Haftorah This Week
Welcome to Haftorah This Week, the place where you will find thoughts and reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on this week's Haftorah.
Sukkot is a holiday which contains within it a basic tension between particularism and universalism. As a festival which commemorates the Jews' wandering in the desert, it is a time to focus on the unique historical experience of the Jewish people. And yet, our sages saw Sukkot as the most universal holiday. The seventy sacrifices brought over the course of the festival were interpreted as sacrifices on behalf of the seventy nations of the world. The conclusion of the harvest season celebrated through Sukkot was understood as a reflection of the messianic period, the conclusion of history, in which all nations would join together to offer thanksgiving to God for the material prosperity He bestowed upon them.
The Haftarah chosen for the first day of Sukkot expresses this tension in its depiction of the final day of judgment. Jerusalem and the inhabitants of Judah are the central figures in Zechariah's vision of the end of days. Vanquished by her enemies, Jerusalem will experience God's salvation as its citizens are gathered from their dispersion and the city is filled with God's living presence. But as much as this vision is a description of the particular redemption of the Jewish people, it is also a vision of a universal future.
It is in this Haftarah that we find the verse which serves as the conclusion to our Aleinu prayer: "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth; In that day the Lord shall be One, and His name one." The oneness of God is clearly linked to the universal recognition of his Kingship.
Near the end of the Haftarah, this universal theme is directly connected to the festival of Sukkot. In verse 16 we read, "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." Sukkot, in Zechariah's prophecy and in the rabbinic tradition based upon it, represents the universal element of Jewish messianism, the hope that all of humankind will one day share a common festival and worship God together in the city of Jerusalem.
Thus the tension that is inherent in the festival of Sukkot is incorporated into the prophetic reading for the holiday. The particularity of Judaism is not abandoned in the wake of the messianic transformation as described by Zechariah. Rather Judaism's particularity is expanded to include all nations in the process of building God's kingdom on earth.
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