The Connection

The opening verses of the haftarah are the end of a set of prophecies regarding the Assyrian empire.

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, led a powerful army west of his empire, threatening to overrun the Judean kingdom. The Jewish king at the time was Hezekiah, and the primary prophet was Isaiah. As the Assyrian threat came closer, Isaiah calmed Hezekiah, assuring him that he had nothing to fear.

The first verse in the haftarah tells us how, when Sennacherib reached Nob, an outlook from which Jerusalem could be seen, he waved his hand in contempt. He had been convinced that Jerusalem, whose name was known to all in the region, was far larger than he imagined. “Let us stay here overnight, and tomorrow each of you will remove just one stone from the wall of the city,” he said jokingly to his men.

That night, was the first night of Passover. As the army slept, an angel of G‑d was dispatched and killed 185,000 men—the bulk of the Assyrian army. Judea was saved.

The Code of Jewish Law states that because this miracle transpired on Passover, we read this passage on its last day. Upon closer examination, however, it seems clear that this cannot be the entire reason. First of all, the story has a connection to the first day of Passover rather than to the last. Second, and more crucially, only the first three verses of the reading deal with this theme, and they are only the coda to an entire chapter devoted the rise and fall of Assyria, including direct prophecies about Sennacherib’s downfall at Jerusalem. After these first three verses, the rest of the haftarah speaks about the days of Moshiach. In fact, it contains some of the most explicit and famous prophecies regarding the time to come.

It is fascinating to note that the ultimate connection of this reading to the last day of Passover began to emerge only in recent generations, in light of the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov and the chassidic masters.

The central idea is that Passover, in its essence, celebrates redemption. The beginning of Jewish redemption occurred with the exodus from Egypt; thus began the Jewish journey, a journey whose destination is the final and complete redemption. “The first days of Passover,” said the chassidic masters, “are the festival for the redemption of Egypt; the last day is the festival of the final redemption.”

The Baal Shem Tov taught that on this day a revelation of the light of Moshiach comes forth and is available to every Jew. He also initiated the custom to eat the Seudat Moshiach (“Feast of Moshiach”) during the final moments of the holiday. Reading this haftarah on the last day of Passover is a reflection of what this day is actually all about.

Moshiach—The Man

The haftarah begins with the decisive downfall of Assyria. We must be cognizant of the fact that it was Assyria who dealt the Jewish people one of the heaviest blows in all its history. It was they who exiled the ten “lost” tribes—the vast majority of the Jewish people. It was all good for Isaiah to reassure King Hezekiah that he would be saved from the Assyrian onslaught, but what would become of the Jewish people, most of whom were not so fortunate? This, explains Rashi, is why the prophet begins at this point to speak about the future.

“A staff will emerge from the stump of Jesse”: The dynasty of Davidic kings (Jesse being David’s father) will be like a tree cut down. For millennia, Israel will have no king. But then “the shoot will sprout from his roots”—the tree that is nonexistent on the surface remains alive deep down underground. At the appointed time a “shoot” will appear, creating a new beginning for the house of David and the Jewish people. We echo this in the Talmudic passage we say in our prayers, “David, king of Israel, is alive and enduring.”1

The king of the future will be endowed with the spirit and fear of G‑d, and will be imbued with knowledge, wisdom, counsel and strength. As a result, he will possess the capability of penetrating to the truth and essence of any issue, never to be fooled by what lies on the surface. He will judge and rule with true justice and righteousness.


“The wolf will live with the sheep,” reads the famous (though oft-misquoted) prophecy of our haftarah. The prophet cites many examples of how, in the future, even animals will “neither injure or destroy.” A well-known statement by Rambam and other authorities is that this is meant as a metaphor for the complete peace that will prevail in the days of Moshiach, especially between Israel and the nations. Other authorities, however, understand this to be literal: the nature of G‑dly tranquility in the world will be so intense that this will encompass even the animal kingdom.2

The defining verse for the description of the messianic era is to be found in these words: “…for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d like the waters cover the seabed.” This submergence in G‑dliness will be the cause of all the good that will dominate the world at this time.

Jewish Return and Unity

After describing the state of the world, the prophet turns specifically to the Jewish situation. Only once before did a redemption occur for the entire people—the exodus from Egypt. Every other time of deliverance since then affected only a part, sometimes even just a small part, of the people. When Moshiach comes, however, no Jew will be left behind. Every Jew, even from the farthest corners of the earth, will be brought back home.

As with the world at large, the Jews also have suffered from inner splits and strife. At the time when this prophecy was delivered, it was the terrible rift of Judah (the two tribes) and Israel (the ten tribes) which dominated the Jewish political and social scene. All these divides will entirely dissolve and disappear in the time to come. Even though Moshiach will be a descendant of King David, a member of the tribe of Judah, he will nevertheless be completely accepted and loved by his entire people.

The verse enumerates seven lands to which the members of the ten tribes had been exiled. Among these were Egypt and the territories along the Euphrates River. So, in an evocation of the splitting of the Red Sea at the Exodus, G‑d will split the “gulf of the sea of Egypt” and “the river” into seven paths, enabling the Jews to return to their land with ease.3

A Song of Gratitude

In a breathtaking statement, the prophet declares, “You will say on that day, ‘I thank You, G‑d, for You were angry with me.’” One way of reading this verse is that in some way we will not only understand the suffering of the exile, but we will even thank G‑d for it.

The salvation in the days of Moshiach will be complete and unending. Just as when drawing water from a spring one need not fear that the water will cease, for the spring will constantly give more water, so too will the Jewish people be able to “draw from the springs of salvation,” knowing that this time it will never end.

Targum and Rashi both understand this “drawing water from the springs of salvation” to be a reference to the revelation either of forgotten aspects, or of entirely new depths, of the Torah in this time to come.4

May this be fulfilled speedily in our days.