The mountains may move…
The Sidrot of Deuteronomy are so rich that the reader is overwhelmed and the preacher is overcome by an avalanche of ideas.
But the Haftarot before Rosh HaShanah are particularly rich as well. They rival the Torah passages for beauty, power, and religious significance.
These Haftarot, read between Tisha B’av and Rosh HaShanah, are taken from Deutero-Isaiah. From early times, the work of this prophet, whose name we do not know, was appended to the Book of Isaiah of Jerusalem, so that the chapters continue as if they were the integrated work of one poet-teacher. It is no religious infidelity to recognize that these chapters come from the time of the Exile, not from Isaiah of Jerusalem.
The prophet was a keen observer of the tides in the affairs of men. He recognized that Cyrus of Persia (whom he dares to call the Lord’s Messiah!) and his men would soon bring Babylonia to its knees. Cyrus would become the overlord and Persia the new mistress of the Middle East.
And the prophet knew that Cyrus would permit the exiled Hebrews to return to their land. Cyrus saw this as a ploy to maintain some strength in an outpost of his far-flung empire. But Isaiah of the exile interpreted the event as the Lord’s loving restoration of Judah. So much for the geopolitical situation.