Parashah of the week: Devarim

“If you agree and listen, you will eat the good things of the earth, but if you refuse and disobey, you will be devoured” Isaiah 1:19-20


It is Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat before Tishah b’Av, which begins Saturday night. We are at the end of the three weeks bein h’metzarim, “in the narrow places”, a time to consider our sadness, anger and outrage at what is going on in the world, and our fear at the possibility of destruction.

We contemplate the historical destruction of the Temple and consider what is sacred to us today and what might still be destroyed if we do not change our ways.

And into this pause, this moment in which our tradition invites us to acknowledge our own darkness, Isaiah thunders in. The haftarah for Shabbat Chazon brings a clarion call to wake us up and remind us that social justice lies at the heart of what it means to be Jewish and how if we ignore the world around us, we only have ourselves to blame if it burns.

Isaiah has a vision (chazon), a powerful critique of religious practice without accompanying ethical action.

We have been living through the consequences of climate change this summer. Wildfires in Europe have claimed the lives of hundreds of people. Here the temperature has climbed to record levels.

The Temple was considered a microcosm of the cosmic temple, Planet Earth, as we hear later on Isaiah: “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool; where is the house you will build for Me, where will My resting place be?” (Isaiah 66:1)

So if we are contemplating the destruction of the Temple this weekend, and to what extent we might have been responsible for it, we might also want to think about the way in which our planet is burning, and how important it is to take the necessary action to get our greenhouse gas emissions down.

Isaiah tells us that prayer is never enough; “Your new moons and fixed seasons fill Me with loathing; they have become a burden to Me” (Isaiah 1:14).

If we do not learn to listen and act, the earth will stop giving us what we need to eat and rising temperatures will prove catastrophic. These opening chapters of Isaiah lambast the market economy of his day — of a Jerusalem that was once filled with justice, but had become full of corruption. We need to take notice of Isaiah’s vision of destruction and its resonance for us today.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive