Avraham ben Yaakov
ISAIAH CHAPTER 65
The closing verses of the previous section expressed the cry of pain of Israel in exile over the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, asking how God can hold His peace and afflict us so greatly (Is. 64:8-11).
But in the new section that opens in the first verse of our present chapter, "It is as if God replies to the exiles over their complaint, saying: How can I redeem you? Did I not make Myself available to be sought out in your time of trouble? But this was of no benefit, because the people did not ask and did not seek Me out" (Metzudas David on v 1).
In vv 2-7 God gives further rebuke to the wicked of Israel , to whom He reached out but who rebelled and went off on their own evil path, following their own thoughts, for which they will be punished. The depiction of the people's idolatry and necromancy in vv 3-4 could well apply to the period at the end of Isaiah's life early in the reign of King Menasheh, who promoted idol-worship in Judah and ended the prophet's ministry by killing him (Yevamos 49b). These verses also apply to the sinners of Israel in later times, who by "eating the flesh of the swine" (v 4) "violate everything forbidden by the Torah" (RaDaK ad loc.). The "broth of abominable things. in their vessels" refers to every other kind of unclean food (ibid.). In earlier times just as today, the self-important sinners of Israel thought that their own "enlightened" pathway of assimilation with the nations set them apart from and made them holier than their "unenlightened" brothers who still clung faithfully to HaShem's Torah (v 5).
But God promises that it is precisely for the sake of His faithful servants the Tzaddikim that He will redeem Israel . "Thus says HaShem: As the wine is found in the grape-cluster and one says, Do not destroy it, for a blessing is in it, so will I do for the sake of My servants and I will not destroy them all" (v 8). "He addresses the exiles, telling them not to despair of the redemption. for even though I will pay you back for the sins of your fathers by extending your exile on account of their sins and yours, I will not abandon you. In any event I will take you out of the exile and bring you back to your land after you have received your full punishment (RaDaK on v 8). "And I will bring forth a seed out of JACOB" (v 9) - "Included in 'Jacob' are the Ten Tribes" (RaDaK ad loc.). God promises that His chosen servants will eventually inherit the Land of Israel and Jerusalem (vv 9-10). However he warns that the rebels who have turned to idolatry will be marked out for the sword (vv 11-12).
The idolaters "set out a table for Gad and fill the cup of liquor for Meni." (v 11). Our commentators explain that Gad (="Fortune") was the name of an idol representing a constellation (Rashi ad loc.) while Meni represented a different constellation, or possibly Jupiter, or all of the seven main planets collectively (see RaDaK ad loc.). However, if we open our eyes to the letters on the page of our Bible before us, we can also see that this verse explicitly refers to the most prevalent idolatry of all times until today, whose devotees may say "In God we trust" (in the U.S.A. where this motto is printed on the dollar bill, they pronounce it as "GAD") while in fact they offer their full libation-measure of worship to the god called MONEY (which is as valid a transliteration of our Hebrew text as "Meni").
In verses 13-14 God contrasts the reward of the righteous in the world to come with the shame of the wicked. "The matter can be compared to a king who invited his servants to a feast without setting a time. The intelligent ones dressed up and adorned themselves and sat at the entrance to the king's palace. but the fools continued with their usual activities. Suddenly the king called his servants. The intelligent ones entered beautifully adorned while the fools came in filthy. The king was delighted with the intelligent ones and angry with the fools." (Shabbos 153a).
God will then "call His servants by another name, so that he who blesses himself on the earth shall bless himself by the God of truth (ELOKEY AMEN)." (v 16). "For the fear of God will be upon everyone and the earth will be filled with understanding, and whoever on earth rejoices and takes pride will bless himself by the name of the God of truth, i.e. he will rejoice that he is the servant of the God of truth and faithfulness, who showed Himself reliable in keeping this promise, namely that 'the former troubles will be forgotten' [for peace will reign]" (Rashi on v 16). Some Breslover Chassidim may also be inclined to read a contemporary allusion into the letters of AMEN, which are the same as those of the city of UMAN where Rabbi Nachman lies buried!
"For behold I will create new heavens and a new earth." (v 17). Rashi explains that there will be a change among the guardian angels of the nations in heaven and that the angels of Israel will then be supreme, and this will be paralleled on earth. However Rashi also gives weight to the opinion of those who say that there will be new heavens quite literally (MAMASH). Until this happens it would be foolish to pretend to know exactly what these "new heavens" will be like.
