Shabbat Devarim, Shabbat Hazon

Candles - Friday, July 20th @ 8:03pm
Havdalah - July 21st @ 8:57pm
Fast of Tisha B’Av - begins Saturday @ 8:22pm
ends Sunday @ 8:59pm

The Shabbat before the 9thof Av is always called Shabbat Hazon. “The Shabbat of the Vision.” Hazon is the first word of the prophet Isaiah’s book. The Haftarah is the first chapter of his great book of prophecies. Written in some of the most beautiful and moving Hebrew ever written. The core message is that the Jewish kingdom of Judea was going to be destroyed, together with Jerusalem and the Temple.

In his poetic visions, he imagines God describing the pain at being abandoned by the Jewish people. Not just that they stopped following Torah as some did. Others, it seems, did go through the rituals of Temple services and offered sacrifices. But their “hands were full of blood.” They were corrupt even when they were outwardly religious. As the text says, “They had become like the men of Sodom and Gomorrah.”

The values that God wanted were kindness and humanity. Being good people. Caring for the poor, the widows and the orphans. He wanted people to combine being religious with being good and charitable.

But Isaiah was also preaching against the incompetent and venal political leadership, that he said, would be the cause of the catastrophe. His complaint was both about moral and political decay. And we had ourselves to blame. The religious leadership and the political!

And yet we survived. Times change. Opportunities change. There are always chances to come back from the brink. However much Tisha B’Av is a record of our failures and tragedies, it is also a symbol of our capacity to rise again. That is true of us as a people and us as individuals. And the word Hazoncan be a vision of success as well as failure.

Something to ponder on Sunday.