Yom Kippur 5773 – Isaiah 58

Yom Kippur 5773 – Isaiah 58

Man has an amazing capacity for self-deception. People could sometimes define their efforts as reaching out to God when in fact they have done no such thing. They see their activities as the holiest and as the most high when they have not yet moved out of the mud.

God does not give up hope on the self-deceived; He talks to us through His prophets – and if He is talking – then we can be sure that He believes that we are capable of hearing.

Isaiah describes the confused question of the self-deceived. They challenge God: “Why do we fast but You have not seen, we afflict our souls and You don’t seem to know?” (Isaiah 58:3). These people are fasting and praying, seeking God and searching for righteousness, yet they have completely “missed the boat”.

Approaching God is all about recognizing God’s absolute sovereignty. The prime impediment that stands in our way of recognizing God’s sovereignty is the fact that we approach the world with the premise that we are sovereign. This self-centered world-view is a total and complete world-view. Everything is accounted for in this world-view that is built on the foundation that we are sovereign. There is a place for seeking God in this self-centered world; there is a place for charity and justice in our self-absorbed world and there is a place for praying fasting and even for humility – but it is all self-centered. In order to approach God we need to break the cycle of self-centeredness and greed.

The first step is to restructure the concept of justice in our society. As far as the society is self-centered then there will have to be injustice; there will be people who are hurting; people who are not well-connected, people who have no power or people who ran afoul of one or several “pillars of society”. The justice in society needs to be restructured according to the principle that my only claim and my only right is that I was created by God and that this claim is shared by all members of society in equal measure (Job 31:13-15). If people are hurting, that should be the first thing on our mind (Isaiah 58:6).

The next step in breaking the cycle of self-centeredness is feeling the physical pain of others. The prophet speaks of breaking our bread with the hungry and not ignoring our own flesh – this means that we need to feel the hunger of our fellow-man and recognize his or her troubles as our own.

One can empathize with the physical needs of another person while still maintaining a firm grip on self-centeredness in the realm of the emotions. The prophet has us break this wall of self-centeredness as well. We are encouraged to pour out our soul to the hungry and satiate the soul of the afflicted. In order to tear down the world in which we reign we need to feel the emotional needs of others; we cannot hold back and try to keep the strength of our souls for ourselves.

From here the prophet moves us to the Sabbath; the ultimate recognition of God’s sovereignty. Sabbath is a day in which we relinquish our control of the world, recognizing that it is not our world but rather the world of God who is the Father of all. Isaiah explains that the Sabbath is a day that all of our personal schemes are put to rest, not only in the realm of action but even in the realm of speech. Sabbath is a day for pleasure, not only for ourselves, but for all of the children of Israel, it is a day to be honored by putting our own mastery of the world completely aside.

How much does injustice and corruption in society bother me? How deeply do I feel my brother’s pain? How much does my fellow man’s hunger hurt me? How attuned am I to the emotional needs of my fellow man? How easily do I forget about my own schemes and put everything aside in honor of God’s Sabbath? Am I asking these questions for any self-centered reason or do I truly accept that God is my Master and that I am but a servant in His world? (Remember; man has an amazing capacity for self-deception.)

These are the questions we need to be thinking about on Yom Kippur, and on every day of the year.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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10 Responses to Yom Kippur 5773 – Isaiah 58

  1. Annelise says:

    It’s going to take a while for this to really sink in. It’s so important and needs to be so often re-remembered…

  2. Annelise says:

    You’ve written before about the fact that even though our motivations can be imperfect and self-centred, we shouldn’t let this tie our hands when it comes to doing what is good. I find that so important to remember in light of the challenge in this blog post. When we know what God desires both from our physical actions and from the obedience in our hearts, we can bring both of these things as an offering to Him.

