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Ha’azinu: Moshe vs. Yeshayahu

By: Mrs Sally Mayer

On the Shabbat before Tishah Be-Av, we read the haftarah from the first perek of Yeshayahu. The haftarah begins with the words, “Shim’u shamayim, ve-ha’azini eretz, ki Hashem diber”: “Listen, heavens, and hearken, land, for Hashem has spoken.” This language is strikingly similar to the opening of Parashat Ha’azinu, at the end of Sefer Devarim: “Ha’azinu ha-shamayim va-adaberah, ve-tishma ha-aretz imrei fi.” If we look closely, we see many similarities in the language of the two passages. Both Moshe Rabbeinu and Yishayahu speak of children who have rebelled against their Father; both refer to Hashem as “kanekha” or “konehu,” “the One who created you.” Both also speak of the cherev, the sword, that punishes the wayward Jews; both compare the Jews to the evil people of Sedom and Amorah; and both use the language of “eichah” – how can it be that this has happened to the Jewish people. What are these obvious parallels hinting? What did Hashem and Yishayahu want to emphasize by formulating this nevu’ah along the pattern of Ha’azinu? The parallels dramatically highlight the major difference between the two passages: the sin of Bnei Yisrael. In Ha’azinu in Sefer Devarim, the sin is very clearly ben adam la-Makom: The Jews have strayed from Hashem and His Torah and are worshipping idols. In Yishayahu, however, the ben adam la-Makom aspect is fine; the Jews are serving Hashem, and so the nevu’ah mentions their coming to Hashem’s house, “ki tavo’u lir’ot panai,” and bringing korbanot: “rov zivchaychem.” But Hashem rejects their sacrifices and prayers because of their ben adam la-chavero, their evil and corrupt relationships with their fellow people. They murder, pervert justice, and turn a blind eye to the poor and lonely. The emphasis on bein adam la-chaveiro in Yishayahu is a classic theme of nevi’im acharonim which we encounter there time and again: without good ben adam la-chavero, even our ben adam la-makom will be rejected. Chazal say that the first Beit Ha-Mikdash was destroyed because of avodah zarah, gilui arayot and shfichut damim, and that the second was destroyed because of sin’at chinam, baseless hatred between Jews. Perhaps we can suggest that Ha’azinu relates to the first Mikdash and Yishayahu to the second. On this Shabbat, as we approach the day of mourning over both batei mikdash, we think about how to rectify the sins that brought about these destructions: by rededicating ourselves to full-hearted service of Hashem as well as behaving with justice, kindness, and love towards our fellow people. As Yishayahu says at the end of the haftarah, “Zion be-mishpat ti-padeh, ve-shaveha bi-tzdaka”: “Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and those who return to her with righteousness.”




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