In the new future order, "There shall no more be an infant who lives a few days nor an old man that has not filled his days." (v 20). RaDaK states that "at that time they will not say of an old man that he has lived a full span until he is from three to five hundred years old or more as in the first generations after the creation of the world" (RaDaK ad loc.).
In verse 23 we learn that in time to come people will be blessed with exactly what we pray for every day, "that we should not labor in vain or bring forth for confusion" (from the words of the prayer UVA LE-TZION adapted from this verse). People will live harmoniously with their children and children's children, and even before they call, God will answer them (v 24, quoted in the fast-day ANENU prayer).
"The wolf and the lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like an ox." The Midrash explains that we find that Esau will fall at the hands of the children of Joseph, as it says, "The house of Esau will be for STRAW and the house of Joseph a FLAME" (Obadiah 1:18). However, we find no reference there to his falling at the hands of the other tribes, who are compared to wild beasts. Therefore it says that 'the lion shall eat STRAW like the ox', teaching that those tribes that are compared to a lion, i.e. Judah and Dan, will be just like Joseph, who is compared to an ox, and together they will consume the one who is compared to straw (Rashi on v 25).
"So says HaShem: The heavens are My throne and the earth is My footstool: where is the house that you would build for Me and where is the place of My rest?" (v 1). "Now he goes back to rebuking the wicked people of his generation, castigating them over the sacrifices they bring at the same time as acting wickedly, just as he chastised them at the beginning of the book (Is. 1:11): 'Why do I need the abundance of your sacrifices?'" (RaDaK on verse 1 of our present chapter.). "The heavens are My throne" - "I do not need your Temple " (Rashi). RaDaK explains that the only purpose of the Temple was to provide a special place for the people to come in order to pray and offer sacrifices - i.e. to rouse their hearts to God and burn up all their evil thoughts like an object burned on the altar. If the people bring their sacrifices while continuing to act wickedly, this thwarts the entire purpose of the Temple (RaDaK ibid.).
Thus He castigates those who bring a fat ox after having beaten its owner and stealing it, or any similar-kinds of ill-gotten "sacrifices", which are despicable in God's eyes (v 3). He warns the hypocrites who make an outer show of piety while following their own abominations that He will bring against them the thing they most fear (v 3).
On the other hand, Isaiah's final message of comfort in the concluding, prophecy here at the climax of his book is addressed to "those who tremble (HA-HAREDIM) at His words" (v 5). These are the HAREDIM until today - not those for whom religion is an outward show, but those who truly fear HaShem in their very hearts and take the responsibility of keeping His Torah with the utmost seriousness, SHOMRIM KALAH KE-CHAMURAH, observing the lightest commandment with the same care as the most stringent.
Rashi's rendering of verse 5 is: "Hear the word of HaShem, those who tremble at His words: your brothers, who have hated you and driven you out, have said, It is through OUR greatness that God takes glory, for we are closer to Him than you. However, the prophet replies that it is not as they say, but rather, we shall see YOUR joy (i.e. that of the HAREDIM) while THEY (i.e. the sinners and enemies of the HAREDIM) will be ashamed" (see Rashi on v 5).
This will come about at the time of the war of Gog and Magog and the final redemption at the end of days. The war of Gog and Magog, which is the central theme of the remainder of this closing chapter of Isaiah, is alluded to in verse 6: "A voice of tumult from the city, a voice from the Temple , the voice of Hashem rendering recompense to His enemies". Our commentators explain that this refers to the time of Mashiach: the "enemies" are the armies of Gog and Magog, of whom it is said that "HaShem will go out and fight the nations" (Zechariah 14:3; see Metzudas and RaDaK on verse 6 of our present chapter).
Verses 7f compare the redemption of Zion (the Shechinah) to her "giving birth" to a ZACHAR, a male: this refers to the future revelation of ZEIR ANPIN - the absolute unity of God who has complete power over all creation. Thus verse 8 asks "Who (MI) has heard such as this, who (MI) has seen such things?" alluding to the crown of BINAH upon the head of ZEIR ANPIN.
"Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth?" (v 9) - "Do I bring a woman to the birth-stool and not open her womb to bring out her baby? Could it be that I would begin something and not be able to complete it?" (Rashi ad loc.). "Surely I am the One who has put strength into the hands of all the nations - how could it be that I will not put the power into YOUR hands?" (Metzudas David ad loc.).
Rejoice with Jerusalem. exult for joy with her, all you that did mourn for her" (v 10) - "From here we learn that all who mourn over the destruction of Jerusalem will merit to see her in her time of joy, while whoever does not mourn over Jerusalem will not see her joy" (Taanis 30b).
