Shabbat Hazon is the Shabbat of ‘Word/things and visions/divisions.’ I take the name from the title of the Torah portion, D’varim and the Haftarah, Hazon. In the Torah Moshe uses words to remind us of what was. In the Haftarah Yishiyahu paints a vision with words of what will be. It is a fitting theme for the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av.
This year Tisha B’Av falls Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) and Shabbat Hazon is tonight. Tisha B’Av is the time when we look at all the troubles and travails of our times and our times of yore. We weep for the loss of the 2 Temples and for countless millions murdered in pogroms, inquisitions and holocausts. It is the low point of loss for the Jewish people. We close our eyes and see the visions of destruction and despoliation. We speak the words of woe.
And yet we do not curse our enemies, we do not rant for revenge. Instead we look within. In D’varim, the passage called ‘Word/things’, Moshe is preparing us for the next chapter in our evolution revolution. He prepares us by reviewing. We re-view, we look back again. We study our history in the spiritual hope that when we retrace our mis-steps we will not mis-step again. But Moshe does more than restate. He hints at our root sin of complacency, where we assimilate, where ritual becomes meaningless. In D’varim 4:25 Moshe warns of turning formed things into gods. Woe unto us lest we turn to expensive cars and clothes and neglect the needy. For when our own ‘things’ become more important than our fellow earthlings, we become idol worshippers, worshippers of ‘I-dolls”. There it is in that one sentence, the Remez, the Key/clue to our self-destruction as a people, indeed all people. The prophecy of destruction has been out there for a long time. Whether we are abusing our planet or our civil rights, we are turning to false gods. When we threaten others for not accepting our religious beliefs or our political beliefs, we have turned to false gods.
But, where our Torah portion points with one verse, our Haftarah hammers us with the hard lessons. Paying lip service to our ideals but not paying living service to them is the accusation. Talking our walk but not walking our talk is the accusation in Yishiyahu 1:1-27. That we parade out our rituals with pomp and hypocrisy is the accusation. For what do we need sacred places if we do not make them of our homes and hearts? I go to the church, I go to the synagogue, I go to the mosque, I go to the temple yet I ravage my neighbors’ rights, I belittle his beliefs, I fight his faith. Yishiyahu cries out to us: “Your hands are covered in blood!” To whom does the prophet speak, but to us all. Islamic fundamentalist terror, American callousness, Jewish insensitivity, Christian self-righteousness, is there a people who is blameless?
Our world is the Temple to which Yishiyahu and Moshe refer and its destruction is upon us. These word/things carry power. These visions of division point to our self-destruction. My Rebbe once told me that he thought that when we entered outer-space and looked back on earth all war would end for we would see the oneness of our planet. Moshe tried to direct us to look back to see the oneness of our spirit. We all have a vision of what might be. That vision is a di-vision, two visions. One vision is of the world that could be if we were to work for oneness and one if we continue to look upon divisions with derision.
The Shabbat after Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Nahamu, the Shabbat of comfort. We have had the Shabbat of the two visions, the di-vision. Then comes the warning of Tisha B’Av the re-view of the sad state to which this world has been brought. And finally we enter with great need the Shabbat of comfort, a Shabbat that challenges us for comfort requires us to ‘come-forth’. For that is the only answer. We need to come forth. We need to come to the fore with answers that build, with answers that accept, nay revel in the differences that make us one. I have heard this country called a melting pot. What a ghastly metaphor. One pours different materials into a melting pot, melt them down and those that remain different are called slag and discarded. No, dear friends we are not a melting pot G forbid. We need to become a stew. In a stew each ingredient adds to the whole, each ingredient has its own unique taste and contributes to the stew in its own way. And let this not be the metaphor for a country, a religion, a race. Let it be the calling card of our planet. We are a stew simmering with differences that make us one. We each add to the flavor of whole, we do not detract, deride nor destroy. Rather we bring to this world a “ray’ach Nicho’ah” a pleasant aroma of a world self-sustainable a world blessed with peace.
May that be the lesson Shabbat Hazon, the Shabbat of vision of the past and of a brighter future.