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Haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

Haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

The New Moon and the World to Come

Note: When the Sabbath day occurs on the "new moon," it is customary for an additional Torah reading to be read during services: "At the beginnings of your months, you shall offer a burnt offering to the LORD" (Num. 28:11). In addition, the last chapter of the Book of Isaiah is read because it mentions the new moon celebrations that will be observed by the entire world after the Messiah returns to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.

Rosh Chodesh & the World to Come

When King Solomon first dedicated the Holy Temple, he acknowledged the LORD's transcendence over all things: "Can God really dwell on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven (הַשָּׁמַיִם וּשְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם) cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27). Likewise, in our Haftarah portion, the LORD says: הַשָּׁמַיִם כִּסְאִי וְהָאָרֶץ הֲדם רַגְלָי / "Heaven is my throne and earth is my footstool"; אֵי־זֶה בַיִת אֲשֶׁר תִּבְנוּ־לִי / "Where is this house you will build for Me?"; אֵי־זֶה מָקוֹם מְנוּחָתִי / "Where is this place of My rest?" (Isa. 66:1). As the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the LORD is the Ground of all being and existence. The LORD is constantly "carrying all things" (φέρων τὰ πάντα) by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3).

The medieval commentator Radak states that the LORD is here interrogating the wicked who make a pretense of serving God: "Do you imagine that your temple is large enough to accommodate Me, the Creator of the Universe? Your idea about Who I am is woefully inadequate. Your "god" is too small and resembles a powerless idol...  I reject your insincere rituals and regard them as idolatrous. Though I am great beyond your reckoning, I abide with those who are humble and contrite in spirit, with those who tremble at my word (Isa. 66:2). How dare you offer sacrifices to Me, while you constantly oppress the weak!" God does not care about splendid buildings, religious ceremonies, "church" programs, etc., as much as He desires that people walk justly, act humbly and live in awe of Him (Micah 6:8).

Those who offer the prescribed sacrifices but whose heart is insincere are as offensive as those who murder people or pour pig's blood upon the holy altar (Isa. 66:3). Because they have chosen their own ways and not the way of truth, God will choose for them a state of delusion and bring their fears upon them (i.e., the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians; Isa. 66:4). Those who mock the true worshippers by saying, "Let the LORD be manifest so we can see your joy" shall be put to open shame (Isa. 66:5).

Despite the imminent destruction of Zion at the hands of the Babylonians, Isaiah foresees a great future for the Jewish people and for Zion. Using the metaphor of a mother painlessly giving birth, the prophet describes the sudden redemption and rebirth of the Jewish people in the End of Days.  Jerusalem will one day again become the praise of the earth, the center of God's redemptive activity.  God is likened to a Mother who comforts her newborn children (Isa. 66:13). The people of Israel will be reborn and comforted (Rom. 11:26)!

After this, Isaiah describes the punishment of the enemies of God who plot a final campaign against the Jewish People in the battle of Gog and Magog. The LORD will then return in glory as an Avenger to pour out indignation upon His enemies (Isa. 66:14-17). "See, the LORD is coming with fire -- His chariots are like a whirlwind -- to vent His anger in fury, His rebuke in flaming fire." Many shall be the slain of the LORD (Isa. 66:16). God will then gather all the nations and they shall come and behold His glory (Isa. 66:18). This pertains to the Second Coming of the Messiah after the Great Tribulation period, the "time of Jacob's trouble." The survivors of this great battle will be sent out as emissaries to declare the glory of the LORD God of Israel and to bring back the remnant of Jews left in their dispersion among the nations (Isa. 66:19-20). Some of these non-Jewish emissaries will be made priests and Levites to serve in the Temple that the Messiah will rebuild in the Millennial Kingdom (Isa. 66:21, Zech. 6:12-13). As the prophet Jeremiah attests: "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imaginations of their evil heart" (Jer. 3:17).

 

The Haftarah closes with the gathering of all nations to behold the glory and truth of the LORD God of Israel. And just as the promise of a new heaven and a new earth is sure, so the Jewish people are assured to remain forever (Isa. 66:22). In the Messianic Kingdom, on each Shabbat and on each Rosh Chodesh, all of humanity will come to Jerusalem to bow before the LORD God of Israel and to worship Him alone (Isa. 66:23). As they leave, they will look on the corpses of the people who rebelled during the Great Tribulation period. "For their worm will never die, and their fire will never be quenched; but they will be abhorrent to all humanity" (Isa. 66:24). Jewish tradition restates part of verse 23 in order to end the Book of Isaiah on a positive: "Every month on Rosh Chodesh and every week on Shabbat, everyone living will come to worship in my presence," says the LORD.

