of Parshat Devarim - 5760
DePuranita" - Third Haftarah of Punishment
just ended contained Rosh
Chodesh Av, that marked the beginning of the "Nine Days."
Hard upon us is the Fast of Tisha
B'Av, the Ninth of Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year.
The day is called that because on it fell the Disaster of the
"Meraglim," the Spies who betrayed HaShem
and the Land of Israel, on the verge of the Jewish People's entry into the
On that day
fell also the destruction of both of the Holy Temples built by our People,
the First by the Babylonians,
the Second by the Romans, that had together stood for some one thousand
years. Later, there came also
the destruction of many Torah communities
during the frightful Period of the Crusades, the Expulsion of the entire
Jewish Community by the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella
in 1492, and tragedies on and on.
It was on
that very day that Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World, where
he was to discover America, thus opening a new pathway for the Jewish
People in the Exile, It is
also the day that is destined, according to Jewish Tradition, to become
one of the happiest of the Jewish year, at the time of the Mashiach,
May he arrive soon and in our days.
is called "Shabbat Chazon" after the beginning of the Haftarah,
Chazon Yeshayahu ben Amotz, the "Vision of Yeshayahu, the son
of Amotz. RASHI
explains the word Chazon, Vision, as the hardest, the most stringent
of words introducing a prophetic message to a People, such as Masa,
Burden, Dvar HaShem, the Word of HaShem, etc.
chanted to the same haunting melody as is Megilat
Eichah, the Scroll of Lamentations written by the Prophet Yirmiyahu,
who was an eye-witness to the Destruction.
Yeshayahu was an eye-witness as well, but only in the
minds eye of his prophetic vision. In the external reality, it hadnt yet happened.
It still could have been averted, if only the People would have
begins by the dating of Yeshayahu as having prophesied during the reigns
of the following four Kings of Yehudah:
Uzziah, Yotam, Achaz and Yechizkiyahu.
that his period of prophecy entered as well into the reign of King Menashe,
and this fact would have been recorded had not Menashe killed the Prophet.
to Yeshayahu, Does it not say in the Torah Man cannot see Me
and live (Shemot 33:20); yet you said, And I saw HaShem
sitting on His Throne, Awesome and Terrifying.
In his zeal for the Torah, King Menashe made sure that
HaShems cautionary response to Moshe in Shemot, concerning not living,
many others have asked, why it is that Yeshayahu reversed Moshes
language, in which he also called heaven and earth as witnesses against
the People of Israel by saying,
O heavens, and I will speak;
One of the
answers given is that Moshe, called the Man of G-d, was, as it were,
closer to the heavens, so give ear was more appropriate for the
heavens, while Yeshayahu was closer to the earth; therefore, for him,
give ear was more appropriate for the earth.
thought on this verse is that the word Yeshayahu used for rebelled
has particular applicability to a shomer, one who is retained by
another to guard an object of value for its owner.
HaShem charged the Jewish People with the task of guarding a
precious object; namely, the Torah; and they were guilty of
pshia, irresponsible negligence in the fulfillment of
knows its owner,
does not understand.
The ox and
the donkey are not subject to reward and punishment; yet, they
perform their appointed tasks unquestioningly.
But the People of Israel, who know or should know full well that
they will be rewarded if they follow the Laws of the Torah, and will be
punished if they dont, refuse to obey the Commandments of My Torah. (RASHI)
unto the sinful nation,
is awful. Once they were
called a "holy nation;" and they became a "sinful
nation." Once a
"holy nation;" now become a "nation burdened with
sin." Once they were
called a "seed blessed by HaShem;" now they are called a
"sinful seed." Once
called "children of the Living G-d;" now they are called
"children who have become corrupt." (Metzudat David)
metaphor of wounds, pus and infection from head to toe, depicting the
moral state of the Jewish People:
treated with oil."
on Targum Yonatan:
without the slightest "hirhur Teshuvah,"
thought of Repentance;
As a result,
country is desolate,
the Daughter of Zion is left,
it not for the L-rd of Hosts,
But it is
still before the Destruction. The
last verse is "what might happen very soon" if disaster is not
averted by Repentance.
of you," the Prophet says,
to the Word of G-d,
five verses are like hammer blows delivering the message that without
Repentance, without "Return" of the heart and the soul, all
Ritual and all forms of Sacrificial Worship are meaningless.
what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?
purpose of Sacrifices is to bring a person to Confession and Repentance.
