The Haftarah for the Fast of Yom Kippur

Isaiah, translated by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 8/23/2004

The Haftarah for the Fast of Yom Kippur:
Isaiah 57:14-58:14
[Slightly midrashic translation]

And God said:
Open up, open up, Clear a path!
Clear away all obstacles
From the path of My People!
For so says the One
Who high aloft forever dwells,
Whose Name is Holy:

I dwell on high, in holiness,
And therefore with the lowly and humiliated,
To breathe new life into the humble,
To give new life to the broken-hearted.

I will not do battle against you forever,
I will not be angry with you forever.
From Me comes the breath that floats out to make the world.
I breathe the breath of life, I am the Breath of Life.

For your sin of greed
I grew angry and smashed you,
I even hid My face.
Yet you wander off the path as your own heart,
wayward, takes you.
I see the path you need ---- and I will heal you.
I will guide you and comfort you
With words of courage and of comfort
For those who mourn among you.
Peace, peace ... shalom, shalom!... to those who are far and near,
Says the Breath-of-Life ---
And I will heal you.

But the wicked are like a troubled sea
Which cannot rest,
Whose waters toss up mire and mud.
There is no peace, said my God,
For the wicked.

Cry out aloud, don't hold back,
Lift up your voice like the shofar!
Tell My people what they are doing wrong,
Tell those who call themselves the "House of Jacob" their misdeeds.
For day after day they go out searching for Me,
They take some kind of pleasure in getting to know My ways ---
As if they were a people that actually did righteous deeds
And never ignored the just rulings of their God.

They keep asking Me for the rules of justice
As if they would take delight in being close to God.

They say: "Why is it that we have fasted, and You don't see our suffering?
We press down our egos --- but You don't pay attention!"

Look! On the very day you fast you keep scrabbling for wealth;
On the very day you fast you keep oppressing all your workers.

Look! You fast in strife and contention.
You strike with a wicked fist.

You are not fasting today in such a way
As to make your voices heard on high.

Is that the kind of fast that I desire?
Is that really a day for people to "press down their egos"?

Am I commanding you to droop your heads like bulrushes
And lie around in sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast day,
The kind of day that the God of the Burning Bush would wish?


This is the kind of fast that I desire:

Unlock the shackles put on by wicked power!
Untie the ropes of the yoke!
Let the oppressed go free,
And break off every yoke!

Share your bread with the hungry.
Bring the poor, the outcasts, to your house.
When you see them naked, clothe them;
And from your own flesh and blood don't hide yourself.

Then your light will burst through like the dawn;
Then when you need healing it will spring up quickly;
Then your own righteousness will march ahead to guard you.
And a radiance from YHWH will reach out behind to guard you.
Then, when you cry out, YHWH will answer;
Then, when you call, God will say: "Here I am!"

If you banish the yoke from your midst,
If you rid yourself of scornful finger-pointing
And words of contempt;
If you open up your life-experience to the hungry
And soothe the life that has been trampled under foot,

Then even in darkness your light will shine out
And your moments of gloom turn bright as noonday.
Then the Breath of Life will always be your guide,
Will soothe your own life in your own times of dryness
And strengthen your bones when they are weary.

Then you shall be like a garden given water,
Like a wellspring whose waters never fail.
Those who spring from you shall rebuild the ancient ruins
And you shall lay foundations for the coming generation.
You shall be called "Those who mend torn places,"
You shall be called "Those who build lanes to live in."

If you refrain from trampling my Renewal-time
And from being busy-busy on My holy day;
If you will not only call Renewal-time delightful
But also turn far from your usual way
And set aside your business and your chatter
To be yourselves the rays by which God's Holiness
Can turn this world into a radiant joy ---

Then indeed you will find delight in YHWH.
For then --- when you have joined the lowly ---
I will set you with Me astride the heights of earth.
Then --- when you feed others --- I will let you eat your fill
From what is truly due you as the heirs of Jacob.

For this word come from the Mouth that
Breathes all life.


Jewish and Interfaith Topics: