Redemption from Destruction
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Wednesday 30th July 2014

This week's sidrah, Devarim, is always read on the Shabbat before the fast of Tisha B'av, which is known as Shabbat Chazon. It receives its name from the opening words of this week’s haftarah – ‘Chazon Yishayahu’ – which details the underlying causes of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple).

The sidrah itself has a connection with Tisha B'Av. In the first chapter (verse 22), Moshe asks “How can I carry alone your arguments?”, using the word ‘eichah’ (how), which is the Hebrew name of the Megillah of Lamentations, which we read on Tisha B'Av.

The Midrash (Eichah Rabba 1:1) points out that three of our prophets used the word ‘Eichah’ for their prophecies. These prophets were Moshe (as quoted above), Yishayahu (Isaiah) and Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah):

In this week’s haftarah (1:21), Yishayahu asks: "How (eichah) has the faithful city become a harlot?"

In the opening verse of Megillat Eichah, Yirmiyahu asks: "How (eichah) does the city sit solitary?"

Rabbi Mordechai Rogow (d.1968) points out that these three occasions represent different situations of deterioration, at different times in Jewish history. Each one is more severe than the one before it.

1. Moshe was expressing difficulties in handling the troubles of the Jewish people by himself. Rashi (d.1105) writes that Moshe was referring particularly to their legal matters.

2. However, when Yishayahu delivered his message of ‘eichah’, the previous situation, about which Moshe had complained, was no longer an issue. Yishayahu was crying out at a time when the Jewish people no longer brought their legal proceedings to a Beit Din to resolve their disputes according to halacha. People had turned away and they sought their judgement and law elsewhere. Yishayahu therefore lamented: "How could it be that the city which prided itself in its just and proper morals …has now been abandoned by its inhabitants; for they have forsaken their leaders and have gone to others for guidance".

3. Yirmiyahu's cry was an expression of even greater despair. At least Yishayahu had a city full of people to rebuke. Yirmiyahu lived at the time of the destruction. He saw the city of Jerusalem forlorn and in ruins. There were no crowds for him to address. He could only wander through the empty streets of Jerusalem in utter solitude – "How (eichah) does the city sit solitary".

The sages of the Talmud teach that the Messiah (Mashiach) will be born on Tisha B’Av and the redemption will grow out of the destruction. Perhaps these three cries of ‘eichah’, with their deteriorating levels and their sinking of our nation’s stature, give a clue to the suffering after which our redemption will emerge. As the Midrash (Tehillim 22) says: “Had I not fallen, I could not have risen”.

Let us hope that the times of falling and suffering are behind us and may G-d, speedily in our days, allow us to witness the ultimate redemption.

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