Can a woman forget her nursing child, not having compassion on the son of the womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands;
These words are not from the parsha of Eikev, but from its accompanying haftorah, words by Isaiah, prophet of doom and of hope. Why quote them, rather than a text from Eikev itself? Well, as we know, all of the haftorot are, in one way or another, commentaries on their respective parshiyot. The seven haftorot of consolation which come just before Rosh Hashanah, however, are so profoundly linked they serve as continuations of the texts they follow on from. They are a fulfilment of the words of Moses. In much of Devarim he swings continually between promises of reward for good behaviour and warnings of dire punishment for bad. The descriptions of disaster and ruin are so heavy and detailed they augur ill for the future. And, with the benefit of painful hindsight, we know that disaster and ruin did come, not once, but repeatedly. Isaiah’s words of comfort, the promise that God will never completely forget His people, are, therefore, both poignant and vital to our sprit and survival.
Eikev, and Va-etchanan before it, are rich with text, meaning and resonance. As they unfold, Moses gathers oratorical strength and purpose, like the first movement of a symphony, which sets in motion the sounds and echoes of the grand themes which will be picked up and developed in the following movements. Many of these themes resonate regularly for us in our services. prayers and blessing, particularly from the Shema, the Commandments, even from the Seder. Moses also continues to remind the people of the story to date, some of it good, but much of it embarrassingly bad, especially the episode of the golden calf. So let us return to Isaiah and thank God for His mercy.
For God has comforted Zion. He has comforted all her waste places and had made her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like God’s garden. Joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving, and the voice of song.
And let us remember to turn up on Saturday at 10:30, when Harvey Kurzfield will lead us away from disaster and ruin.