May 16, 2024
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Parshat Re’eh

Throughout the seven haftarot of consolation that follow Tish’a B’Av, the navi Yeshayahu presents us with descriptions of the final redemption and return to our land. It is difficult for us who live through today’s events to ignore the powerful parallels between the prophet’s visions and today’s realities. Predictions of a once-barren land that will generously give forth her fruit, of ruined cities that would be rebuilt and of empty streets that would be filled with sounds of rejoicing throngs are truths that we now perceive each and every day.

However, the promise that we find in this week’s haftarah, a short selection taken from the 54th and 55th perakim of Sefer Yeshayahu, is rather unique. The navi tells us: “V’chol banayich limudei Hashem,” “All of your children will be students of Hashem.” It is a nevu’ah predicting that the geulah will not only mean a physical return to the land, not only a repopulating of the land or an economic resurgence from the desert-like conditions that described Eretz Yisrael for almost 2,000 years, but would include a spiritual return too, a rebirth marked not by the reinstitution of ritual Temple service alone but by a reawakening of Torah study. “Limudei Hashem—Students of Hashem,” meant those who would be knowledgeable of God and His laws.

But the prophecy continues. This revival in Torah study would bring with it another blessing: “V’rav shlom banayich,” “and there will be abundant peace to your children.” Torah knowledge, an understanding of what Hashem expects of us, will bring us peace. The words of Mishlei, “Dracheha darchei no’am, v’chol n’tivoteha shalom,” that the ways of Torah are pleasant, were not meant to be simply a song to sing during our tefillot, but a charge for us to make the study of Torah a path to peace and tranquility. True study of God’s words should bring with it “ahavat chinam,” a love of one another and a respectful unity that should prevail between all segments of Jewish society.

The vision of Yeshayahu has come true in our time. But only partially. There has never been such widespread study of Torah in our history as we have now. There are more yeshivot, more Torah students, more Torah teachers, more Torah books and publications than ever before. “Ki mitzion tetze Torah,” the words spoken by Yeshayahu and echoed by the prophet Micha that Zion would be the source of Torah study, has been fulfilled in our day. But we still await “v’rav shlom banayich,” that the study of Torah bring us the blessing of peace, respect and unity.

True scholars and students of our holy Torah understand that it must be a tool for spreading peace and harmony, not controversy and discord. It is for this very reason that the navi explains why peace would reign during the Messianic era, saying (11:9): “Ki mal’ah ha’aretz de’ah et Hashem,” the world will be filled with knowledge of God.

As we bask in the joy of “atchalta d’geulah,” the blossoming of our redemption, we pray for the fruition of all the prophecies of geulah with the blessing of peace—both peace from surrounding enemies and peace within our people.

We pray to see that soon.


Rabbi Neil Winkler is the rabbi emeritus of the Young Israel Fort Lee and now lives in Israel.

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