Rabbi Richard Hirsh for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
summer cycle of scriptural readings revolves around two sets of text.
The first is the weekly cycle of readings which progresses through the
final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The second is the ten week cycle
of haftarot, or supplementary readings, selected from the writings found
in the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, which orbit around the fast day of
Tisha B'Av commemorates the destruction of the first
and second Temples, as well as other historical oppressions of the
Jewish people which our tradition has connected with the ninth day of
Av. For the three weeks prior to Tisha B'Av, the haftara readings deal
with prophetic denunciation of the sins of the Jewish people, as first
Jeremiah and then Isaiah condemn the transgressions of the Covenant. In
particular, Jeremiah's prophecies of the imminent destruction of the
Temple in Jerusalem predict with frightening accuracy the fate that in
fact befell the Jewish people in 586 BCE.
This Shabbat, which
comes immediately after Tisha B'Av, is known as Shabbat Nahamu, after
the opening words of the haftara: "Nahamu, nahamu ami -- give comfort to
My people". (Isaiah 40:1) There are seven Shabbatot, including this
one, between Tisha B'Av and Rosh HaShana; each of them features a
selection from Isaiah which speaks of the themes of forgiveness,
reconciliation, and repentance.
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