This reflection is part of the ongoing Forest Hills Haftorah Series. The rest of the content can be found here: .

(כח) הֲל֨וֹא יָדַ֜עְתָּ אִם־לֹ֣א שָׁמַ֗עְתָּ

Have you not known???

Have you not heard!????

With these questions, our beloved Herald of Zion turns with bewilderment to his Judean contemporaries. How could they miss it!? There was something so clear, so immediate and undeniable, right before his very eyes, that he was astounded anyone would still be in the dark.

Miss what already!?

Well, he was hoping we'd ask. And so he wastes no time:

(כח) הֲל֨וֹא יָדַ֜עְתָּ אִם־לֹ֣א שָׁמַ֗עְתָּ אֱלֹהֵ֨י עוֹלָ֤ם ׀ יְהוָה֙ בּוֹרֵא֙ קְצ֣וֹת הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יִיעַ֖ף וְלֹ֣א יִיגָ֑ע אֵ֥ין חֵ֖קֶר לִתְבוּנָתֽוֹ׃ (כט) נֹתֵ֥ן לַיָּעֵ֖ף כֹּ֑חַ וּלְאֵ֥ין אוֹנִ֖ים עָצְמָ֥ה יַרְבֶּֽה׃ (ל) וְיִֽעֲפ֥וּ נְעָרִ֖ים וְיִגָ֑עוּ וּבַחוּרִ֖ים כָּשׁ֥וֹל יִכָּשֵֽׁלוּ׃ (לא) וְקוֹיֵ֤ יְהוָה֙ יַחֲלִ֣יפוּ כֹ֔חַ יַעֲל֥וּ אֵ֖בֶר כַּנְּשָׁרִ֑ים יָר֙וּצוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א יִיגָ֔עוּ יֵלְכ֖וּ וְלֹ֥א יִיעָֽפוּ׃ (פ)

(28) The Elohim-Eternal is YHWH! The creator of the ends of the earth!

He does not get fatigued, does not grow weary; There is no fathoming the extent of his wisdom!

He gives strength to the weary, and to those without power he increases fortitude.

Young lads might get fatigued and weary, and younguns surely stumble;

But those who put their hope in YHWH shall renew their strength! They will mount up with pinions like eagles, will run and not be fatigued, will walk and will not grow weary.

I have a weakness for passages in the TaNaKh which poetically speak about being able to soar like eagles, for eagles are the easy go-to for me when asked what animal I would be if I had my choice. In fact, I am so interested in flying that I went sky-diving twice! Obviously, that was before I ever read through the oracles of the Herald of Zion; Now I know all I ever had to do was hope in YHWH, and I wouldn't have to rely on a plane to get me up there! (Though I've been trying... and behold, still no wings.)

The Herald is not the only prophet in our history who speaks of the abundance of blessings that those who truly hope in YHWH will ultimately merit; But he might be one of the most poetic. One thing that catches my eye here is the progression of the verbs:

Flying --> Running --> Walking

On first glance, does this not seem like a kind of anti-climax? Once the Herald has announced to his listeners that by virtue of their faith they will be able to take to the heavens and soar, what's so exciting about running? About walking?

As usual, the Herald knows what he's doing. We just have to pause and think, before rushing on. In this case, I happened to come across such a beautiful interpretation in a work called Great Texts, edited by Reverend James Hastings and published in 1916. It's a bit of a longer comment, but I think you'll agree that it is worth the read.

As you go through it, it will be important to keep the context of the Herald in mind:

It is the dawn of National Renewal! The Babylonian exile is coming to an end! Judeans are returning to Jerusalem, with tools and blueprints in hand to immediately get to work rebuilding YHWH's Palace-Home and the city walls!

Now, let's turn to Great Texts:

There is no doubt that we have here a kind of historic treatment of the condition of Israel, of the way in which God’s people rise triumphantly above their difficulties, and then march onward in the greatness of their strength. What was the first thing they needed? They were in the grasp of the heathen, surrounded by a great wall of captivity. The iron bonds of the strong were around them, the high walls of imprisonment were there. They were like birds in a cage.

What do they require first? Why, eagles’ wings, of course, to escape from their prison. They must get up out of this imprisoning barrier some way or other, and God must lend them the strong wings of the eagle that they may soar until they surmount the barriers, and find themselves in the free heaven of liberty again.

What do they need next? They must begin their national life anew with enthusiasm. They must haste to build up Zion again. Their hands must not tire by night or day until they have completed the building of the temple of the Lord. Every nerve that belongs to them, every muscle, every power must be devoted to the task! They must run for a time, for there is haste and urgency, and much to be done in a short time.

