Avraham ben Yaakov
ISAIAH CHAPTER 25
"HaShem, You are my God, I will exalt you; I will praise Your name." (v 1). The closing sections of the previous prophecy (Is. 24:16-23) depicted the overthrow of the nations in the war of Gog and Magog, when God will assert His rule in Jerusalem and restore honor to His elders, the righteous. Our present chapter begins with the response of these elders, who will acknowledge God for having done wondrously in gathering them in from their scattered places of exile among the nations to the Land of Israel and for having cast down the armies of Gog and Magog on its hills (RaDaK on verse 1 of our present chapter). Rashi (ad loc.) explains that God's "counsels of old in faithfulness and trust" refers to His covenant with Abraham in the Covenant between the Pieces (Gen. ch 15) when He promised him that his descendants would possess the Land.
Vv 2-5 depict God's overthrow of the cities and strongholds of the nations at the end of days, and how this will bring them to fear Him. The closing words of verse 2 tell how God will make "a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built". Targum renders: ".the temple of the deity of the nations in the city of Jerusalem shall never be built." One wonders if prior to their overthrow at the end of days, the nations will attempt to build an idolatrous temple in Jerusalem , only to be thwarted by God, as seemingly implied by the Targum.
Vv 6ff specifically refer to the overthrow of the armies of Gog and Magog when they gather to campaign against Jerusalem . The nations will come expecting that Jerusalem will be as easy to conquer as oil and bone marrow, but the oil and bone marrow will turn into pure lees and waste (Rashi, Metzudas David and RaDaK on v 6). Everything will turn from one extreme to the other.
"And He will destroy in this mountain the covering that is cast over all the people and the veil that is cast over all the nations" (v 7). Targum explains that the "cover" and the "veil" that are cast over all the nations refer to their leader and ruler, who until his overthrow covered them protectively [like a seemingly benevolent world dictator?]. RaDaK (ad loc.) brings an explanation in the name of his father, that the "covering" ( LOT ) alludes to "the people who cover their faces" [reminiscent of masked Islamic terrorists???].
"He will destroy death for ever." (v 8). This verse with its promise of resurrection and eternal life is recited at Jewish funerals and is often inscribed on monuments to the dead. RaDaK (ad loc.) explains that in time to come "chance death" (MEESAH MIKREES) will disappear but not "natural death", defining "chance death" as the kinds of killings that Israel have endured at the hands of the nations during their exile. However, Rashi (ad loc.) states that God will "hide and conceal death from Israel eternally", which suggests that there will be no more death of any kind for Israel . The Talmud asks how our present verse, "He will destroy death for ever", can be reconciled with the prophesy that "a youth shall die at the age of a hundred" (Isaiah 65:20), answering that death will be destroyed entirely in the case of Israel, while the people of the nations will live long but will eventually die (Pesachim 68a).
"And it shall be said on that day, Behold our God, THIS (ZEH) is the One in whom we hoped and He has saved us, THIS (ZEH) is Hashem for whom we hoped, let us rejoice and exult in His salvation" (v 9). It is not unusual when using the word THIS (ZEH) to POINT in the direction to the person or thing to which one is referring. "Rabbi Elazar said: In time to come, the Holy One blessed be He will make a dance circle of the Tzaddikim and He will sit among them in the Garden of Eden, and each and everyone will POINT WITH HIS FINGER, saying, Behold our God, THIS is the One in whom we hoped." (Ta'anis 31a). The "finger" of each Tzaddik alludes to his perception of God.
"For in this mountain shall the hand of HaShem rest, and Moab shall be trodden down in his own place" (v 10). This verse implies that God's overthrow of the armies of Gog and Magog will take place at Mount Zion , while the Moabites will be overthrown in their own country. RaDaK (on v 10) explains that today the nations are mixed up and it is impossible to know which is Ammon, Moab or Edom etc. and this will also be the case at the time of the war of Gog and Magog. But while these three nations will be saved from the hand of the king of the north (Daniel 11:21), they will not escape from the hand of God in the war of Gog and Magog. For even though they are unrecognizable and mixed up with one another, it is possible that certain known families among the nations come from these specific peoples. It is also possible that the prophet gives the name Edom to those who dwell in the land of Edom , and the name of Moab to those who dwell in the land of Moab . The reason why he mentions Moab here is because Moab will aid the nations coming from the north to attack Jerusalem together with Gog and Magog. Being close neighbors of the land of Israel, the Moabites will help the oncoming armies by preparing roads and they will give them their support, and this is why Moab is mentioned specifically (see RaDaK on v 10).
"On that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah " (v 1). Just as Israel sang to God after the miraculous overthrow of the Egyptians into the waters of the Red Sea (Exodus 15) and just as Deborah sang after the miraculous defeat of Sissera and his armies (Judges 5), so the Tzaddikim who survive the war of Gog and Magog will sing the song and prayer to God contained in our present chapter. "The city is our strength." (v 1): Having put their faith in God's promise to dwell in His eternal city in the end of days, the Tzaddikim will praise Him for saving them in the merit of their faith and commitment to Jerusalem .