    I guess that while we are constantly making sure that our words and actions aren’t empty vessels before God, this isn’t a reason to fear bringing them at all. Instead, we can keep asking Him to create a clean heart in us and to help us fill our actions with sincerity and with an ever-growing recognition of God’s sovereignty. We are free to do all of these things: to look outside ourselves and search for the people who need support, to honour the holiness of what God has consecrated in our lives, and to learn to have integrity. Being God’s servant is a moment by moment commitment, as well as being something we choose forever. I appreciate how you wrote that despite our capacity for self-deception, the way in which God speaks to us and calls us in this challenge of real love is actually a sign of immense hope that we can be in that place; that sometimes we are, and that we will be more and more as we come close to Him.

    It’s very freeing to know that having God, and others, at the centre of our lives is the way we were made and therefore rightly (not selfishly) the most satisfying, joyful, and healing place we can live in. It’s such a mutual gift that He has given us a place in other people’s lives and in surrender to His kingship and holiness. That’s something to be so thankful for, but in the light of all that precedes it this is not a priority to focus our eyes on chasing for. When we can deeply trust in God’s love, then we can be free to live the authentic lives described by Isaiah in this chapter.

  3. Linda says:

    From here the prophet moves us to the Sabbath; the ultimate recognition of God’s sovereignty. Sabbath is a day in which we relinquish our control of the world, recognizing that it is not our world but rather the world of God who is the Father of all. Isaiah explains that the Sabbath is a day that all of our personal schemes are put to rest, not only in the realm of action but even in the realm of speech. Sabbath is a day for pleasure, not only for ourselves, but for all of the children of Israel, it is a day to be honored by putting our own mastery of the world completely aside.

    I hope this isn”t a stupid question, but is this for the Jewish,/ Israelite people? Or does it apply to the gentiles as well?

    What is one’s ancestry was of Jewish/Israelite originally but that person/s doesn’t know/aware of it because of family being assimilated into the societies of their descendants?

    I do agree with this article. And I for one , am in need of being more non self-centered. I deeply appreciate >>>> your quote “I appreciate how you wrote that despite our capacity for self-deception, the way in which God speaks to us and calls us in this challenge of real love is actually a sign of immense hope that we can be in that place; that sometimes we are, and that we will be more and more as we come close to Him.”

  4. Linda says:

    sorry, third paragraph should start What “IF”one’s ancestry——

  5. Linda
    The practical observance of the Sabbath is a personal gift from God to the Jewish people (Exodus 31:13) – however – the spiritual lessons of the Sabbath are lessons for all of mankind
    as for your question concerning one who doesn’t know if he/she is Jewish – if there is no reasonable reason to think they are jewish they can assume they are not

    • AmethystRose2 Rosen says:

      Thank you for your response“~~there may be reasonable reason, since it is very much in my thoughts ( and for a very long time now ) to reason if I am of Jewish origin.  My maiden name is Hendershot of German descent.. That poses two concerns for me,,and I have posted an article to touch on the subject. I have no one to go to in my family since they all are dead. What I do know is that of which my dad told me in the past. Our family left Germany and went to England and then to America…my dad left his home in Port Jervis NY when he was in the 7th grade to go travel and work on the railroad. My dad wasn’t a religious man. He didn’t keep in touch with his dad, and his mother ( her maiden name> Drake ) died while birthing him. I went 30yrs of my life without any religion and then the next 34 yrs have been a very long search.. Methodist, Baptist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian, Church of God, 7th day Adventist ( thus the reason for the sabbath question I asked ) I have come away from all these churches with only more questions. I don’t know that I am expressing all this clearly enough ( I doubt it ) but I am sure that you might have run across a few people like me…I have even studied a bit about Islam and of course Judaism and along this long road through faith of sorts, I have come to doubt Christianity and where does that leave me,,,I do wonder..This will be enough for now, except to say that I get a great deal of reading your materials, thank you    here is that article http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~hendershot/nameinahundred.html ________________________________

      • Adrian Vink says:

        My dear AmethystRose2 Rosen. What an interesting peace you wrote, and you truly have been searching for the truth in relation as to where you fit in. It is also true that you have some Jewish ancestry but sadly this doesn’t make you Jewish. If you like, you can contact me via my email address for some guidance. My email address is: adrianvink57@gmail.com May G-D bless You.

