Isaiah 1:18

Isaiah 1:18

On the Sabbath before Tish’a B’Av, the day that is designated as a commemoration for the destruction of the Temple, we read from the first passage in Isaiah (1:1 – 1:27). This passage teaches us why we are in exile, and it also teaches us how God wants us to return to Him.

It seems that the problem is not so much that we do not observe the Sabbaths or the festivals, nor is God upset at us because we aren’t praying enough or bringing enough sacrifices (verses 11 – 15). The reason God is displeased with us is because of sins between man and his fellow man. We haven’t taken up the cause of the orphan, and we haven’t fought the fight of the widow (verse 23).

This rebuke is not only applicable to the judges and the leaders of our society. The widow and the orphan represent all of those who are powerless before us. Almost every one of us enjoys power over others. It could be through our wealth, through our position in society, through the sharpness of our tongues or through the force of our personality. Sometimes the power that we enjoy is only temporary, but it is still power. It could be that I am driving the car in front of you, so I could control the road that rightly belongs to all of us, or I could misuse public space and public property to the detriment of all who were meant to benefit.

The prophet is calling upon all of us to be careful how we exercise our strength. The first and most important thought in our mind should be to make sure that we are not taking advantage of any power that we may possess for the detriment of those who are powerless to protect themselves from our abuses. It is incumbent upon every individual in society to ensure that the weakest members of society are not being crushed under the wheels of the society in general. Justice in our society should be a top priority in our lives.

We may think that this task is impossible. How can we correct the ills of society? Where can we start? And can we ever finish?

The prophet addresses this concern as well. Come, let us reason, says God, if your sins will be as scarlet, they will become whiter than snow. God is encouraging us. You take the first steps. Show Me that you take my rebuke seriously and that you want My justice established in your society – I will then move in to refine you and to restore your judges as in the days of yore. You will then be called the city of righteousness.

But it doesn’t end there.

When Israel fixes her own act, the repercussions are cosmic. When we learn to curb our power and not exercise the strength that we have to take advantage of those who are powerless before us, the nations of the world will mirror our actions. They will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift a sword against another nation and they will no longer learn war.

Come now, House of Jacob, let us walk in the light of our God.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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7 Responses to Isaiah 1:18

  1. bography says:

    Yisroel
    what do you mean by ” This passage teaches us why we are in exile ..”
    What do you mean by “exile?”

  2. Bography
    Israel is in exile today – this passage in Isaiah, although it was spoken before the exile, but it reveals what we were doing that was getting God upset – God tells us that He will rectify the situation through a refining process – of which our present exile is a part.

  3. bography says:

    Yisroel
    Wouldn’t many Israeli Jews say that they have returned to the land and thus have returned from exile?

  4. Thomas says:

    bography: Is our discussion about what Scripture says, or about what Israeli Jews would say? More to the point, presumably you’re speaking of religiously observant Israeli Jews, not secular ones (who ascribe no meaning or significance to scripture, thus their opinions would not be based on the source we are even discussing).

    As for religious Israeli Jews, I do know a number of them, and from my understanding, assuming they are even religious zionists (not an assured thing), they see the state of Israel as the ‘first flowering of our redemption.’ But it is clear that a presence of some of the world’s Jews in Israel, in a secular, Western, US-style state, is hardly an end of an exile, and whatever benefits they see in Israel, it is clear that it is at most a first step, but hardly the redemption promised by God throughout Scripture.

  5. Bography
    As Thomas explained – our criteria is what Scripture says. Concerning the first exile – it was God’s return to Zion that signified an end to the exile (Zechariah 8:3). As of yet, our heavenly Father did not return to HIs house.

  6. naaria says:

    I see Isaiah 1 as the model (or synopsis) of all of Isaiah. First there is rebuke, but it is always followed by comfort, promise, & hope. It is not enough to “believe in God” and be Torah observant, especially if one just “goes through the motions”. Come reason together. The God of Kindness, Mercy and Justice chose Israel to be His Servants, to carry out kindness, mercy, and justice. There is very little purpose for man, except to DO the will of God, to practice kindness & mercy and to use our strength to help others. To be the “image of God”. And thus, the servant Israel will be as a light to the nations that linger in the darkness of injustice and selfish materialism.

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