Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Week 30 (Book 2): Isaiah and Giving All the Credit to G-d


HAAZINU: How can one [person] pursue a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their [Mighty] Rock has sold them out, and the Lord has given them over? (Deuteronomy 32:30)

HAFTORAH: For by You I run upon a troop; By my G-d I scale a wall. (II Samuel 22:30)

QUALITY TO ACQUIRE THE TORAH: He Claims No Credit For His Achievements (Einoh Machazik Tovah L’atzmo)

PROPHET: Isaiah

LEVITICAL CITY: Beth-shemesh (city of Judah on the border)

Week Thirty is the last week of Nissan and includes Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) as well as the yahrzeit of Yehoshua. Haazinu’s verse for this week discusses the above-nature aspects of the persecution against the Jewish people, in which one or two people could pursue a thousand or even ten thousand. As far-fetched as this might sound, this actually happened during the Holocaust. On the other hand, during Yehoshua’s conquering of the Land of Israel, it was the Jews that were able to pursue the other nations, even though they were much smaller today. The same is true for Israel’s more recent wars, such as the War of Independence and the Six-Day War.

The Haftorah is once again more in line with the positive interpretation, reflecting this exact concept. King David talks about how he alone is able to run upon an entire troop of fighters, and how miraculously he’s able to even scale a wall.

The quality for this week, yet again, is about humility, about not taking credit for one’s achievements. Credit must be given to G-d, as reflected in the verse above: “For by You I run upon a troop; By my G-d I scale a wall.”

This week’s prophet is Isaiah. Interestingly, Nissan starts with Amotz, and ends with his son, Isaiah. Isaiah’s behavior also reflects the quality of this week. When Isaiah has one of the most vivid and intimate visions of G-d and the Divine Chariot, his reaction is not to think of himself and how great he must be to have merited such a vision. Quite to the contrary. He exclaims: “'Woe is me, for I am lost, because a man of unclean lips am I, and in the midst of people of unclean lips do I dwell; for the King, the L-rd of Hosts, have mine eyes seen.' [1] Isaiah’s prophecy in general has many admonitions but also many consolations and optimistic visions of the future. However, the optimism is always based on the notion that it is G-d that grants success, once we return to Him. Joshua himself also was very humble, and did not take credit for his achievements; he always saw himself as a follower and disciple of Moshe.

The levitical city for this week is Beth-shemesh, which means the house of the sun. It was Yehoshuah that famously told the sun to stand still:

12. Then Joshua spoke to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, "Sun, stand still upon Gibeon, and Moon in the valley of Ajalon." 13. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is this not written in the book of Jashar? (which is the Torah)? So the sun stood still in the midst of the heaven, and it did not hasten to go down exactly a whole day.
It is interesting that for the week of Yehoshuah’s yahrzeit the levitical city should be connected to the sun, since after all, our sages compare Moshe to the sun and Yehoshua to the moon. Perhaps that is exactly the point, that Yehoshua saw himself not as a separate entity, but simply being “from the house of Moshe,” a student of his that “never left the tent.” Beth-shemesh figures prominently in the Tanach – it is also the birthplace of Shimshon, whose name also is connected to Shemesh, sun. Perhaps more than any other leader, Shimshon represents the idea of supernatural strength, which comes from G-d. 





[1] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/464019/jewish/The-Prophet-Isaiah.htm
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