Haftarah for First Day of Pesach
Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2-6:1, 6:27
“The Wave From the Ocean Which Renews Itself”
We all know that Pesach celebrates the yetziat mitzraim (exodus from Egypt). The four haftarat of each of the four days of Yom Tov of Pesach each mark a Pesach which occurred in either the past or projected future of the Jewish people. Today’s Haftarah is from the Book of Joshua at the conquest and entrance of the B’nai Yisrael into the land of Canaan.
The text of the haftarah is divided as follows.
What overall theme connects all the components of this haftarah? It is the power of a past event to renew itself and grip us with even greater power and energy at a later time. This is analogous to a wave which erupts from an ocean and grasps us. No matter how many times we have that experience, the next wave emerges from the same ocean water, in the same manner as previously, but washes us yet again with a renewed force. So let’s see how this sacred wave occurs in the events of the haftarah.
Consider how a past event can echo in our secular lives woo with new power and energy. What about an annual significant sporting event – the World Series or the Super Bowl? Certainly we have “done” it before but the circumstance and event are renewed in our national culture annually and freshly. It comes along with a new power and energy as if happening for the first time.
How about in personal life? Those of us who are grandparents – consider the birth of a grandchild! Surely we have already gone through the birth of a new member to our family with a child? As the comedian Jerry Seinfeld once quipped “our children are our replacements.” With each “replacement” that comes along – either with a child or a grandchild, the event is as new. It happens with a renewed power and energy even though we have done it before.
And those of us who visit Israel, over and over again? Likely, we still feel the rush as the plane sets down on the Holy Land, yet once again. Each time it is as a sacred wave to come fresh and with new power perhaps even greater than the previous time.
So we can recognize this theme of the haftarah – a past event, either sacred or secular, renewing and echoing yet again with equal power to the first time it happened.
The haftarah commentary for the first day of Pesach was written by Rabbi Gerald L. Zelizer, Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen NJ. Rabbi Zelizer is a fourth generation rabbi who was born in Columbus, Ohio. He was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he also received a Masters in Hebrew Literature (1964). Rabbi Zelizer has written over 70 op/eds on matters of religion and American society for USA TODAY and also has written extensively for many other journals and newspapers, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and many major Jewish publications.