"Open the gates that the righteous nation that keeps faithfulness (SHOMER EMUNIM) may enter in." (v 2). The Talmud darshens: "Everyone who answers AMEN with all his strength has the gates of the Garden of Eden opened up for him. Read the word not as EMUNIM but AMENIM: he that guards (SHOMER) the Amens (AMENIM) shall enter!!!" (Shabbos 119b).
"Trust in HaShem for ever, for the Lord God is an eternal rock" (v 4). Because of its great importance as an affirmation of trust, this verse is included among those recited in the daily prayer service after the KEDUSHAH DE'SIDRA (=UVA LE-TZION.) following the repetition of the Amidah and ASHREY. The divine Name here rendered as "the Lord" is the two-lettered name spelled Yod-Heh. The Talmud explains that the Yod alludes to the Word to Come while the Heh alludes to This World, stating that "Whoever puts his trust in the Holy One blessed be He will have His protection in This World and in the World to Come" (Menachos 29b).
Our study today of Israel's future song of faith and trust as contained in our present chapter is intended to inculcate this same faith and trust in ourselves and in our dear ones, children and students in preparation for the coming trials of the war of Gog and Magog, whenever this may come. Thus in the song we read already how God will "bring down those who dwell on high, the lofty city" (i.e. the strongholds of the nations, v 5), and how the "feet of the poor and the steps of the needy" shall trample it down (v 6). The "poor" refers to Melech HaMashiach, who is "a poor man riding on a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9), while the "needy" refers to Israel , "who were needy until now" (Rashi on verse 6 of our present chapter).
The blatant injustice that is rampant in today's world is an apparent contradiction to the rule of the God of Justice, and thus Israel prays to God to keep the Tzaddikim on the path of righteousness (v 7), hoping throughout their bitter persecution during their exile to see God's righteousness vindicated when He will overthrow the wicked at the end of days (vv 8ff). When God's judgments finally strike the earth, it teaches all its inhabitants to know and fear Him (v 9), whereas if favor is shown to the wicked (personified in the figure of Esau), he will never learn righteousness (v 10, see Rashi ad loc.).
"HaShem, when Your hand is lifted up they will not see, but they shall see with shame Your zeal for the people, the fire which shall devour Your enemies" (v 11). "When suffering comes upon the wicked, they do not think that it comes from Your hands, but they will see that it is Your hand at the time of the salvation, when You avenge Your people and save them - they will be ashamed, because then they will not be able to say it is chance, because they will see how a tiny people are saved from many nations" (RaDaK ad loc.).
Vv 13ff: After their redemption from the armies of Gog and Magog , Israel will recall how they were dominated by earthly masters throughout their long exile yet they never applied God's Name to anything or anyone other than Him (v 13). "They are dead, they shall not live." (v 14). RaDaK (ad loc.) explains this as a reference to the lifeless idols of the nations, while Rashi (ad loc.) takes it as a prayer that the wicked should not live the life of the world to come and that the "shades" (REPHA-IM) - i.e. those who weakened (REEPOO) their hands from the Torah and refused to keep it should not arise.
"You have increased the nation [ Israel ], HaShem." (v 15). "You have given them increased Torah, greatness and glory, and the more You have increased them, the more You are glorified, because they give thanks and praises before You over every goodness, whereas this was not the practice of the nations, and for this reason You have distanced them from before You." (Rashi ad loc.).
"HaShem, in trouble they besought You, they poured out a silent prayer when Your chastening was upon them." (v 16). In their future song of salvation, Israel recalls how their very suffering in exile caused them to seek out God through prayer.
Vv 17f depict the tribulations prior to the final redemption as the painful contractions of a woman screaming as she is about to deliver. "It was as if we gave birth to wind; no salvations were wrought in the earth, and it seemed as if the inhabitants of the earth would not fall." (v 18). Israel recalls how it seemed as if all the pains and tribulations were for nothing, because no baby was born - there was no redemption and no salvation. In the darkness of the exile it seemed as if the wicked nations would never fall (see Rashi on v 18).
"The dead men of thy people shall live! My dead body shall arise." (v 19). "Previously he prayed that the wicked should not live, but here he prays that the righteous should live" (Rashi). It is as if the prophet puts words into the mouth of HaShem to decree the resurrection of the dead martyrs.
"Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust, for your dew is as the dew on herbs." This verse alludes to the "dew" through which the dead will be resurrected. The Hebrew words translated in the phrase "dew on herbs" are TAL OROTH. OROTH has the connotation of "lights", while TaL, "dew" is spelled Teth Lamed (=39), alluding to the sum of the numerical values of the letters contained in the expansion of the first three letters of the Tetragrammaton: Yud-Vav-Daleth; Heh-Aleph; Vav-Aleph-Vav. These are the higher spiritual powers or "lights" of the Holy One blessed be He that will shine down to the NUKVA (Malchus) and revive the dead.
"Come My people, enter into your chambers." (v 20). RaDaK (ad loc.) explains that this verse contains the prophet's counsel to the people of Israel in the time of the war of Gog and Magog. At that time Israel will be in dire trouble for a short time. The prophet advises the people to seclude themselves in good deeds and complete Teshuvah, for the anger will only be for a short moment and the good will be saved. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that the "chambers" allude to the synagogues and study halls in which Israel are to gather in their time of crisis, or to the inner chambers of the heart in which each one should conduct his or her own deep self-reckoning.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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