Ah, but what then when all this enthusiasm, this first novelty, has passed away, what must they do then? Then they must begin the march of a long history, on, on, on, as the days go by, with each rising sun setting forward on the great national march again, bearing the heat and the burden of the day without fainting, from year to year, generation to generation, age to age, on and on they must walk in the power of the Lord.

What a read! According to this interpretation, the Herald is packing a ton into his words, as he lays out the blessings in the order that they will be needed in a kind of narrative progression: Flying over the walls of imprisonment (exile), followed by urgency and haste as walls, homes, and the Temple are rebuilt; And finally, the long-awaited return to "normalcy."

I'll give you another take on this line, this one much shorter, taken from the Old Testament Restoration Commentary (2020):

The man of faith may sometimes soar on eagles' wings, or run without wearing; but most of the time he will merely walk. And the real test of his faith comes, not when he flies or runs, but when he must plod along. It is in the monotony of everyday life that the man of faith reveals his true character.

I think there is such profound truth to this last statement.

What comes to mind for me is the prayer spectrum of kevah to kavannah, of having a fixed schedule and liturgy of prayer, regardless of sentiment, versus praying when and how someone feels so moved. In truth, I think one is built upon the other. The more prayer is made a habit, with one sticking to a routine regardless of whether one is in the mood to pray, the more prepared one's "prayer-muscles" will be when that moment of inspiration really hits. (Additionally, I think we are more primed to have such seemingly spontaneous moments if we do make prayer habitual.)

(below: kevah and kavannah; Whish is which?)

I'll share one personal anecdote on this: There is an ancient prayer in the Jewish siddur which I love; the modim, a prayer of gratitude. It's quite long, here is the first section:

We are thankful to you, for you are YHWH our elohim and the elohim of our forefathers forever and ever! The rock of our lives, the shield of our salvation for every generation! We thank you, and we declare your praise!

  • For our lives which are given over into your hands!;
  • For our very breaths which are entrusted to you!;
  • For your miracles which we experience every day!;
  • For your wonders and goodnesses of every moment - evening, morning and afternoon!

I must have prayed this thousands of times over the years; Three times a day (sometimes four!) every single day. Sometimes I would just mindlessly mumble it, other times I would have something specific in mind and try to put my heart into it.

And then came the night when I got into a potentially horrific bicycle accident in Israel. Thank partly to my helmet, but mostly to YHWH, I stood up nearly unscathed; and gee did I ever feel the fire as I raised my hands to YHWH-Almighty above and shouted out the modim prayer of gratitude!

By then, this was instinctual. I didn't think of it, didn't have to search for the words; They welled up from within and then came bursting forth like a geyser! But this was only possible due to having made prayer something that was familiar and comfortable, such that the words were right there at my beck-and-call, and the notion of conversing with YHWH was a matter-of-course.

As the Restoration Commentary says above, sometimes we might soar, and other times run; but usually we are plodding along. But I think that those moments of plodding are when, little by little over time, we equip ourselves with the tools and the abilities to soar when we need to; And was I ever soaring at that moment!

The Herald is a late figure in ancient Judean history, and oftentimes plays with themes and images that were planted by earlier poets and prophets. Let's look at a few passages that might have served as his inspiration.

The first example, possibly the most famous, comes from Exodus 19, just before YHWH's revelation to the Israelite collective shortly after the exodus from Egypt:

(ג) וּמֹשֶׁ֥ה עָלָ֖ה אֶל־הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֤יו יְהוָה֙ מִן־הָהָ֣ר לֵאמֹ֔ר כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לְבֵ֣ית יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְתַגֵּ֖יד לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ד) אַתֶּ֣ם רְאִיתֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשִׂ֖יתִי לְמִצְרָ֑יִם וָאֶשָּׂ֤א אֶתְכֶם֙ עַל־כַּנְפֵ֣י נְשָׁרִ֔ים וָאָבִ֥א אֶתְכֶ֖ם אֵלָֽי׃ (ה) וְעַתָּ֗ה אִם־שָׁמ֤וֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ בְּקֹלִ֔י וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֑י וִהְיִ֨יתֶם לִ֤י סְגֻלָּה֙ מִכָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים כִּי־לִ֖י כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (ו) וְאַתֶּ֧ם תִּהְיוּ־לִ֛י מַמְלֶ֥כֶת כֹּהֲנִ֖ים וְג֣וֹי קָד֑וֹשׁ אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּדַבֵּ֖ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

(3) Then Moshe went up to Elohim, and YHWH called to him from the mountain, saying:

"Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob, and declare to the people of Israel!

