The Haftarot of Consolation, also known as the “Shiva d’Nechemta,” are a series of seven Haftarot read during the weeks following Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, up until Rosh Hashanah. These special Haftarot—a section of the Prophets read alongside the weekly Parasha—offer messages of comfort, hope, and redemption to the Jewish people after the period of mourning and destruction. The Haftarot of Consolation, which happens to fall entirely within the cycle of reading from sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy) at the end of the year. They are unique in their content and tone, as they contrast with the more somber themes of the previous weeks. These Haftarot are all sourced from the book of Isaiah (Yeshayahu), and they focus on themes of restoration, rebuilding, and the ultimate redemption of the Jewish people, once they can do a full teshuva (“repentence; return”).
Historical Purpose: The tradition of reading Haftarot of Consolation during the weeks between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah is rooted in history and symbolism. After the solemn observance of Tisha B’Av, when Jews mourn the destruction of the Temples and other historical tragedies, a transition takes place towards a period of hope and renewal at the start of the new year. The Haftarot of Consolation mark this transition, providing comfort to the people and a glimpse of the positive future that awaits. The ‘consolation’ actually refers to comforting Zion, Jerusalem, now that it has been sacked, the inhabitants driven out, and the Temple destroyed.
Selection from Sefer Yeshayahu: All seven Haftarot of Consolation are sourced from the book of Isaiah. This book contains an abundance of prophecies that include both warnings of impending doom and messages of hope and redemption. The selection of these Haftarot from Isaiah underscores the book’s thematic diversity and the prophecy’s central themes of comfort and redemption. Every haftarah is associated with a parasha, literally meaning the Torah portion’s conclusion, so not only are these powerful in their own right, but they contrast the unambiguous messages that Moshe says in regards to avoiding idolotry, following the rule of law, and so on.
Brief Rundown of Each Haftarah:
- Shabbat Devarim, “Shabbat Nachamu” – Isaiah 40:1-26: The first Haftarah, read on the Shabbat immediately following Tisha B’Av, begins with the words “Nachamu, nachamu ami” (Comfort, comfort, My people). It conveys a message of divine comfort and reassurance, proclaiming that God’s compassion will bring redemption. It speaks of the eternal nature of God’s words and emphasizes the insignificance of earthly powers in comparison to the Almighty.
- Shabbat Va’etchanan – Isaiah 40:27-41:16: This Haftarah continues with the themes of divine strength and comfort. It highlights the contrast between human frailty and God’s eternal power. The passage reinforces the idea that those who place their trust in God will be renewed and uplifted.
- Shabbat Eikev – Isaiah 49:14-51:3: The third Haftarah expresses God’s unwavering love for the Jewish people, comparing it to a mother’s love for her child juxtaposed against the Jerwish people’s negligence. The passage speaks of Jerusalem’s eventual restoration and the end of exile. It also calls on the people to listen to God’s teachings and to look towards the future with hope.
- Shabbat Re’eh – Isaiah 54:11-55:5: This Haftarah uses imagery of a barren woman to symbolize the desolate state of Jerusalem, but it promises a time of restoration when the city will be rebuilt and flourish once again. The passage emphasizes the everlasting covenant between God and the Jewish people.
- Shabbat Shoftim – Isaiah 51:12-52:12: In this Haftarah, God’s call for the redemption of Zion is announced. The passage encourages the people to wake up from their spiritual slumber and prepare for their return to the land. It speaks of God’s protection and guidance during their journey.
- Shabbat Ki Teitzei – Isaiah 54:1-10: This Haftarah likens Jerusalem to a barren woman who will eventually have more children than a married woman. It speaks of God’s everlasting kindness and the renewal of the covenant. The passage emphasizes the unbreakable bond between God and His people.
- Shabbat Ki Tavo – Isaiah 60:1-22: The final Haftarah paints a vivid picture of Jerusalem’s future glory. It envisions a time when the city will be radiant and honored by all nations. The passage speaks of the end of sorrow and the beginning of everlasting joy.
Spiritual Significance: The arrangement of these Haftarot, coming in the seven weeks between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, carries profound spiritual significance. The transition from mourning to hope mirrors the Jewish journey from exile and suffering at Tisha B’Av to redemption and a new start as we, as a nation, jointly prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, praying this will be the last year of the exile. The Haftarot of Consolation remind the Jewish people that no matter how challenging their circumstances may be, there is always room for hope, healing, and ultimate redemption through Hashem’s love for and convenants with the Jewish people. Soon, Jerusalem will be comforted by her children again.
The Haftarot of Consolation, all sourced from the book of Isaiah, provide a meaningful transition from mourning to repentence, finally to hope during the seven weeks between Tisha B’Av and Rosh Hashanah, with seven being an important number signifying a complete cycle. They offer messages of comfort, restoration, and redemption, symbolizing the Jewish people’s final journey from sorrow to joy, from exile to redemption, and from destruction to rebuilding.
Find more about the The Haftarot of Consolation
From Torat Har Etzion
From the Schechter Institutes
From the Orthodox Union