Shabbat Shuva – The Haftara from Hosea, Micah and Joel

This is one of the many calls in the liturgy for Israel to return to the ways of    G-d. Hosea said “Return Israel to the Lord your G-d, for you have stumbled in your iniquity”. Nechama Leibowitz quoted R’ Levi as referring to this passage as Israel being called on to make amends and repent.  She also quoted R’ Judah the Prince who used Hosea to write  “ Great is the power of repentance for once man begins to contemplate repentance in his heart it rises up …….. beyond the seventh heaven to stand before the throne of glory” .


Nechama Leibowitz commented on the different interpretations of “stumbling in your iniquity”.  She asked if the stumbling was the punishment caused by the iniquity or the iniquity itself.  She then quoted from the different commentators’ opinions.  Rashi wrote “hardships overtook you on account of your iniquities” implying that the punishment was the stumbling. Radak and Biur argued that the iniquities were the stumblings and not the punishment that follows.


Hosea said “take with you words and return to the Lord” meaning that G-d does not require gifts of sacrifices but sincere confession and penitent words expressing the resolve to amend( R’ Hertz quoting midrash). Hosea spoke about G-d’s gracious and loving reply to those words, G-d  saying “ I will heal their backsliding , I will love them freely“ . Ibn Ezra observed that the backsliding of the soul is like the sickness of the body, needing healing.


Jeremiah said that the as the people move towards G-d , G-d moves towards the people. He said “Return you backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings”.


Quotes from Micah and Joel complete the Haftara. Micah said G-d will again have compassion on us and subdue our iniquities. Joel spoke about the rejuvenation of the soul and renewal of the spirit that came from the acceptance of repentance.


We go into Yom Kippur with the expressions of these prophets and commentators as a framework with which to approach the prayers of the day.

G’mar Tov.    

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