You have seen what I have done to Egypt!

And I have born you aloft upon the wings of eagles, and have brought you in to me!

And now, if you devote yourselves to heeding me, and you guard my covenant, then you shall be to me a treasure from amongst all of the nations! For the whole world is mine! And you shall be for me a Priestly Kingdom and Holy Nation!"

Moshe would go on to dutifully lead and care for the Israelite people and serve as the mediator between them and YHWH for the next 40 years!

At the very end of his life, just before passing on the mantle of leadership to his successor Yehoshua, Moses gathers the Israelties altogether for an important reminder:

(ט) כִּ֛י חֵ֥לֶק יְהֹוָ֖ה עַמּ֑וֹ יַעֲקֹ֖ב חֶ֥בֶל נַחֲלָתֽוֹ׃ (י) יִמְצָאֵ֙הוּ֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִדְבָּ֔ר וּבְתֹ֖הוּ יְלֵ֣ל יְשִׁמֹ֑ן יְסֹֽבְבֶ֙נְהוּ֙ יְב֣וֹנְנֵ֔הוּ יִצְּרֶ֖נְהוּ כְּאִישׁ֥וֹן עֵינֽוֹ׃ (יא) כְּנֶ֙שֶׁר֙ יָעִ֣יר קִנּ֔וֹ עַל־גּוֹזָלָ֖יו יְרַחֵ֑ף יִפְרֹ֤שׂ כְּנָפָיו֙ יִקָּחֵ֔הוּ יִשָּׂאֵ֖הוּ עַל־אֶבְרָתֽוֹ׃ (יב) יְהוָ֖ה בָּדָ֣ד יַנְחֶ֑נּוּ וְאֵ֥ין עִמּ֖וֹ אֵ֥ל נֵכָֽר׃ (יג) יַרְכִּבֵ֙הוּ֙ עַל־במותי [בָּ֣מֳתֵי] אָ֔רֶץ וַיֹּאכַ֖ל תְּנוּבֹ֣ת שָׂדָ֑י וַיֵּנִקֵ֤הֽוּ דְבַשׁ֙ מִסֶּ֔לַע וְשֶׁ֖מֶן מֵחַלְמִ֥ישׁ צֽוּר׃ (יד) חֶמְאַ֨ת בָּקָ֜ר וַחֲלֵ֣ב צֹ֗אן עִם־חֵ֨לֶב כָּרִ֜ים וְאֵילִ֤ים בְּנֵֽי־בָשָׁן֙ וְעַתּוּדִ֔ים עִם־חֵ֖לֶב כִּלְי֣וֹת חִטָּ֑ה וְדַם־עֵנָ֖ב תִּשְׁתֶּה־חָֽמֶר׃

(9) For YHWH's portion is his people, Yaakov his own allotment!

(10) He found him in a desert region, In an empty howling waste. He engirded him, watched over him, Guarded him as the pupil of his eye.

(11) Like an eagle who rouses his nestlings, gliding down to his young, So did he spread his wings and take him, Bear him along on his pinions; (12) YHWH alone guided him! No alien god at his side. (13) He set him atop the highlands, To feast on the yield of the earth;

He fed him honey from the crag, And oil from the flinty rock, (14) Curd of kine and milk of flocks; With the best of lambs, And rams of Bashan, and he-goats; With the very finest wheat— And foaming grape-blood was your drink

(below: The nestlings might take a moment to find. I spotted two of them. How about you?)

The Israelites loved bird-imagery! (And there are many other examples.) But note how in the two that we just looked at, YHWH is the eagle, protecting Israel and bearing her aloft, unlike the passage from the Herald, where it is Israel's faith in YHWH which enables her to grow her own wings. This, to me, seems to be unique; I have not found any other cases in the TaNaKh where Israel is able to keep herself aloft by virtue of her own pinions.

But on that note, I was recently so privileged to stumble upon a song, which I want to share with you here.

First of all... wow.

This gathering was arranged by an Israeli music-group called Orot (Lights). Here is how they describe themselves:

Orot's music flows through the depth of intuitive meditation, rises to ecstasy and celebration, all wrapped in the simple sensation of unconditional love. Original songs along side ancient tunes from the jewish religion and a variety of spiritual movements from around the world are being played and we invite all to sing along and explore mutual harmonies.

