Isaiah – Chapter 5

The Disappointing Vineyard

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

Isaiah starts this chapter with the allegory of a vineyard. His beloved friend had a vineyard in a fertile field, which he fenced in and cleared of debris. He planted it and placed a watchman in it, but instead of grapes, wild berries grew there. This is like the people of Jerusalem. G-d cleared the land and planted the people, but His “crop” did not live up to expectations. Therefore, the metaphorical “fence” will be torn down and other nations will be able to trample over the “vineyard” that is the Jewish people. It won’t be pruned or hoed and worms will run rampant, unchecked. G-d will not water the vineyard, which, beyond a metaphor, could also literally refer to a drought. In short, G-d is disappointed with His crop – He planted justice and righteousness, but what sprouted was injustice and cries for aid.

Next, Isaiah says woe to those who join houses or fields together in an effort to crowd the weak and poor out of their land. G-d says that these mansions will be emptied of their residents and these acres of land will produce a fraction of their proper capacity.

Isaiah also says woe to those who live to party. They get up early and start drinking and continue to do so until the night. They have all sorts of instruments playing, but they are unconcerned with G-d and Torah. People will be exiled for spurning G-d to pursue physical pleasures, dying of hunger and thirst as payment in kind. As they gobble up food and drink, the grave will gobble them up, humbling such haughty people.

When G-d executes judgment against such people, His name will be praised. The righteous, who are compared to lambs, will be free to “graze” as they please.

Woe to those who draw sin as one pulls carts with ropes. They question the prophets who remind them of G-d’s will, disbelieving that the time of their judgment will ever arrive. They are so confused, they think that good is bad and bad is good, light is dark and dark is light, bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. They consider themselves wise and profound, but they’re not.

Woe to those who should use their strength in the defense of the needy, but who squander their energies on partying and woe to those who pervert justice for bribes. They will be consumed like straw in a fire for rejecting the word of G-d.

G-d has become angry with His nation and has hit them, causing the mountains to tremble. He will raise a flag signaling the other nations that they can attack the Jews. The other nations will enthusiastically leap at the chance, not stopping to rest during the day, nor taking the time to undress at night. The armies of the nations will be prepared to wage war on the Jews, with their weapons, horses and chariots all in peak condition.

The king of Assyria, who would exile the Northern Kingdom of Israel, is compared to a lion roaring and growling at the nation. Israel will look for aid, but only find darkness.

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