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The Vision of Isaiah

The Vision of Isaiah

A commentary on the haftarah for Shabbat Chazon

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On the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av, called Shabbat Chazon, we read the haftorah that begins with the words: “Chazon Yeshayahu (vision of Isaiah).

The haftorah ends: “Zion will be redeemed with justice, and its captives, with tzedakah.”

The question is: Who or what is Zion? And who are the captives?

Some simply translate Zion to refer to Jerusalem, and the captives are the Jewish people. Others understand Zion to be the Jewish people. But if so, then who are the captives?

The answer is that Zion refers to Jews who study Torah and do the mitzvahs, and the captives are Jews who are not involved in Torah and mitzvahs. They are called captives because they have surrendered their will to their bodies and their “animal souls.” So-called Zion Jews are redeemed with justice because they earned it. However, the captive Jews are redeemed with tzedakah because they otherwise can’t be redeemed.

We are told that in the end, all Jews will repent and immediately be redeemed. This is an act of kindness, of tzedakah.

As Jews, we know that our bodies can be subjected to exile. Our G‑dly souls, however, cannot.

Even when the soul is sent down to influence the body and the physical world since it is an actual part of G‑d, it is not affected by the dark concealment it experiences. On the contrary, the darkness and the exile cause the soul to bring out hidden strength that had been lying dormant, strengthening its connection with G‑d.

The body, on the other hand, is subject to the harsh conditions and darkness of the exile. G‑d put us in this great darkness so we can transform the darkness into light.

While the soul is strengthened because of the darkness, it doesn’t directly affect the darkness. However, the body, through fulfilling G‑d’s will in the exile, changes the darkness into light. This light is greater than the light of the soul. It is Hashem’s will, His very essence, which is the greatest light possible.

This brings us to yet a third explanation of our verse. Zion refers to our bodies, and v’shaveha (which we had translated as “captives,” but can also mean “returnees”) refers to our souls.

The soul is not subject to the exile. Being in the body, which is in exile, is merely a matter of being in the wrong place. It doesn’t need redemption; all it needs is to return.

The body will be redeemed with justice because it suffered in exile and did the work, and so it rightfully earned its redemption.

The neshamah, which did not suffer in exile, returns as a kindness, a tzedakah. It did influence the body, and so it comes along and receives the greatest revelation through the body: the body’s reward for its physical work in the dark exile, the revelation of G‑d’s essence.

Now we can understand the first words of the haftorah: “Chazon Yeshayahu. Chazon means the vision, and the name Yeshayahu comes from the word yeshuah, which means “redemption.” Our haftorah is telling us that specifically during times of darkness, which the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av symbolize, is where you can accomplish the vision of the redemption.

We will experience this great revelation with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz—father of seven, husband of Dina, and spiritual leader at Chabad Jewish Center in Temecula, Calif.—has been rendered immobile by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Unable to speak or type, he uses his eyes to write heartfelt thoughts on the weekly Torah portion.

Please support the Hurwitz Family Fund.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Esther Astruc Lakewood August 2, 2017

Beautiful!! Simply gorgeous!! Thank you. This is truly an inspired message!! Reply

Yaakov Yitzchak ben Moshe from Yeshiva Ohr Elchanon July 28, 2017

cool summary of the meluket maamer, and amen (to the last part) Reply

sa July 28, 2017

why so long? can you make it shorter? Reply

Luke Francis Bronx, NY July 27, 2017

So beautiful. :) May the Meshiach come soon and save us all! Reply

Rajiv Rajan India July 27, 2017

Shalom Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz ! I am in awe of your challenge you are faced with, and how with HaShem's help and His helpers youbattle on. I was an able-bodied guy of sound mind (non-jew) now Noahide, till 2013 when inexplicably i felt what i perceive as the Hand of Heaven drop by, and have been kind of rendered partially-challenged by an idiopathic condition called 'cervical dystonia'. The constant pressing of my head, from my neck downwards and to the left. Essentially, i can't function ably or keep with the 'Jones', so to say. I'm out. On the other hand, i now have access to the deepest Jewish insights and studies, thanks to Chabad and people like yourself, on a mission. i am on a daily 'Return'. I am indebted to you Sir; The Sages say it is better to burn out one's afflictions in this life than carry one's sins into the place of correction for the soul. May HaShem bless you Rabbi. I'm sure there are many like us, in different degrees of difficulty. May He grant us the Grace to endure. Reply

Anonymous July 27, 2017

This is beautiful. G-d bless you in all ways. Thank You so much! Reply

Mo July 26, 2017

Thank you for sharing these insights. Reply

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