Well, I think they nailed it, did they ever. Intuitive meditation, ecstasy, and unconditional love. If it's not ecstasy I'm seeing on the smiling faces of everyone in the room, joining their voices together in song in an environment which shouts out fellowship, harmony, and unconditional acceptance... then I don't know what is.

But it's the words themselves that they're singing that I want to look at here:

Oh human-being!

Rise up to the heights! RISE UP!

For there is mighty-strength within you! You have wings of the wind, the wings of mighty eagles!

Don't spurn them, lest they spurn you;

Just seek them out, seek them, Oh human! And they will be found to you immediately!

This magnificent poem was written by one of the great figures of modern Israelite history, Rav Avraham Kook (1865-1935). He was a halachist, a philosopher, a Zionist, and of course, a poet! He is celebrated for having tried to build bridges between Orthodox Jews and secular Zionists when others were trying to build walls. During his lifetime, he faced tremendous push-back; His books were accused of containing sorcery and burned, he was called an ignorant bore, and if you can believe the level to which people will stoop, another respected halachist publicly made fun of him for his initials being able to form the word "vomit" (can you imagine???) !

And yet he persisted, relentlessly, being recognized by many for his genius, his creative thought, and his ahavath Yisrael, his love for all of his brothers and sisters, however fiercely they disagreed with or differed from him.

For good reason, he would end up being appointed the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, followed by the his appointment as the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Palestine in 1921.

Upon his passing, his funeral was attended by upwards of 20,000 mourners! (you can read more about him at his Wikipedia page here: ) .

When you read his poem, it should become immediately evident how a person with so much against him ultimately succeeded; Rav Kook had the wings of eagles.

And his message to all of us? Well, it's just as the Herald said; We have access to them too. Just reach out for them, and they are yours!

I find it significant how far-reaching the power of this imagery is. It was clearly meaningful to the Israelites and Judeans of yore; As it was for the Herald, and then Rav Kook 2.5 thousand years later. And judging from the faces of the participants in the get-together in the video above, it speaks to us just as deeply today.

There's another passage elsewhere in the TaNaKh that I think Rav Kook might be playing with in his poem, and I think the connection will be more apparent in the Hebrew.

It comes from the advice and encouragement a father once had for his son:

(ט) וְאַתָּ֣ה שְׁלֹמֹֽה־בְנִ֡י דַּע֩ אֶת־אֱלֹהֵ֨י אָבִ֜יךָ וְעָבְדֵ֗הוּ בְּלֵ֤ב שָׁלֵם֙ וּבְנֶ֣פֶשׁ חֲפֵצָ֔ה כִּ֤י כָל־לְבָבוֹת֙ דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ יְהוָ֔ה וְכָל־יֵ֥צֶר מַחֲשָׁב֖וֹת מֵבִ֑ין אִֽם־תִּדְרְשֶׁ֙נּוּ֙ יִמָּ֣צֵא לָ֔ךְ וְאִם־תַּֽעַזְבֶ֖נּוּ יַזְנִיחֲךָ֥ לָעַֽד׃

(9) And you, Shlomo my son; Know the elohim-of-your-father, and serve him with a full heart and with with yearning breath! For YHWH seeks out all hearts and understands all the intents of the mind.

If you seek him out, he will be found to you! But if you forsake him; he will abandon you forever.

If Rav Kook did indeed have the Chronicles and the oracles of the Herald before him, his poem would be quite a clever way of blending together all of the ideas; The wings, the seeking out (ד-ר-ש), the injunction not to abandon, lest you be abandoned.

I love the idea that begins to emerge from all this; While Rav Kook might not mention YHWH explicitly in his poem, it seems like he wrote it with a wink... YHWH is our wings! YHWH, who has born us aloft in the past, and wants to do so even now, and by seeking him out, reaching for him, he will avail himself, and he will be found!

The statement quoted in Chronicles above was spoken by none other than King David, a complicated figure, surely, but one whose desire for closeness with YHWH has never ceased inspiring awe.

Other prophets, speaking from their own experiences, back up the claim he makes to his son:

(יב) וּקְרָאתֶ֤ם אֹתִי֙ וַֽהֲלַכְתֶּ֔ם וְהִתְפַּלַּלְתֶּ֖ם אֵלָ֑י וְשָׁמַעְתִּ֖י אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃(יג) וּבִקַּשְׁתֶּ֥ם אֹתִ֖י וּמְצָאתֶ֑ם כִּ֥י תִדְרְשֻׁ֖נִי בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶֽם׃ (יד) וְנִמְצֵ֣אתִי לָכֶם֮ נְאֻם־יְהוָה֒ וְשַׁבְתִּ֣י אֶת־שביתכם [שְׁבוּתְכֶ֗ם] וְקִבַּצְתִּ֣י אֶ֠תְכֶם מִֽכָּל־הַגּוֹיִ֞ם וּמִכָּל־הַמְּקוֹמ֗וֹת אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִדַּ֧חְתִּי אֶתְכֶ֛ם שָׁ֖ם נְאֻם־יְהוָ֑ה וַהֲשִׁבֹתִ֣י אֶתְכֶ֔ם אֶל־הַ֨מָּק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁר־הִגְלֵ֥יתִי אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִשָּֽׁם׃

(12) When you call out to me, and you go and you pray to me,

I shall hear you!

And when you seek me, you shall find me, if you seek with all of your heart!

And I shall let myself be found to you!

This comes from a particular context; Jeremiah the Weeping Prophet (We explored this awhile ago here: ) explaining to his beloved Judeans that even in exile, redemption is possible.

Here's another passage which expresses the same conviction; This one from one of the prayer-poems:

(יא) וְיִבְטְח֣וּ בְ֭ךָ יוֹדְעֵ֣י שְׁמֶ֑ךָ כִּ֤י לֹֽא־עָזַ֖בְתָּ דֹרְשֶׁ֣יךָ יְהוָֽה׃

Those who trust in you know your name!

For you do not abandon those who seek you, O YHWH!

Note, yet again, just like in Chronicles and Jeremiah, the importance of actively seeking out YHWH, coupled with the assurance that he will be readily found. (Note the highlighted key-word in the Hebrew of the passages above.)

(below: How far would you go?)

There's one more passage in this weeks Haftorah which we have to look at, which I think you would agree is utterly beautiful and uplifting:

(ח) וְאַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עַבְדִּ֔י יַעֲקֹ֖ב אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּחַרְתִּ֑יךָ זֶ֖רַע אַבְרָהָ֥ם אֹהֲבִֽי׃ (ט) אֲשֶׁ֤ר הֶחֱזַקְתִּ֙יךָ֙ מִקְצ֣וֹת הָאָ֔רֶץ וּמֵאֲצִילֶ֖יהָ קְרָאתִ֑יךָ וָאֹ֤מַר לְךָ֙ עַבְדִּי־אַ֔תָּה בְּחַרְתִּ֖יךָ וְלֹ֥א מְאַסְתִּֽיךָ׃ (י) אַל־תִּירָא֙ כִּ֣י עִמְּךָ־אָ֔נִי אַל־תִּשְׁתָּ֖ע כִּֽי־אֲנִ֣י אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ אִמַּצְתִּ֙יךָ֙ אַף־עֲזַרְתִּ֔יךָ אַף־תְּמַכְתִּ֖יךָ בִּימִ֥ין צִדְקִֽי׃

(8-10) As for you, Israel; My servant Yaakov, whom I have chosen; The seed of Avraham my dearly-beloved! Whom I have drawn forth from the ends of the earth, and from the four corners I have called you!

I have said to you:

You are my servant! I choose you; I do not spurn you!

Do not fear; I am with you! Do not be frightened, for I am your elohim!

I strengthen you, I aid you, I support you with my righteous-right-hand!

There is no way I could have brought this reflection to a close without, at the very least, just quoting this passage even if I had nothing to say about it.

If I may suggest; Read through it again, but out-loud and slowly, savoring each line as you go.

But before you begin, note that the "you" is in the singular; And these words can't be directed to the historical figure Yaakov/Yisrael, who had long since passed nearly a thousand years before the Herald.

Rather, YHWH here is speaking to every single zerah-Avraham, every seed-of-Avraham who will ever walk the earth. Is Avraham your great-great- (etc.) grandfather? Then this is a personal letter. (Maybe as you read, you can even substitute you own name for Yaakov/Yisrael.)

As much as we have been encouraged to seek out YHWH and find him immediately, what we see from here is that YHWH has been the one seeking us out all along, even to the ends of the earth, if that's what it takes.

Here's a question worth thinking about; How would your day look if you really internalized this idea; That out of everyone in the world, YHWH chose you, specifically, to be his loyal and dedicated and devoted servant? How would you walk, how would you talk, how would you be, knowing there was a sacred task for which the one with unfathomable wisdom selected you, knowing only you could handle it, and it would ultimately make you better, the world better, and would bring you that much closer to him?

That is what the Herald is summoning us to appreciate.