(Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10)
October 13, 2001
The essence of the opening verses of the Torah, describing creation, are found in the following words of Moses Maimonides, the great 12-13th century Spanish – North African sage and philosopher: “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a First Being. He it is who brought all things into being and all the beings in the heavens and on earth enjoy existence only as a result of His true being. If it could be imagined that He does not exist nothing else could have existed. But if it could be imagined that no other beings, apart from God existed, God alone would still exist, and would not cease to exist because they ceased to exist since all creatures need Him but He, blessed be He, does not need them. Consequently, God’s true nature is different from the nature of all of His creations.” (adapted from the Mishneh Torah Yesode Torah 1:1-3)
This theme is implied by the word used to describe God at the beginning of the book of Genesis: “Bore” – “Creator”: “When God began to create (bore) the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). This allusion is also echoed in the opening line of the haftarah: “Thus said God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what it brings forth, who gave breath to the people upon it and life to those who walk thereon.” (Isaiah 42:5) God is the source of creation, the essence behind all being.
What then is the human role in this awareness? Isaiah describes it in the following to verses: “I, the Lord have summoned you, and I have grasped you by the hand. I created you and appointed you a “covenant people” – a light unto the nations.” (verse 6)
“You are My witnesses – declares the Lord – My servant, whom I have chosen. To the end that you may take thought, and believe in Me, and understand that I am He: before Me no god was formed, and after Me none shall exist. (43:10)
The purpose of Israel’s choseness is that they should be a people who know God. This knowledge goes beyond mere recognition. It also implies acceptance of the responsibility to serve God and to bear witness to God’s role as our creator. (see Meshech Hochmah – Rabbi Meir Simchah from Dvinsk on verse 43:10)
What concrete action can the Jew do to bear witness to the basic truth of God’s reality? A good way to begin to assert this awareness is through the observance of Shabbat. The observance of Shabbat proclaims to everyone our cognizance and belief that God is our Creator and the Source of our being. (see Introduction to Hilchot Shabbat – Mishneh Brurah) Our sincerity will ultimately inspire the world.\’, \’Ruth Lichterman in memory of Esther and Morris Pitkowitz, Annie and Judge Benjamin Friedman in memory of Avram Guyer, Mary and Max Friedman, Brenda, Doug, Elayna, Marly and Alex Zack in honor of the endless love and generosity of our parents and grandparents Rose Ann and Bernard Rosenthal and Maureen Zack, Ina and Murray Pitt in honor of Sarah and Irving Pitt, Susan, Mark, Yossi, Allie and Eden Lichterman with great love in honor of our mother and grandmother Ruth Lichterman.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem offers students of all backgrounds the skills for studying Jewish texts. We are a vibrant, open-minded egalitarian community of committed Jews who learn, practise and grow together. Our goal is to provide students the ability and desire to continue Jewish learning and practice throughout their lives. Rashei Yeshiva: Rabbi Joel Levy & Dr. Joshua Kulp. Rabbi Joel Roth, Rosh Yeshiva Emeritus . Sponsors – The Conservative Yeshiva would like to thank the following for their generous support of the Haftarah Commentary: