The haftarah for Vayikra is prophecy from the book of Isaiah. It opens with praise of the Jewish people, followed by rebuke for not bringing their sacrifices to G‑d, but to false idols. Then there is an assurance that Moshiach is coming, and that G‑d is the only G‑d. The haftarah now mocks the fallacy of idol worship and the silliness of those who make them. Finally, it closes with another prophecy of the future redemption.1

The connection to the parshah is that the parshah speaks of sacrifices to G‑d, which the Torah calls a korban, from the Hebrew word krav, “to come closer.” We serve G‑d to become closer to Him. The haftarah stresses that G‑d is the only one worth serving. Another connection: The parshah mentions several kinds of sin offerings, as part of returning and repairing our relationship with G‑d after a breach. The haftarah has several verses that say that it is G‑d that wipes away our sins, and he wants us to return to Him. These verses are part of the Yom Kippur liturgy.

This haftarah is special in that it gets you feeling that G‑d loves and wants us. He uses terms of endearment—how He chose us, formed us. We are His praise, His servants, His witnesses. We have nothing to fear. He will wipe away our sins; He wants us to return to Him and more. In other words, we are His, and we are precious to Him.

The haftarah begins: “This nation I formed for Myself (li), they will tell My praise.”2 This verse brings up so many questions. It obviously is talking about us, the Jewish people. Normally, we are called the Children of Israel, or the House of Jacob. Why does G‑d call us “This nation?”

Then He says that He formed us. What does “formed” connote? Why does He add the word li, “for Myself? “He could have simply said, “I formed this nation.” Then He says that “They will tell My praise” with such certainty. Didn’t G‑d grant us freedom to choose whether or not to praise Him? Why is it so certain?

Another question: Why does He say that we will “tell” His praise, as if it was a story? And finally, where do we see this idea of “chosenness” in the parshah?

A Nation Under G‑d

Scripture is teaching us how precious every Jew is to G‑d.

First, He says that we are a “nation.” A nation is made up of people at all levels and classes of society. Whether you are a minister or a garbage collector, you are part of the makeup of the nation.

A nation has an intrinsic bond with their king. They are a nation because they are united under their king. And he is the king because he has a nation; they make him the king. He isn’t only king over the ministers, but over every person in his kingdom. From the highest to the lowest, he is bound to every single being.

The same is true about the Jewish people and G‑d. We are His nation, and He is our King. We are united under Him, and in some way, we make Him King. This bond between G‑d and the Jewish people is with every single Jewish person, irrespective of his or her religious level. As our great sages tell us: “Even though he sinned, he is still a Jew.”3

A human king rules over subjects that are similar to him; he is a king over humans. Ruling over animals or plants does not make one a king.

Being G‑d’s subjects means that we are similar to Him. Meaning, we are a g-dly people.

Now that we understand the implications of the word nation, we can ask: What does He mean by “this nation?” When you say “this,” it means that you can point to it and recognize it. We as the Jewish people stand out. The world recognizes every Jew as G‑d’s person, and the Jewish people as G‑d’s nation. Whether you were born this way or are a convert, you are a recognized as “this nation.”

Then He says that He “formed” us. This implies the physical—meaning that G‑d didn’t only choose our spiritual makeup, our neshamah (“soul”), but our bodies as well. Not only did He choose us; he specifically designed each one of us to be the way we are. In other words, the way we are is just how G‑d wants us.

Then G‑d says, li, for “Myself.” We have a rule that whenever G‑d says li, it means that it will never change. G‑d made us into his own nation forever and nothing can change that.

Then He says with certainty that “They will tell My praise.” This is certain because it is not what we do that praises G‑d; rather, it’s our existence itself. It’s the mere fact that we are here—our tiny nation, one sheep surrounded by 70 wolves, persecuted in every generation. While the great empires that sought to destroy us can only be found in relics and in history books, we are still here.

The existence of each and every one of us is a miracle, and therefore, a praise to G‑d. Especially after the Holocaust, our mere existence is a praise to G‑d. And this is true in every generation because every generation serves as the link of past generations to future ones. And every Jewish person, in every generation, is a link that causes G‑d to be praised.

This is why He uses the word “tell,” for it is our existence and story that praises G‑d.

The first verse of the haftarah shows the love of G‑d to the Jewish people and sets the tone. The same can be said of the first verse of the parshah, “Vayikra el Moshe: ‘And He called to Moses.’ ”4

The first word of the parshah, Vayikra is the name of the parshah, and for that matter, the whole book of Vayikra. The name of a parshah holds in it the central message of that parshah. Rashi explains that the word Vayikra (“and He called”) is a term of affection.5 The parshah is about the love of G‑d to the Jewish people, and the fact that He wants us to get closer to Him.

We must take away from all this the great love G‑d has for every single Jew. We should never speak disparagingly about our fellow Jews, who are all G‑d’s beloved. Rather, we should love every Jew, as He does, and recognize the significance and intrinsic value of each individual since we are not G‑d’s nation without all our parts. We should seek to draw our brothers and sisters closer to G‑d through love.6

It is through this love that we will merit the prophecies in the haftarah of the final redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.