Haftarah Parshat Devarim
(Isaiah 1:1 – 27)
July 17, 2010
6 Menahem Av 5770
(Isaiah 1:1 – 27)
One of the challenges of the book of Isaiah is found in the fact that Isaiah\’s inaugural prophecy is found in the sixth chapter of the book and not at the beginning. In chapter six, Isaiah confronts the people with their most critical sin: \”And God said to Him (Isaiah): \’Go say to the people: Hear, indeed, but do not understand; See, indeed, but do not grasp.\’\” (6:9) In other words, the people might physically hear God\’s message, but discernment is lacking.
Rabbi Mordechai Breuer notes that this theme is further elaborated in the first chapter: \”Hear O heavens and give ear, O earth, for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up and they have rebelled against Me! An ox knows its owner, an ass its master\’s crib: Israel does not know, My people takes no thought.\” (1:2-3) Human beings should be capable of mastering God\’s message, but have proven themselves a disappointment to God. Inanimate objects like the earth and the sky can bear witness to God\’s message and carry out His will. Animals are capable of awareness of the will of their owners but human beings have shown themselves incapable of discerning the will of their Creator. (Pirkei Isaiah, pp. 20-22)
This indictment is all the more poignant because God considers human beings, in particular, to be His children. His expectations are those of a parent who sees Himself in His children. He has endowed with capacities that inanimate objects and animals are incapable us. They have qualities similar to those of their \”Parent\”. Consequently, God expects not just acknowledgment of His will but also imitation of His ways.
This is the challenge facing us as God\’s creatures. The quality of our lives depends on it. The future of our people and nation depends on it as does the future of the world.
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.
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