, not before
the redemption, but after it; repentance does not bring about the redemption,
but rather it results from it. When
the people of
This prophecy has an important message for our generation, in light of
the Holocaust. Yirmiyahu teaches
that God's providing of rest to the remnant of
We learn from Yirmiyahu's prophecy that had the State of Israel only come into being in order to give rest to survivors of the Holocaust that would be enough. Had they only come to Israel in fulfillment of the verse, "I will turn their mourning to joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow" (Yirimiyahu 31:12), that would suffice to justify its existence from a religious perspective and to see in it a meaningful event and a fulfillment of the prophetic vision of the prophet of exile and destruction. Just as Chazal joined this prophecy to the story of the Akeida as the haftara for the second day of Rosh ha-Shana, so too we must connect the consolation that it offers to the Akeidot of our generation.
Inscription for life in any event
Let us conclude this shiur by returning to the point with which we opened. On the first day of Rosh Ha-shana we read a haftara that speaks of inscription for good life by virtue of man's righteousness and actions. This is, of course, the desired model that we must aim for. However, not everyone merits this, Chana's level being exceedingly high. We, therefore, read on the second day of Rosh Ha-shana a haftara that emphasizes the very opposite, namely, inscription for a good and peaceful life even if a person is unworthy. Yirmiyahu's prophecy regarding redemption that stems from the fact that we are the children of God who longingly remembers us and shows us mercy, allows us to hope that our Father and King will deal charitably and kindly with us even though we have no merits. This is the great message of the haftara for the second day. The haftara for the first day teaches us what is meritorious conduct; the haftara for the second day offers us the consolation that even if we lack that conduct, God will treat us graciously and with compassion.
 "Zekhor Lanu Berit Acharonim," in Sinai, Jubilee Volume, Jerusalem 5762.
 I have recently
been informed that my revered grandfather,