Yeshaya 54:11 - 55:5
by Rabbi Dovid Siegel
This week's haftorah reflects Zion's illustrious future during the Messianic era. The haftorah begins with a call to Yerushalayim to sing over the return of her masses. The prophet Yeshaya invites her to expand her boarders to allow for the overwhelming influx of Jewish people who are returning home. Yeshaya tells Zion not to be embarrassed because no trace of her previous shame will remain. He assures her that Hashem's kindness is here to stay and that His peace will be with her forever.
Suddenly, Yeshaya takes a sharp turn and proclaims, "Afflicted stormy city who is not consoled." These words indicate a strong unwillingness of Zion to be comforted. Although the ingathering of the exiles has occurred and the land of Israel has been rebuilt, Zion cannot be consoled. Her two thousand years of ruins demand to be accounted for. In the past, she had served as the focal point of the world, the apex of society. But for ages, her respect, dignity and elevated status were taken from her. Instead of splendor and glory, she constantly experienced shame, degradation and destruction. When reflecting upon her glorious past she cannot help but remember the shameful years that followed and cannot be consoled.
Hashem responds to Zion and says, "Behold I will lay your floors with precious stones and set your foundation with sapphires." (54:11) To begin, Hashem assures Zion that she will be restored to her previous glory. But Hashem expanded this kindness and pledged to render her more desirable than ever before. He promised that her splendor will be so magnificent that her floors and walls will actually be studded with jewels and precious stones. Her physical beauty will transcend every existing structure in the world and she will literally glisten from diamonds. Every moment spent in Zion will be an unforgettable experience which will irresistibly attract the masses to view her splendor.
This development addresses the physical dimensions of Yerushalayim but what about her spiritual heights? For two thousand years Zion has not been functioning as the Torah center of the world. How can she be comforted from this loss? In response to this, the prophet adds a major dimension and says, "And all of your children will be students of Hashem and much peace will be amongst them." (54:13) This means that Torah perspectives will be readily available to all the children of Zion who will now be students of Hashem. Chazal (see Yalkut Shimoni 479) explain this reference to mean that peace and harmony will exist amongst Torah leadership. As Chazal view things, present day confusion and diversity result from human limitations found within Torah study. Until the era of Mashiach one must rely upon the finite human mind for the transmittal of Torah knowledge from teacher to student. Being that the teacher's intellect is limited it follows naturally that the student's absorption of Torah knowledge will have even greater limitations. Yeshaya reveals that in the time of Mashiach matters will drastically improve. Because, Zion will be privileged to study Torah from its original source, Hashem. One readily understands that because there are no limitations to Hashem few limitations will exist amongst His students. The clarity resulting from this study will produce unparalleled levels of peace and harmony with everyone basically following the same Torah path of observance.
The prophet expands this vision and opens this renaissance to the nations of the world as well. He addresses them and says, "All who are thirsty go and drink water, acquire without pay wine and milk." (55:1) Chazal(Yalkut ad loc.) explain that water refers to Torah knowledge and wine and milk refer to spiritual sustenance. Even the nations of the world will be invited to Torah study and unique spiritual experiences. Radak explains that Hashem's wondrous revelations will yield an unprecedented thirst for knowledge. The nations will be so inspired by Hashem's miracles that they will flock to Zion to study His word. Zion will finally return to her previous spiritual greatness and serve as the Torah center of the world for the Jewish people. But in addition the Torah of Zion will be fully appreciated even by the nations of the world. Even they will see Torah as their true source of life and will flock to Zion to absorb Hashem's every word.
Yeshaya now completes the picture and says, "Behold nations that never knew you will run to become your servants because the glory of Hashem will shine upon you." (55:5) The inhabitants of Zion will be held in such high esteem that nations from near and far will come to serve their every need. With this final detail, Zion will be totally healed. She has been promised her original splendor. In addition she will become the most desirable physical spot on earth. Her children will be privileged to study Torah directly from Hashem. She'll serve as the center of Torah for the entire world, nations of the world included. Finally, through her reflection of Hashem's glory, she'll attract untold nations who will display total subservience. Her lonely, forsaken past will be erased for eternity and she will forever enjoy her well earned status as the most desirable physical and spiritual site in the entire world.
Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim of
Kiryat Sefer, Israel.