Yom Kippur Morning:

Isaiah 57:14-58:14

Today's haftorah discusses the concepts of repentance and fasting, the theme du jour of Yom Kippur.

The prophecy begins with the words "Pave, pave, clear the way; remove the obstacles from the way of My people." A reference to the Yetzer Hara ("evil inclination") which must be removed to pave the way for sincere repentance. G‑d assures that He will not be forever angry at those who repent, and that instead He will heal them and lead them. The wicked, on the other hand, are compared to a turbulent sea: "there is no peace for the wicked."

G‑d exhorts the prophet Isaiah to admonish the people regarding their fasting ways which G‑d finds reprehensible — a message which resonated to this very day:

"Daily they pretend to seek Me, desiring knowledge of My ways . . . 'Why have we fasted and You did not see?' they ask. 'We have afflicted our soul and You do not know?' Behold, on the day of your fast you pursue your affairs, and from all your debtors you forcibly exact payment. Behold, for quarrel and strife you fast, and to strike with a fist of wickedness. You do not fast in keeping with the spirit of the day, to make your voice heard on high. Is this a fast that I will choose? . . . Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush and spread out sackcloth and ashes beneath him?"

Instead, Isaiah teaches the Jews the proper way to fast:

"Loosen the fetters of wickedness, untie the bands of perverseness, send the oppressed free, and break every oppressive yoke. Offer your bread to the hungry, bring the wandering poor into your home. When you see someone naked, clothe him . . . Then you shall call and the L-rd shall answer, you shall cry and He shall say, 'Here I am.' . . . G‑d will always guide you and satiate your soul with radiance; He will strengthen your bones and you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never cease..."

The haftorah concludes with the promise of great rewards for those who honor and take delight in the Shabbat.

Yom Kippur Afternoon:

Book of Jonah; Micha 7:18-20.

The entire Book of Jonah is read today as it contains an important and timely message on prayer and repentance. Click here for more on the connection between the Book of Jonah and Yom Kippur.

G‑d ordered the prophet Jonah to travel to Nineveh and present its wicked inhabitants with an ultimatum: repent or be destroyed. Jonah refused to comply with this directive, and fled on a boat. Strong winds threatened to destroy the ship, lots were cast among the crew and passengers and the lottery indicated that Jonah was the cause of the turbulent storm. He admitted his guilt and requested to be cast into the sea. Jonah was thrown into the raging sea and the storm abated.

Jonah was swallowed by a big fish, and while in its belly, was moved to repent. The fish regurgitated Jonah.

Jonah proceeded to Nineveh and broadcasted G‑d's word that Nineveh would be overturned in forty days. The people fasted and repented and the divine decree was annulled. When Jonah expressed his displeasure with this result, G‑d taught him a lesson. As Jonah sat on the outskirts of the city, the kikayon plant which was providing him with shade was destroyed by a worm, and Jonah was very upset. "And G‑d said: You took pity on the kikayon, for which you did not toil nor did you make it grow, which one night came into being and the next night perished. Now should I not take pity on Nineveh, the great city, in which there are many more than one hundred twenty thousand people?..."

The haftorah concludes with a  brief portion from the Book of Micah, which describes G‑d's kindness in forgiving the sins of His people. "He does not maintain His anger forever, for He is a lover of kindness. He will have mercy on us, He will grasp our iniquities and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Micah concludes with an enjoinder to G‑d to remember the pacts He made with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Click here for the complete Book of Jonah.