Speaking of this sixth in a series of seven weeks of consolations between Tisha b’Av and Rosh Hashanah, Chabad’s Haftarah in a Nutshell succinctly describes this week’s reading from Isaiah 60: 1-22. “In glowing terms the prophet recounts descriptions of what will unfold during the Redemption. Beginning with the resurrection of the dead and the ingathering of the exiles, continuing with the joy and abundance the Jewish people will then experience, as well as the gifts that will be brought to G‑d from all of the nations of the world. Finally, the Jewish nation will no longer be despised and derided, there will no longer be violence nor mourning, and G‑d will shine His everlasting light on His people.”
This however, is not where we nor the world finds ourselves today. On April 5th, 2006 (and then republished this past week), Rabbi Nathan Lopes wrote: “We are living in an age of flaunting irreverence. Debunking has become the norm and wherever we turn we experience a need to reveal the clay feet of even the greatest. Human dignity, while often referred to, has become a farce in real life. Instead of deliberately looking for opportunities to love our fellow men as required by our holy Torah, many have rewritten this golden rule to read: ‘Distrust your fellow men as you distrust thyself.’ Disbelief in themselves has overflown into their relationships with their fellowmen. Fear for their own deeds and mediocrity has led them to believe that the spiritual mighty have left us and that we are a generation of spiritual orphans.”
In the past week, there have been many leaders, religious and secular who have had a spotlight shown on their online activity at an apparently popular porn site. Some in leadership have toppled or at least stumbled; many followers once again have had their faith and confidence shaken. If those in authority, in leadership, experience such blatant moral failure, what hope is there for those of us in the trenches of daily life? For an answer to this dilemma let’s return to this week’s Haftarah:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come! The glory of ADONAI has risen on you.
For behold, darkness covers the earth, and deep darkness the peoples.
But ADONAI will arise upon you, and His glory will appear over you,”
Is this, as many suggest, only for a time in the distant future when Messiah will reign and the propensity to err no longer exists? Or is it possible that while the first option is true, it could also be for any time that the people of ADONAI turn from their fleshly, carnal inclinations and seek once more the face of their LORD and Creator. Or is it more, is it an anchor to hold on to, grasping firmly the grace and character of ADONAI? The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of realities not seen. For by it the elders received commendation,” (Hebrews 11:1-2). “The evidence of realities not seen,” is a powerful assurance all of us. It means that even though we might not see the realities of scriptural promises and prophecies, they are nonetheless real and secure. Yeshua spoke these words to his disciples and to us through the annals of time, “And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20b), which echoes the words of HASHEM in Vayelech, “Chazak! [Be strong!] Be courageous! Do not be afraid or tremble before them. For ADONAI your God—He is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you,” (Deuteronomy 31:6). In another passage, speaking of Avraham Avienu, Rav Shaul writes, “He is our father in the sight of God in whom he trusted, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence that which does not exist,” (Romans 4:17). Avraham’s “calling into existence that which does not exist” was not in some hyper-charismatic “bless me now” aspect but rather as a complete rest and trust upon the reality that HASHEM promised that he (Avraham) would be the made a great nation and that in him the nations of the earth would be blessed, Genesis 12:1-3). Though the reality of Avraham’s natural sight was that he did not live to see this – through the eyes of faith, he trusted in the fulfillment of ADONAI’s promises.
In his commentary on Isaiah 60, Rabbi Scherman notes, “Isaiah continues to prophesy about the magnificent future that awaits Jerusalem when she attains her ultimate glory, becoming the spiritual leader of the world. Although he speaks in the second person as if these glorious events are actually happening, this is a prophecy about the Messianic Era.” In other words it is not currently happening. In fact, the postexilic period was not a period of great glory but difficulty. There were economic struggles and the Temple took almost twenty-two years to complete. Not only did nations not flock to Israel to assist her rebuilding but neither did the majority of the exiled Israelites, only a small percentage of those eligible actually returned. This prophesy of consolation was and is to provide an affirmation that the LORD God of Israel does have a plan for Israel and will accomplish it. It is this assurance that allowed Jeremiah to confidently pen, “For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares ADONAI, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Like Avraham, we may not see the fulfillment of the LORD’S promises but that does not nullify His promises. In Parasha Balak, Balaam, much to Balak’s displeasure, stated firmly “God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes his mind! Does He speak and then not do it, or promise and not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). Isaiah affirms the sureness of the word of the Lord when he recorded, “…so My word will be that goes out from My mouth. It will not return to Me in vain, but will accomplish what I intend, and will succeed in what I sent it for. (Isaiah 55:11). We are reminded of the eleventh chapter of The Letter to the Hebrews and the author’s statement, “These all died in faith without receiving the things promised—but they saw them and welcomed them from afar,” (Hebrews 11:13). Like Israel of old as well as Israel today, we must hold on the Word of the LORD even when we do not see the expected fruit. We must live and walk wisely, with our eyes wide opened being aware of what is going on around us all the while also paying attention to the promises and prophecies in the Scriptures – whether realized or not, whether fulfilled or not. We, like the faithful throughout history, must trust the LORD to do what is for our best in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones, anchored secure in faith that “…all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” (Romans 8:28).
 The Later Prophets by Rabbi Nossom Scherman, Mesorah Publications, Brooklyn, 2013, p 449