(Isaiah 51:12- 52:12)
September 6, 2008
6 Elul 5768
One of the purposes of the prophet\’s words of consolation to the people of Israel was to quell their constant anxiety over the onslaught of their enemies. The prophet reminds them of God\’s constant presence and the ephemeral nature of the threats. More important, though, he reminds the people that they have a mission and that they should not let their anxiety get in the way of their responsibilities. They should remember that God\’s constant presence in their lives is for a purpose: \”For I the Lord your God who stirs up the seas into roaring waves, whose name is Lord of Hosts, have put My words in your mouth and sheltered you with My hand; I who planted the skies and made firm the earth have said to Zion: \’You are My people\’\” (Verses 15-16)
These words, which are here addressed to the entire people, are influenced by the words of the message of the earlier prophet, Jeremiah. In his prophecy similar words are directly to him in particular: \”The Lord put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: \’Herewith I put My words in your mouth. See I appoint you this day over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.\’ (Jeremiah 1:9-10)
Where Jeremiah was given the role of prophet to the nations in this earlier prophecy, the words of the prophet in the later part of the book of Isaiah are intended for the entire people. The whole of Israel are intended to be prophets to the nations of the world. This message is associated with the creation of the world and intended to be universal in nature. (See Shalom Paul, Isaiah 40-66, Mikra L\’Yisrael, p. 338)
The following midrash may have had this idea in mind when it interpreted the verse from Isaiah with an agenda in mind: \”Rabbi Joshua of Sikhnin in the name of Rabbi Levi: \’I have put My words in your mouth\’ – this refers to Torah. \’And have covered you with the shadow of My hand\’ – this refers to acts of loving kindness. This comes to teach that all who busy themselves with Torah and acts of loving kindness merit taking refuge in the shadow of the Holy One Blessed Be He.\” (Pesikta d\’Rav Kahana 19:6 Mandelbaum ed. p. 309)
The mandate of the Jewish people in the world is to study Torah and to bring God\’s message to the world through His words and our deeds. This mission should be relentlss and fearless. It has been planted in us and should be brought to fruition.
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.
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