  6. Annelise says:

    I was thinking about this. In Exodus 31:13,16 there’s an obvious sense that the Sabbath is a commandment for you specifically, a sign of the lasting covenant. Exodus 16:29 speaks of it as a gift to you; Deuteronomy 5:15 links the commandment specifically to the deliverance from Egypt and the relationship based upon that experience. And we don’t find any place where gentiles are commanded to keep it in the way that Jews are.

    Still, the exodus and the covenant in the wilderness aren’t the only explanation given for the holiness of the day. Exodus 20:11 and 31:17 say that God blessed this day at the time of creation, because in some way He rested and was refreshed on the seventh. Why wouldn’t this have meaning for every person who knows and seeks Him, because all humans are part of creation and everyone is alive on these days- which are inherently holy, as well as being set apart within Israel?

    I was also thinking about Isaiah 56:6-8. Would you say that this refers to converts who join Israel, rather than to the nations who worship and know God with you? Some of the prophets, and particularly Isaiah, have a strong vision of many nations serving God and looking to Israel like a priest and as one to be honoured and served, even while not themselves being part of the Jewish covenant. Isaiah 60 and 66 have glimpses of this; Zechariah 14 describes foreigners coming every year to worship during Sukkot (though I don’t know why that particular time). So because the Sabbath day is holy to God and in all of creation, as well as to Israel, and because in some sense the Torah is going out from Zion, is there any sense about how the nations should view the Sabbath. This isn’t a question so much of what we might choose from love, but of what is important and appropriate when people belong to Israel’s God, our creator, but not to Israel’s covenant.

  7. Annelise says:

    Hi Linda, I was thinking this morning about what you wrote and thought I would write. I don’t really know about how you can find out if you have a Jewish heritage, or what that will mean for your relationship with the Jewish people and covenant. But I do think that as precious and as important as the unique Jewish relationship with God is, the very core parts of that relationship are really open to Jews and to gentiles alike. Because the God of Israel is the God of creation, who made the skies and the earth and everything in them, on whom everything that lives and is depends for existence and for everything, your own identity doesn’t change the fact that anyone can look to Him and come close to His heart. The commandments, blessings, and experiences of the Jewish people are set apart and different, but for all of us the underlying calling is that we would live in this knowledge of God’s sovereignty and goodness. As His servants and His children in whatever way He gives us, we can love Him wholeheartedly and to centre our lives on loving others as well.

    As someone who doesn’t have a Jewish background, and really believed that God had made Himself known in Christianity but was challenged by the Jewish response to that, I know that there can be so many distractions along the way. The truth is important to God and it has nothing to do with our own background or sense of belonging, even though those things are important. If I were you I would try to take this time not only as one for searching out who you are, but also for searching out who God is just for who He is. This seems like something you’ve been doing for a long time, so you already know this… but every day I feel we can be distracted for hours on end by ideas and conversations, community and culture and belonging, so many things that matter a lot but that aren’t in themselves the treasure we are seeking. Whether or not you have a Jewish heritage or will embrace Judaism, your relationship with God is totally open to you. Whether or not you are sure of one revelation or another about Him, He is our creator and we can only cling to Him as we search for the light on these matters. And wherever you end up, this knowledge of God and desire to love others will be the place in which you can grow into whoever you are uniquely made to be.

    Blessings for a joyful Sukkot! “Praise the LORD; call on His name; proclaim His deeds among the peoples. Sing praises to Him; speak of all His wondrous acts. Exult in His holy name; let all who seek the LORD rejoice. Turn to the LORD, to His might; seek His presence constantly.”

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