The New Moon is called in Hebrew nolad, a "newborn," and therefore foretells of the inevitable rebirth of the Jewish people and the centrality of Jerusalem at the End of Days.  "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great king" (Psalm 48:2). On Rosh Chodesh most synagogues recite "Hallel" (Psalms 113-118), which includes the great vision of all the nations of the earth coming before the LORD in the Messianic Kingdom:
 

הַלְלוּ אֶת־יהוה כָּל־גּוֹיִם
שַׁבְּחוּהוּ כָּל־הָאֻמִּים׃
כִּי גָבַר עָלֵינוּ חַסְדּוֹ
וֶאֱמֶת־יהוה לְעוֹלָם
הַלְלוּ־יָהּ׃

halelu et-Adonai kol-goyim
shabchuhu kol-ha'umim
ki gavar aleinu chasdo
ve'emet-Adonai le'olam
halelu-yah

Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol Him, all you peoples,
for great is His loyal love toward us;
the truth of the LORD endures forever.
Halleluyah! (Psalm 117)



How Many Jewish Temples?

Postscript:
There are several different "Temples" of the LORD (הֵיכַל יהוה) described in the Scriptures. First there is the Mishkan (i.e., Tabernacle), the pattern of which Moses received in visions at Mount Sinai (Exod. 25-40). King David later extrapolated from this original design the concept of the "First Temple," which his son Solomon later constructed at Moriah (2 Chron. 3:1). After the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC (2 Chron. 36:18-19), it was rebuilt by Zerubbabel and Joshua as the "Second Temple" (Ezra 5:1-2). This Temple was later refurbished by Herod during the time of the Messiah Yeshua but was later destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD (Matt. 24:1-2). There is yet to come a "Third Temple" (i.e., the Tribulation Temple) which the Messiah of evil will desecrate in the End of Days (2 Thess. 2:3-4, Rev. 11:1-2) during the period known as the Great Tribulation. This Temple will be demolished at the time of the Second Coming of Yeshua. Its purpose seems to be (for lack of a better way of stating this) as a "theater," or physical locus, for the confrontation between satan and the LORD.

Of course when Yeshua returns to Jerusalem, the City of the Great King, He will establish the Throne of David and restore true Temple worship by rebuilding the Temple. This is sometimes called the "Fourth Temple" (millennial temple) described in Ezekiel 40-48. The promises made to ethnic Israel will be fulfilled -- including the promise that Jerusalem will become the center of worldwide worship (Jer. 3:17, Isa. 66:23). Sacrifices at this Temple will be memorial in nature, though that is a bit unclear.  The Levites will be restored to the priesthood, but others from among the nations will also function as priests at this time (Isa. 66:21, Zech. 6:12-13).

The issue gets complicated because Yeshua metaphorically referred to His body as the Temple (John 2:19-21), and his followers are collectively regarded as members of this Temple (Eph. 2:19-22, 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Note further that some Christian theologians do not believe that a Fourth Temple will be literally built by the Messiah, though this conclusion is usually derived by "allegorizing" the words of the prophets and by regarding the church as "Israel."

The "Fifth Temple" will be the redemptive fulness of the the people of God experienced in the "Heavenly Jerusalem" that occurs after the 1,000 Millennial reign of the Messiah.  Strictly speaking, there will be no Temple building in the New Jerusalem, since God and the Lamb are the city's temple: "And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb" (Rev. 21:22).

Hebrew Audio File:

Click the following link to hear Isaiah 66:

Rosh Chodesh Blessing

The following (simplified) blessing can be recited to ask the LORD to help you for the coming new month:

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֵיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ חדֶשׁ טוֹב בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אָמֵן

ye·hi  ra·tzon  mil·fa·ne·kha  Adonai  E·lo·hey·nu  ve·lo·hey  a·vo·tey·nu
she·te·cha·desh  a·ley·nu  cho·desh  tov,  ba'a·do·ney·nu  Ye·shu·ah  ha·ma·shi·ach, a·men
 

"May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good month in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Amen."



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