If you refuse to do "Teshuvah," I do not want your
sacrifices. (Metzudat David)
you come to appear before Me
"hearts," as it were, are far apart, you are an unwelcome guest
in My House. (RASHI)
bringing false offerings,
from the illusion that it is possible that it is possible to worship
HaShem and false gods simultaneously.
As Eliyahu HaNavi said to the People, "If Hashem is the true
G-d, then worship Him, and if the Baal is, then worship him."
The evil thoughts that are in your heart when you cross my
threshold make your worship an insufferable contradiction! (RASHI)
New Moons and Holidays
forgiven you so many times; when you come on your New Moons and Holidays
asking for additional atonement, it is finally too much! (RADAK)
when you extend your hands to Me in Prayer,
extend your hands to me in Prayer, I cannot accept your prayers, because
yours are the bloody hands of murderers!
presents a ten-point program of "Behavior Modification Therapy"
(RASHI: corresponding to the Ten Days of Teshuvah, and corresponding to
the ten verses that comprise each of the Prayers "Malchiyot,
Zichronot, V'Shofarot," "Kingliness, Remembrances, and
Soundings of the Shofar,"
three prayers embedded in a Shemoneh
Esray of Rosh
to do Good;
now," says Yeshayahu, between two simple alternatives, "Eat or
are willing and obedient,
you refuse and rebel,
Trial begins, with the ground rules spelled out by Rabbi Elazar HaKappar
in Pirkei Avot
living will be judged - in order that they know, teach, and become aware
that He is Almighty; He is the One Who Forms, He is the Creator; He is the One Who Understands, He is the Judge, He is the
Witness, He is the Litigant, He will ultimately Render the Verdict;
Blessed is He, before Whom there is no iniquity, no forgetfulness, no
favoritism, and no acceptance of bribes, for Everything is His.
And Know, that everything is according to the reckoning
Prosecuting Attorney (that courtroom player wasn't specified in the ground
rules, unless it was the "One Who Understands"), with Yeshayahu
using language that will be borrowed by Yirmiyahu in Megilat Eichah:
the Faithful City become a harlot?
Yeshayahu mean by Righteousness spending the night in Yerushalayim?
Let me mention two explanations from RASHI:
shel Shachar," the Daily Morning Sacrifice, would atone for sins
committed during the night and the "Tamid shel Bain HaArbayim,"
the Daily Evening (or Twilight) Sacrifice would atone for sins committed
during the day.
In a capital
case, when the "Bet Din," the Court, did not find any basis for
acquittal, they would not act to impose the death penalty, but would let
the case "rest overnight;" perhaps one of the Judges would think
of a reason for acquittal.
explanation, not found in RASHI, might be this:
We find in Megilat
Ruth that Boaz says to Ruth, "Rest overnight;" - This was
part of the story of the Redemption of the fields of Machlon and Kilyon,
and of Ruth the Moabitess. Ruth
would go on to become an ancestress of King David, who purchased
Yerushalayim, and whose son built the Holy Temple there, that became a
resting place for the Divine Presence.)
But now, the
spirit of the City is not one of saving life, but of Murder, the wanton
destruction of human life.
would use fraudulent money,
princes are rebellious,
"Judge" pronounces the verdict:
says the Master,
pass My Hand over you,
is an important transition in meaning, marked by a transition in the way
the Haftarah is chanted, from the melody of Eichah to the normal Haftarah
will return your Judges as at the beginning,
will be redeemed in Justice,
supposed to be a "Haftarah of Punishment."
Why is it that we stop on a positive note? After all, the very next verse in Yeshayahu, not included in
the Haftarah, returns to the theme of punishment!
may be that even in a "Haftarah of Punishment," CHAZAL did not
want to emphasize the punishment aspect or rather, they didn't want
"punishment" to have the last word.
For if so, what would be the purpose of the whole exercise?
Symphony of the History of Israel would not end on a note of triumph, what
would have been the purpose of the composition?
Rather, the purpose of "Puranut," of Divine Punishment
itself, is "Nechama," Consolation.
Just as the punishment administered by a parent to a child is meant
for the improvement of the child, the punishment of our People should be seen as an attempt by "Avinu She-BaShamayim,"
Our Father in Heaven, to
improve us and move us along the Path to the Coming of the Mashiach.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU