Yom Kippur Haftarah: Isaiah 57:14-58:14

Fasting alone is not enough.

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The haftarah is a prophetic reading that follows the reading of the Torah.  Usually, the haftarah highlights a theme present in the Torah reading for the day. It is interesting that the ancient rabbis chose this particular section of the book of Isaiah for Yom Kippur morning.  On the most important fast day of the Jewish year, the haftarah carries the message the God does not desire fasting.  Isaiah’s lesson is that fasting alone is not enough, unless there is a moral and ethical foundation to the ritual behavior. For Jews who use the Reform machzor, the haftarah reading begins with Isaiah, chapter 58.

This English translation is reprinted with permission from Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures published by the Jewish Publication Society.

57:14.           [The Lord] says:

               Build up, build up a highway!

               Clear a road!

                     Remove all obstacles

                     From the road of My people!

57:15.           For thus said He who high aloft

                     Forever dwells, whose name is holy:

                     I dwell on high, in holiness;

                     Yet with the contrite and the lowly in spirit-

                     Reviving the spirits of the lowly,

                     Reviving the hearts of the contrite.

57:16.           For I will not always contend,

                     I will not be angry forever:

                     Nay, I who make spirits flag,"

                     Also create the breath of life.

57:17.           For their sinful greed I was angry;

                     I struck them and turned away in My wrath.

                     Though stubborn, they follow the way of their hearts,

57:18.           I note how they fare and will heal them:

                     I will guide them and mete out solace to them,

                     And to the mourners among them

57:19.                                                   heartening, comforting words:

                     It shall be well,

                     Well with the far and the near

                                                                   -said the LORD-

                     And I will heal them.

57:20.           But the wicked are like the troubled sea

               Which cannot rest,

                     Whose waters toss up mire and mud.

57:21.           There is no safety

                                                                   -said my God-

                                          For the wicked.

58:1.               Cry with full throat, without restraint;

                     Raise your voice like a ram's horn!                      Declare to My people their transgression,

                     To the House of Jacob their sin.

58:2.               To be sure, they seek Me daily,

                     Eager to learn My ways.

                     Like a nation that does what is right,

                     That has not abandoned the laws of its God,

                     They ask Me for the right way,

                     They are eager for the nearness of God:

58:3.               "Why, when we fasted, did You not see?

                     When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?"

                     Because on your fast day

                     You see to your business

                     And oppress all your laborers!

58:4.               Because you fast in strife and contention,

                     And you strike with a wicked fist!

                     Your fasting today is not such

                     As to make your voice heard on high.

58:5.               Is such the fast I desire,

                     A day for men to starve their bodies?

                     Is it bowing the head like a bulrush

                     And lying in sackcloth and ashes?

                     Do you call that a fast,

                     A day when the LORD is favorable?

58:6.               No, this is the fast I desire:

                     To unlock the fetters of wickedness,

                     And untie the cords of the yoke

                     To let the oppressed go free;

                     To break off every yoke.

58:7.               It is to share your bread with the hungry,

                     And to take the wretched poor into your home;

                     When you see the naked, to clothe him,

                     And not to ignore your own kin.

58:8.               Then shall your light burst through like the dawn

                     And your healing spring up quickly;

                     Your Vindicator shall march before you,

                     The Presence of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

58:9.               Then, when you call, the LORD will answer;

                     When you cry, He will say: Here I am.

                     If you banish the yoke from your midst,

                     The menacing hand, and evil speech,

58:10.           And you offer your compassion to the hungry

                     And satisfy the famished creature-

                     Then shall your light shine in darkness,

                     And your gloom shall be like noonday.

58:11.           The LORD will guide you always;

                     He will slake your thirst in parched places

                     And give strength to your bones.

                     You shall be like a watered garden,

                     Like a spring whose waters do not fail.

58:12.           Men from your midst shall rebuild ancient ruins,

                     You shall restore foundations laid long ago.

                     And you shall be called

                     "Repairer of fallen walls,

                     Restorer of lanes for habitation."

58:13.           If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,

                     From pursuing your affairs on My holy day;

                     If you call the sabbath "delight,"

                     The LORD'S holy day "honored";

                     And if you honor it and go not your ways

                     Nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains-

58:14.           Then you can seek the favor of the LORD

                     I will set you astride the heights of the earth,

                     And let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob-

                     For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

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