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Isaiah says of the future of Jerusalem
'As a young man marries a maiden, so will your children espouse you. Your G-d will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.'(Isaiah 62:5)
This Haftara starts ten verses on the end of the previous one, and maintains the same theme, in equally powerful and poignant language. The text continues to express the Messianic climax of the very lengthy Book of Isaiah. Isaiah was a navi: an individual who personally received the word of G-d, and conveyed it to the people. Isaiah himself lived at around 720 BCE. That was when both the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were going through spiritual and moral decline. In consequence, his earlier prophesies - messages directly from G-d - foresaw the exiles of both the northern Kingdom of Israel (which took place in his lifetime), and ultimately the southern Kingdom of Judah.
The scene of the middle section of Isaiah is some 150 years later - relating to the end of the Babylonian exile. The text mentions Cyrus II, Emperor of the Medes and the Persians, by name. G-d declares him to be His shepherd and His anointed (44:28 and 45:1). Following his declaration, some of the Jews returned, physically and spiritually, to rebuild a much-devastated Holy Land. The last eleven chapters of the Book - containing the text of this, and the previous Haftara - relate to the final redemption and the final end of the Diaspora: when 'all Israel will emerge out of its nations of dispersion and reassemble on G-d's sacred mountain of Jerusalem.' (66:20)
The Book of Isaiah contains deeply inspiring words of encouragement, applying to both the Israelites and the world at large. It repeatedly stresses, as seen in this Haftara, that the Israelite exiles and Divine punishments suffered will be temporary, and that G-d will eventually redeem His people and settle them permanently in His land, in honor, prosperity, and with worldwide influence.
The Prophet in the text has turned to Jerusalem and speaks to her with deeply inspiring words. For her years of exile are in their final throes, and the ecstatic time of final redemption is at hand. Zion will be clothed in 'garments of salvation' and 'as a bride adorning herself with her jewels.' (61:10) Indeed, a visit to the Jerusalem of today will see how well its builders have adorned her. The city fairly glows at the visitor - from the interior of its sparkling ultra modern bus station proclaiming, in big gold letters, 'May there be peace inside your walls and safety inside your palaces' (Psalms 122:7), to its lovingly and tastefully rebuilt Jewish Quarter of the Old City which harmonizes treasures and discoveries from both Temple periods with traditional Jewish life in the modern era. With those seeds planted by Man, G-d will bring the final redemption 'as a garden makes its seeds grow.' (62:11) And this process will be helped along by the Israelites who themselves must 'clear a path for the people… pave it and clear away stones'. (62:10) They must make it possible for the exiles to return to the Land of Israel without undue difficulty. (Da'ath Hamikra)
The words of G-d through the Prophet (Rashi, Radak) continue: 'For Zion's sake I will not be silent and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be still, until her victory emerges like a brilliant light, and her salvation like a burning torch.' (62:1). G-d will not rest until Jerusalem is physically and spiritually restored to its true role in the Creation - a city of peace, with the Divine Presence at its due intensity. The Targum Yonatan goes further - he renders this famous verse as a warning that as long as Israelite nation is dispersed, G-d Himself 'will not be silent' - there will never be peace and tranquility in the world… And G-d will bring the violent fall of Edom - symbolizing Israel's oppressors - at a time when He will look and find 'no-one to help' (63:5). In modern terms, that could well include the international community's abandoning Israel out of realpolitik considerations - their perceived greater political and financial gain in supporting the other side… He will do so because He himself 'was troubled by their sufferings' (63:9) - the Israelites might have sinned, but they did 'did not act falsely' (63:8). This may well mean that they still accepted that they were His people even if they strayed from His ideals. They remained His children - even in the darkest times, G-d suffers with Israel the same way a father feels his own children's pain…. (Malbim)
As stated above, the Haftara carries a powerful message describing how the world of Israel will ultimately be rebuilt. The opening verses of the Haftara describe Zion and Jerusalem as a bride who has found her groom. 'As a young man marries a maiden, so will your children espouse you. Your G-d will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.'(62:5)
The rebuilding of Israel clothed in the image of a (first time to marry 62:5) bridegroom and bride has special significance. One would have expected the prophecy to be in different terms. The relationship between the Israelites (the bridegroom) and the Holy Land and City (the bride) has been a very long and often extremely painful one. But the Hebrew words used - bachur and bethula - suggest youth and virginity… something that seems to contradict our tortuous and painful history over thousands of years.
This apparent contradiction brings out the miracle of the redemption. For we ourselves live to a great extent in the past - even though it sadly touches the present. Much of current Jewish thinking is bound up with the Holocaust, and not just in the minds of those who suffered under it, but those born after it, who find themselves both spiritually and psychologically influenced by its unspeakable and unimaginable terrors. Jews of all ages are psychological victims of the pogroms, Hitler, and more recently, the Jewish nation's traumas following terrorist and suicide bombings.
This is the beauty of this prophecy. When the Final Redemption arrives, the past will not be forgotten, but it will not be allowed to depress the spirits of the people. They will be able to rejoice in becoming G-d's people in the highest way possible, without wallowing in the catastrophes of Jewish history. They will cease to live in the past and become part of the glorious present. They will lose the Holocaust and persecution mentality. Events will not be on the grubby, erased paper of yesterday, but on the shining new paper of today… Like an innocent young bridegroom marrying an innocent young bride…
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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