"For thus says HaShem: Behold I will extend peace to her like a river." (v 12) - "Peace from the nations, who will come from every corner to enquire after their wellbeing, bringing them offerings. Just like a flowing river runs fast, so their glory and wealth will come running to them" (RaDaK ad loc.).
"For behold HaShem will come with fire and His chariots like a storm." (v 15) - "He will come with the fury of fire against the wicked. for with the fire of hell He will judge His enemies" (Rashi on vv 15-16). "The prophet is saying that He will judge Gog and Magog with fire, as it says in the prophecy of Ezekiel (38:22), and what it says there about how each man's sword will be against his brother is the same as the sword of HaShem in our verse. This sword will be 'against ALL flesh', as it says in the prophecy of Zechariah (14:2), 'I shall gather ALL the nations to Jerusalem for war" (RaDaK on v 16).
Verse 17 tells us who will be the main components of the forces of Gog and Magog. "Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the gardens" are people who present themselves as being pure and holy while in fact they are impure. RaDaK (ad loc.) states that "these are the Ishmaelites, who purify their bodies and perform frequent ablutions yet are impure because of their evil, filthy deeds. They make a pretense of being pure but they are not". RaDaK states that "those who eat the flesh of the swine" are "the NOTZRIM, because the Ishmaelites do not eat the flesh of the swine. However those who eat 'the detestable thing and the mouse' are the Ishmaelites since they do indeed eat them" (RaDaK on v 17.
The verse says that "together they shall perish" (v 17). RaDaK ad loc. comments: "'Together', i.e. the Notzrim and the Ishmaelites, will perish in the war of Gog and Magog, because these two empires hold sway in this world, and this is the fourth empire in the visions of Daniel. They are both considered as one empire since neither one has sole power in the world. I shall bring it about that all the nations will come with Gog and Magog, in order that they shall see how My glory will be magnified. God will bring it about and put it into their hearts to come, cf. Ezekiel 38:4 and Zechariah 14:12" (RaDaK on vv 17-18).
"And I will set a sign among them." (v 19): "Fugitives will be saved from the war, and I will leave them alive so that they may go to spread tidings in the remote islands about My glory which they witnessed in the war, and even upon those fugitives I shall put one of the signs [of the plague etc.] with which their companions were judged so as to show far-off people, 'This is the plague with which those who attacked Jerusalem were smitten'" (Rashi ad loc.).
On hearing this news, the inhabitants of these far-off places will themselves bring the Israelites who still remain in their regions to the Land of Israel (v 20; see RaDaK ad loc.).
"And I will also take from them for Cohanim (priests) and Levites" (v 21) - "That is to say, even from among those who were sunk among the gentiles in far-off islands [the British Isles, the Americas, Australia, Japan etc. etc..???] and who did not go up from the exile together with their brothers the House of Israel and who may possibly have changed the religion somewhat, I will nevertheless take Cohanim and Levites from them - i.e. those who were originally from priestly and Levitical families: I will take them to be priests to minister before Me and Levites to sing and play harps and lyres" (RaDaK on v 21).
"For as the new heavens and the new earth which I shall make are standing before Me." (v 22) - "It does not say here 'new heavens and a new earth' but rather 'THE new heavens and THE new earth'. Even the heavens and earth that are destined to be created in the future were already created in the Six Days of Creation, as it says in Genesis 1:1: 'In the beginning God created ES Hashamayim ve-ES Ha-aretz', i.e. the heavens that arose in thought and the earth that arose in thought" (Bereishis Rabbah 1).
".so shall your seed and your name stand" (v 22). "You in whose days the redemption will take place should not worry lest your seed after you will go into exile from their land and their name become lost because of exile. THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN, because your seed after you will remain in the same state of goodness and wellbeing that you will enjoy after the redemption UNTIL ETERNITY, like the days of the heaven upon the earth. For the name of Israel will never be lost, and they will never again be exiled from their land as the nations who come with Gog and Magog against Jerusalem will think. They will intend to exile Israel and destroy their name, and this is why it says that it will not be as they think, FOR YOUR SEED WILL ENDURE LIKE THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH (RaDaK on v 22).
May HaShem make us worthy to see the day when "every new moon and every Sabbath, all flesh shall come to bow down to the ground before Me says HaShem" (v 23).
* * * Isaiah chapter 66 is read as the Haftarah when Rosh Chodesh (the New Moon) falls on Shabbos. * * *
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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