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The Barren Woman and the Waters of Noah

The Barren Woman and the Waters of Noah

A commentary on the haftarah of Ki Teitzei


This week’s haftarah 1 is read twice: once with on Parshat Noach and then again as the fifth haftorah of consolation on the week of Ki Teitzei.

The haftorah has a double theme. First, that when Moshiach comes, things will be so good that we will forget the hardships of the exile. Second, that the redemption will be final, never to be followed by another exile.

The haftarah begins: “Sing, barren one who has not given birth.”2 Who is the “barren one”?

The simple explanation is that G‑d is talking to the city of Jerusalem, which feels like a barren woman, bereft of children. Although she had been desolate during this long exile, G‑d tells her to sing—as now that Moshiach is here, her streets are once again filled with her children, the Jewish people. She doesn’t feel barren any more.

On a deeper level, Hashem is talking to those Jews who claim they are barren and have not given birth to Him. Meaning, he has totally disassociated himself from the Jewish nation. G‑d is saying that even He will sing a “new song”—the song we will sing when Moshiach comes.

The revelation will be so great that we will break out in song, just as we did at the splitting of the sea. Every Jewish person will be included, even one who is “barren” of mitzvahs and in the darkest place. The revelation and transformation will be so great that he, too, will break out into song.3

The exile will then seem as a fleeting dream, as the haftorah says, “for a brief moment I forsook you.”4 We read in Tehillim (Psalms), when G‑d returns the exiles of Zion, we will say that “we will have been as dreamers.”5 A dream feels real, but when you wake up, it fades away. This will be because, as the next verse continues:6 “With a little wrath, I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion on you . . . ”7

When Moshiach comes, it will be so good, that the exile will feel like a brief moment.

Now the haftorah says: “Like the waters of Noach this is to me. Just as I swore to never again cover the earth with the waters of Noach, so have I sworn not to be wrathful with you and not to rebuke you.”8

This verse is self-explanatory, except that G‑d calls the flood “the waters of Noach.” Why?

Because the word “Noach” is like the word nachat9 (“satisfaction”), indicating that it is positive because it changed the world for good. The same is true about this exile. When Moshiach comes, we will see how everything we went through in this exile directly made the world ready for Moshiach.10 The reading concludes, that when Moshiach comes “ . . . My kindness will never depart from you, and my covenant of peace will never falter.”11

Like bookends, this haftorah is read before and after the holiday season, and it sets the tone for the whole year because bringing Moshiach is at the core of our mission as the Jewish people. Like beacons of light, it is read at the beginning and the end of the year to remind us that though our work is difficult and the exile dark, what we are accomplishing is tremendous and our reward is even greater.

Perhaps it is your effort, your mitzvah, which will finally tip the scale and bring Moshiach.

May he come soon.

Isaiah 54:1-10. When Parshat Re'eh falls on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Chabad custom is to read the Haftora for Rosh Chodesh. When that happens the Haftora Parshat Re'eh is tagged on to the end of the Haftora of Ki Teitzei, as it follows the Haftora of Ki Teitzei in the book of Isaiah.
Sichot Kodesh 5731a pp. 460-461.
Torat Menachem Hitvaaduyot 5751b p. 139.
The Rebbe uses the word "naicha," I changed it to “nachas,” because everyone is familiar with this word. The concept is still the same, that the flood was ultimately a positive thing.
Torat Menachem Hitvaaduyot 5751a p. 237.
Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz—father of seven, husband of Dina, and spiritual leader at Chabad Jewish Center in Temecula, Calif.—has been rendered immobile by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Unable to speak or type, he uses his eyes to write heartfelt thoughts on the weekly Torah portion.

Please support the Hurwitz Family Fund.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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John Kaplan, MD Wildomar, CA September 1, 2017

Thank you Rabbi. Reply

Reuven Sutin August 31, 2017

You are an inspiration. May you continue to see Hashem eye to eye- and may your mouth be filled with laughter, and songs of joy, bimheira v'yameinu. Reply

Tzippy Jerusalem August 30, 2017

Yashar Koach!!
Thank you for this beautiful encouraging message! Reply

Rivka Long Beach August 13, 2017

Beautiful! Thank you for the deep inspiration! Reply

Rivka November 3, 2016

Wow, what an inspiring article! I'm in a class with the author's niece and am so amazed by how much you still do despite difficult circumstances -- just goes to show the world that there are really no excuses not to do good things and make the right choices. Reply

Caron Kruger Mdr August 30, 2017
in response to Rivka:

We who are disabled still can share our laws both religious and civil and follow all who practice. Reply

Vanessa Lowell November 2, 2016

This is exactly right We need to understand Our Hashem as He sees Himself.
He created us each unique, so unique that it is a total waste of time and energy to compare or compete with any other person.
This is His gift to each of us
When we understand this and give this gift to each other Moshiach will be here.
Hashem is saying to each and everyone of us what he treasures uniqueness--just look at this planet He created for us- he created trees not one variety but thousands, the same with fish,not one variety but thousands and so on---
but to each He put great thought and effort and His design says His love and care for us.
It is time for a truthful conversation about Our Creator and the relationship He is waiting to begin with us.
I am ready-are you? Reply

Avital Toronto, ON November 2, 2016

This is so beautiful, thank you! Reply

Vitaly M florida November 2, 2016

excellent! Thank you Rabbi. I learned a lot and then was absolutely blown away to read that you wrote this in your current condition.

Thoughts and prayers, deep respect and appreciation! Reply

Dalia Ram Phoenix November 1, 2016

BH Baruch Hashem for His goodness and for His loving kindness! May your song continue to be heard and may we merit Moshiac now. Reply

Rick Miller La Mesa November 1, 2016

You are an inspiration to Jews everywhere. I join you in praying for the rapid arrival of Moshiach and the Paradise that awaits us all. Reply

Jorge Qro. Mexico November 1, 2016

My hope is also set for the coming of Moshiach. Although I'm deprived of mitzvahs I'm hopeful I'll be among the resurrected because as you say: "Every Jewish person will be included, even one who is “barren” of mitzvahs and in the darkest place." Moshiach is my hope and I won't let that hope get lost. Reply

Margo Carrancejie November 1, 2016

Yes may He come soon. Amen. Reply

Pavla Snopkova Prague November 1, 2016

When Moshiach comes, we will see how everything we went through in this exile directly made the world ready for Moshia

Who is in exile? Luria went all the way to Arich Anpin and further being in exile...and many after him...or where they just cut off from the Lord? Probably...most probably...doing what they were doing...misleading...and if cut off from the Lord...what were such as him teaching? Living in graves? Acquiring spirits of death?

Barren yes...unfortunately...

What will happen when Messiah comes? For Gentiles...for me... Reply

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