Haftorah This Week
Welcome to Haftorah This Week, the place where you will find thoughts and reflections by CLAL faculty and associates on this week's Haftorah.
Israel's sin is more than abstract error. It is concrete unfaithfulness to their covenantal relationship with the Holy One of Israel. The Divine partner is presented as a parent who, having lovingly raised his children, finds that they have turned their backs on him and rebelled. The covenantal relationship was meant to endow the people with ever increasing spiritual responsibility. In fact, as the people "matured," their relationship with the Divine degenerated.
Punishment and retribution have not helped. Punishment works only if the offender understands what has been done wrong. But the people did not grasp their error. They would not see that the fundamental call of the covenant is to a social ethic rooted in justice and responsibility for the vulnerable and disadvantaged. They confused the life of the Temple with their relationship to the Hole One. They preferred a "religion." They would not understand that sacrifices and solemn assemblies are precious occasions of communion with the Divine only if the requisite demands for justice and caring are met.
The Divine voice in Isaiah offers two alternatives. In either case, the divine purpose will not be defeated. The people may respond to the voice of reason and achieve a new understanding. If they do, there is no earlier sin which will not be forgiven and transformed into a blessing.
Since they persist in living as rogues and thieves, they inherit the second, less pleasant, alternative. Rather than being transformed to virtues, impurities have to be forcibly burnt away. Justice can be returned and Jerusalem restored to faithfulness, but only after the agony and torment of a world distorted by divine punishment and vengeance.
The Divine voice in Isaiah is existentially realistic. In a society where exploitation and oppression characterize human relationships, "healing" is possible, but the therapy is painful. Isaiah promises no kindergarten in which, no matter how destructively we have lived, all is effortlessly forgiven. Instead, there is a disturbing reminder that covenantal choice entails serious responsibility and grave consequence.
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