Parashat D’varim (Words)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 1:1-3:22
Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1–27
Shabbat Hazon (Vision)
This week’s reading from the Haftarah is the last of the three weeks’ reading prior to the ninth of Av (known as Tisha b’Av), which is the day the Jewish people remember some of the most horrific events in our history, such as the first and second destruction of the Temple, as well as the exile of the people of Israel into the diaspora.
This specific shabbat is called “Shabbat Hazon”, which means “vision”; it comes from Isaiah 1:1:
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
This week’s Parashah from Deuteronomy 1 opens with the description of the history of the journey of the children of Israel from out of Egypt. It goes all the way to verse 8 which speaks of God’s great promise to them:
See, I have placed the land before you; go in and take inheritance of the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and their descendants after them.
What an amazing promise from a faithful God! It is not only a promise of hope, but also something to look forward to after the great suffering that the children of Israel endured during their time in Egypt. As Moses continues to share and speak to the people of Israel, we read in Deuteronomy 1:9-12:
And I spoke to you at that time, saying, “I am not able to endure you alone. The LORD your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number. May the LORD, the God of your fathers increase you a thousand times more than you are, and bless you, just as He has promised you! How can I alone endure the burden and weight of you and your strife?”
Moses speaks of the promise of the blessings, but also raises a question regarding how he can endure the burden and strife of the children of Israel. Sadly, the burden, weight, and strife that Moses refers to have carried Israel throughout our history. It is the tragedy of not being satisfied with the plenty that God gave, which comes from selfish ambition.
Moses uses the word “אֵיכָ֥ה” in Hebrew (Aye-cha) which refers to, “How, or with what power, or to where?” Regarding what he was saying here, I believe he was raising this question since he could not lead them in his own strength, and he knew that he would need the help of the other leaders to carry that burden.
I find it interesting that as we continue to read from Deuteronomy 1:19-33 we are reminded once again of the twelve leaders that Moses sends to scout the land, leaders that other than two, caused Israel to rebel against God.
Returning to Isaiah’s vision, we find the same word “אֵיכָ֥ה” once again when we read in Isaiah 1:21:
How the faithful city has become a prostitute, she who was full of justice! Righteousness once dwelt in her, but now murderers.
Isaiah is wondering how Zion (Israel) turned away from God to follow or prostitute herself with other gods. These are some very harsh words that Isaiah speaks to Israel; they are a direct continuation of the words in Isaiah 1:2:
Listen, heavens, and hear, earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Sons I have raised and brought up, but they have revolted against Me.”
It is interesting that during the three Sabbaths of what is called the “Sabbath of Lamentations” we also read from Jeremiah. Jeremiah also used the word “אֵיכָ֥ה” in Jeremiah 8:8-9 when he writes:
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the Law of the LORD is with us’? but behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what kind of wisdom do they have?”
My dear brothers and sisters, in what direction will we go if we walk away from the Lord and His precepts? I personally believe that we will go in the direction of self-destruction; the events happening all around us are a great proof of this.
What kind of wisdom will we be using? The answer is very simple, the wisdom of the world, which will again lead us to self-destruction.
So what can we do? Isaiah 1:10-20 gives us the answer:
Hear the word of the LORD, You rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah!“What are your many sacrifices to Me?” says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courtyards? Do not go on bringing your worthless offerings, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the proclamation of an assembly— I cannot endure wrongdoing and the festive assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am tired of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you offer many prayers, I will not be listening. Your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Stop doing evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, obtain justice for the orphan, plead for the widow’s case.
“Come now, and let us debate your case,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
As we are finishing these three very special Sabbath days of Lamentations, let me encourage you that there is still hope, and with the Lord, after every destruction can come restoration.
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